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DTC can’t ‘unleash untrained drivers on innocent public’, Delhi HC rules in accident claim

The court observed that it is expected from a "public employer to check the antecedents of its prospective employees”, that they possess a valid driving licence and have passed requisite training.

The charge sheet revealed that the death occurred on account of the "rash and negligent driving of the driver" of the bus. (Representational file photo)

Observing that a public transport undertaking is not expected to “unleash untrained, incompetent and unlicensed drivers upon the unsuspecting innocent public”, the Delhi High Court recently ruled in favour of the family of a deceased cyclist who lost his life in an accident involving a DTC bus in 2011.

The deceased, aged 26, was injured in an accident with a DTC bus in Saket. An FIR was registered against the driver of the bus stating that he was driving the vehicle in a “rash and negligent manner” when it came from behind and hit the deceased. The deceased was taken to a hospital where he was declared “brought dead” by the doctors.

The charge sheet revealed that the death occurred on account of the “rash and negligent driving of the driver” of the bus. The post-mortem report referred to the cause of death as “haemorrhage shock due to multiple injuries and due to blunt external force which is possible in road traffic accidents”. In the course of the investigation, it was found that the driver’s driving licence was fake.

The family of the deceased approached the Motor Vehicles Claims Tribunal (South District, Saket Courts) which decided the matter in favour of the claimants/deceased’s family, holding that he is entitled to get the total compensation of Rs 19,44,600 along with an interest at the rate of 9 per cent per annum from the date of filing of the petition till realisation of the amount from the insurance company. The claimants were also given a further right to recover the amount jointly and severally from the driver and DTC. The DTC had challenged the order before the Delhi High Court.

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Justice Gaurang Kanth, in his judgment on September 23, held that when the insurance company issued a notice to the appellant DTC to verify the details of the bus driver, the appellant DTC “neither produced the original policy and driving licence of the offender/respondent No.5 nor has come to court to adduce his evidence.” The appellant never gave evidence to prove the driving skills of the driver and “failed to exercise reasonable care before employing respondent No.5 as it has not taken any necessary driving test with respect to capability and competence of respondent no.5 or about the genuineness of his driving licence, therefore, the DTC cannot absolve itself of its liability,” the court said. It held that this very act of the DTC amounts to breach of the insurance policy.

Observing numerous instances of rash and negligent driving involving DTC buses that result in severe injuries and deaths in Delhi, the court held, “A public transport undertaking is not expected to unleash untrained, incompetent and unlicensed drivers upon the unsuspecting innocent public.”

The court observed that the DTC is a statutory authority which “is statutorily mandated to provide public transport facility” in Delhi and that it is expected from a “public employer to check the antecedents of its prospective employees and in particular the fact that the candidate possessed a valid driving licence and that only after passing the special training, the selected candidates would be offered employment”.

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It held that the DTC being the employer/owner of the vehicle, “failed in its duty to exercise reasonable care apropos use of the public transport bus for ferrying ordinary unsuspecting passengers who board it with the bona fide belief that its driver is duly licensed and has undergone requisite training and has the competence to drive a public bus on the roads of Delhi. It is expected from a public employer such as the appellant DTC, being a statutory undertaking, that it would exercise due caution and care apropos verification of documents submitted by a person who is offered employment.”

The court then dismissed DTC’s appeal without interfering with the order of the claims tribunal.

First published on: 30-09-2022 at 11:40:23 am
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