Rural Transport Services Vs Bezlum Bibi

Author: Samay Jain College: Institute of Law, Nirma University

Court- Calcutta High Court

Case No – 72 of 1969

Appellant – Rural Transport Services

Respondents – Bezlum Bibi

Equivalent Citation – AIR 1980 Cal 165, 84 CWN 616

Honorable Judges / Coram – A K Sen, B Chakrabarti


The Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, primarily is concerned with engine vehicle mishaps and related issues. Originally established in the year 1939, during the period Britishers were ruling India, the Motor Vehicles Act has gone through an ocean of changes somewhere in the range of 1939 and 1994. The demonstration has been changed exhaustively in the year 1988. The 1988 change makes the Act a government assistance enactment. It likewise attempts to find some kind of harmony between the clashing interest of different areas of the general public. Nearly every one of the states in India has instituted Motor Vehicles Rules, to direct the enlistment of vehicles, grants to the proprietors of the vehicles furthermore, driving permits. Before 1988 for engine vehicle mishaps responsibility of injurers was prevalently a liability that was based on the fault committed by that person. But, the 1988 amendment included the concept of strict liability. This case also talks about contributory negligence. Contributory negligence in simple words means unawareness by the parties involved in a case. For e.g, assuming a person was driving a car with faulty breaks and he collided his car with another person who was also driving his car, but he was driving on the wrong side of the road. This is a typical case of contributory negligence. 

Facts of the case

Taher Seikh, son of late Isu Seikh had boarded a bus on October 28, 1969, that was run by the appellant and the route of the bus was from Burdwan to Nasigram via Khetia and Bhatar. He boarded at Khetia and was continuing to Bhatar. Since the bus was filled with many passengers Taher Seikh alongside different travelers got on to the top of the bus as there was no seat left inside the bus. He got seated on the right side of the bus. Shockingly for him when the bus was approaching Bhatar it tilted towards the road’s right side while attempting to overtake a cart that was being driven in front of the bus. The expired Taher was struck by an overhanging part of a tree and he tumbled down on the ground supporting numerous wounds in his brow, chest and so forth He was taken out to B. S. Emergency clinic at Burdwan and there he passed on the day following because of the wounds endured.

Issues Raised

1. Was there rashness or negligence on the part of the driver of the vehicle or the conductor?

2. Is the petitioner entitled to compensation, and if so, how much?

3. Is the insurer liable to pay compensation, and if so, to what extent?

4. Is opposite party No. 1 liable for compensation? And if so, to what extent?

Laws involved

  1. 110-D of the Motor Vehicles Act (Act IV of 1939):

(1) Subject to the arrangements of sub-area (2), any individual not satisfied by the award given by a Claims Tribunal may, inside ninety days of giving the award, incline toward an appeal, to the High Court: Given that the High Court may consider the appeal after the expiry of the said time of ninety days, on the off chance that it is fulfilled that the litigant was forestalled by adequate reason from favoring the appeal on schedule. 

(2) No appeal can lie against any award given by a Claims Tribunal, if and only if the amount talked about in the dispute is less than the number of rupees two thousand.

  1. 110A of the Motor Vehicles Act (Act IV of 1939)

110A. Application for remuneration 

(1) An application for remuneration emerging out of a mishap of the nature indicated in sub-segment (1) of area 110 might be made- 

(a) By the individual who has been injured

3*[“(aa) By the proprietor of the property; or”] 

(b) Where passing has come about because of the mishap, 6*[by all or any of the legitimate representatives] of the expired; or 

(c) By any specialist appropriately approved by the individual harmed 7*[or all or any of the lawful representatives] of the perished, by and large: 

4*[Provided that where every one of the lawful delegates of the dead has not participated in any such application for remuneration, the application will be made in the interest of or to help every one of the legitimate agents of the expired and the lawful agents who have not all that joined, will be impleaded as respondents to the application.]

(2) Every application under sub-segment (1) will be made to the Claims Tribunal having ward over the space in which the mishap happened, and will be in such structure and will contain such specific as might be recommended:

Judgment of the case

The Calcutta High Court said that the first point that was raised by the appellant, that the Tribunal was wrong in determining that the appellant’s employees, i.e the driver and the conductor were negligent due to which the accident had taken place which had resulted in the death of Taher was wrong as they did not doubt conceding to the proof that had been submitted by P.Ws. 2 and 3 which was that at that particular time the bus was too much crowded and since there were no seats available inside the bus, the conductor had made the passengers sit on the roof of the bus. The court agreed with the tribunal’s findings that making passengers sit on the roof of the bus was a very rash and negligent act and also the driver had to be extra careful since passengers were traveling on the roof of the bus and so when he left the metallic track of the road by tilting his vehicle to the right side was a very negligent act. 

The court also while considering the appeal looked upon a very important aspect that the Tribunal had failed to consider which was the concept of contributory negligence. The court found that Taher was not liable for contributory negligence as the Tribunal had failed to consider the fact that along with Taher many other passengers were also traveling on the roof of the bus. If the conductor allowed the passengers to travel on the roof of the bus then it would be implied that extra caution and care would be taken by the driver so that the passengers didn’t face any difficulty and they reached their destination safely. Now if the passengers were made to travel on the roof of the bus, then the defense of contributory negligence could not be taken as the passengers and Taher could assume that due duty and diligence would be taken on the part of the driver to make their journey safe. 

Analysis of the case

In this case, the counsel appearing for the appellants had raised two points. Firstly he had said that the tribunal was wrong in saying that the employees of the appellant were negligent which had resulted in the accident and Taher’s death and secondly in the case of contributory negligence the appellant couldn’t be held liable for compensation of any sort as since the liability was in tort, a person who was found guilty of contributory negligence couldn’t get compensation. The court denied this as they found it very evident that the conductor and the bus driver were at fault. Conductor being at fault as he had invited people to sit at the roof of the bus and the driver being at fault as he had driven in a negligent manner knowing that people were seated at the roof of the bus and it was his responsibility to be extra cautious while driving. 

Reliance was made to the cases such as State v. Lal Man Badriprasad AIR 1954 Vindh Pra 17, Yoginder Paul Chowdhury v. Durga Das Punj 1972 Acc CJ 483 (Delhi) and Punjab State v. Jaswant Kaur 1973 Acc CJ 213 (Punj). From this the courts had found applying the Contributory Negligence Act would lessen the liability up to the scope of negligence which could still be looked upon but it would not completely deny the claim altogether. From these cases, the court found the tribunal was correct in its finding where it had found the deceased to be guilty of contributory negligence. The court also referred to the case of Swaraj Motor Pvt. Ltd. v. T. R. Hainan Pilial 1968 ACC CJ 127, which was a case on the same lines of General Cleaning Contractors v. Christmas (1952) 2 All ER 1110, where the House of Lords had made the appeal of the employer redundant and made him liable of the fact that if the employer had failed to ensure the safety of the system, there the employer couldn’t take the defense that the employee should have taken precautions.