23 April 2023 1:00 PM GMT
The Bombay High Court recently held that a crane used within coal mine premises falls within the definition of “motor vehicle” under Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (MVA).Justice Urmila Joshi Phalke of the Nagpur bench upheld a compensation order for the family of a Western Coalfields Ltd. (WCL) employee who died after colliding with a crane being operated by another employee.“…the contention...
The Bombay High Court recently held that a crane used within coal mine premises falls within the definition of “motor vehicle” under Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (MVA).
Justice Urmila Joshi Phalke of the Nagpur bench upheld a compensation order for the family of a Western Coalfields Ltd. (WCL) employee who died after colliding with a crane being operated by another employee.
“…the contention of the appellant is that as the Crane is used in a private premises of the W.C.L. it is not a motor vehicle is not acceptable. It is a motor vehicle in view of the definition under Section 2(28) of the Motor Vehicles Act”, the court held.
In 2013, the deceased Rajkumar Tiple, was riding a scooter towards Padmapur Colliery, Chandrapur. The crane collided with his vehicle, and he died on the spot.
The Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal awarded compensation of Rs. 62,26,400/- to the family of the deceased to be paid jointly and severally by WCL and the crane driver.
Therefore, WCL filed the present appeal under section 173 of the MVA challenging the compensation order.
Advocate Shriram Chopra for the appellant argued that crane is not covered under the definition of “motor vehicle” in the MVA as it is used inside the private premises of WCL and not on the public road.
He also submitted that there was contributory negligence on the part of the deceased and the alleged accident occurred in the private premises of WCL. He further contended that the amount of compensation is excessive.
Advocate PR Agrawal for the claimants submitted that the crane is covered under the Motor Vehicles Act. Further, there is no pleading on contributory negligence or that accident occurred in the private premises of WCL, he argued.
Both WCL’s witnesses and the claimant’s witnesses testified that the deceased along with one pillion rider was proceeding on his scooty to the colony when he was dashed from behind the crane.
Therefore, the court said that this is sufficient to show that the crane driver was driving it in a rash and negligent manner which caused the accident. Non examination of pillion rider by the claimants will not hurt their case, the court held.
The court rejected WCLs contention regarding contributory negligence as there was no pleading regarding the same in its written statement. The court also rejected the argument that the accident took place in private WCL premises for the same reason.
Section 2(28) of the Motor Vehicle Act defines “Motor Vehicle” or “vehicle” as any mechanically propelled vehicle adapted for use on roads excluding a vehicle running on fixed rails or special vehicles adapted for use only in a factory or in any enclosed premises.
The court referred to Bose Abraham v. State of Kerala which held that merely because excavators are used in an enclosed area does not exclude them from the definition of “motor vehicle” as they are still suitable to be used on public roads.
The court applied the same reasoning to crane in the present case and said that just because the crane was used inside WCL premises, it is not excluded from the definition of motor vehicle.
The court said the compensation has to be determined based on fairness, reasonableness, and equitability as it can never be perfect. Compensation cannot be a pittance, the court added.
“The conception of “just compensation” has to be viewed through the prism of fairness, reasonableness and nonviolation of the principle of equitability. In case of death, the legal heirs of the claimants cannot expect a windfall. Simultaneously, the compensation granted cannot be an apology for compensation. It cannot be a pittance”, the court opined.
The trial court had awarded 30 percent of the salary of the deceased under the “future prospects” component of the compensation. WCL argued that it should have been 25 percent.
The High Court noted that the deceased was a permanent employee of WCL and was aged between 40 and 50 years. Thus, the trial court applied the guidelines for calculating future prospects given by the Apex Court correctly, the court held.
Therefore, the court upheld the amount of compensation awarded by the trial court.
Case no. – First Appeal No. 1823 of 2019
Case Title – Sub-Area Manager, Western Coal Fields Ltd., Padmapur, Chandrapur. v. Anjutai Wd/o Rajkumar Tiple
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Bom) 212
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment