HC rejects “act of God” logic of MACT, grants ₹20L to family of accident victim | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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HC rejects “act of God” logic of MACT, grants 20L to family of accident victim

Apr 07, 2024 06:56 AM IST

Bombay HC disapproves MACT's rejection of accident claim, grants ₹20L compensation to family of victim in head-on collision between car & bus.

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Thursday disapproved the rejection of an accident claim by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT) in Mumbai, terming the head-on collision between a Maruti car and a state transport bus as an “act of God.” The court granted compensation of 20 lakh to the family of a city resident who died following the road accident.

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The division bench of Justice AS Chandurkar and Justice Jitendra Jain said when two vehicles collide, it cannot be said that neither of the drivers was negligent and therefore the conclusion drawn by the tribunal that none of the drivers was negligent was erroneous.

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“The negligence has to be on the part of one or both of the drivers. Therefore, the reasoning adopted by the Tribunal cannot be sustained,” said the bench. It added that an act of God would mean something which is not in the control of human beings, but in the case at hand, there was admittedly a head-on collision between two vehicles, and in the absence of some natural condition like foggy weather, etc., it cannot be termed as an act of God, and the principle applied by the Tribunal was erroneous.

The bench therefore directed the New India Assurance Company Ltd – insurer of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) to pay the family members of the accident victim, Rajesh Shejpal, a compensation of 20.17 lakh -- half of the compensation amount liable to be paid to the Goregaon resident’s family, as the high court held him equally liable for the accident, as the ST bus driver.

Shejpal, who was working as deputy finance manager with Reliance Industries Ltd, met with the accident in the afternoon of November 14, 1997. He was travelling in a Maruti car along with three others when the vehicle got involved in a head-on collision with a ST bus and all the four occupants of the car were injured.

Shejpal received severe injuries in the accident. Immediately after the accident, he was shifted to Sion Hospital but remained admitted to Hinduja Hospital for around five months. In 1998, he approached MACT, Mumbai, initially seeking compensation of 1 Crore, which was subsequently increased to 10 Crore. Shejpal, however, died during pendency of the claim.

On January 28, 2005, the Tribunal rejected his family’s claim petition, holding that the accident was an “act of God” as none of the drivers were negligent, prompting Shejpal’s family to approach the high court.

On Thursday, the high court disapproved of the logic employed by the Tribunal and partially granted their claim. This decision was influenced by the fact that separate claim petitions from three other individuals injured in the accident had been approved by the Tribunal through separate orders, and all of these claims were upheld by the high court.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Special Correspondent. I have spent over a decade covering courts in Mumbai, primarily the Bombay High Court, and including several important trials like trial of 120 accused in March 1993 Mumbai bombings, 26/11 case - trial of Ajmal Kasab.

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