Relevant Case Laws in India regarding Negligence

In India, the courts follow the principles laid down in Donoghue v. Stevenson.

In Naraka v. Santosh Private Benefit Ltd., the deceased, respondent, was employed in ‘B’s motor garage as a servant. He was sent for driving a private company’s vehicle. When he was returning with the motor its tyre were burst and the doors of the driver’s side were opened the driver fell out of the car and sustained severe injuries and as a result died. It was found that the owner of the vehicle did not pay attention towards this that the vehicle was not fit for use. It was an old vehicle and there was no proof as to when the condition of tyres were inspected. The managing director did not care to tell that all necessary steps were taken to keep the vehicle fit for driving on the road. Although the deceased had told the name of one of co-passengers but he was not produced before the Court by which it could be known that the accident occurred due to negligence of the driver. On these facts, the Court held that the accident occurred due to the negligence of the owner of the vehicle and therefore he was liable to pay damages to the deceased.

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In the Municipal Board, Jaunpur v. Brahm Kishor, the defendants (municipal authorities) had dug a ditch on a public road for repairs. The plaintiff who was going on his cycle in the evening to his quarter from the club did not see the ditch in the darkness, and fell into it and was injured. The municipal authorities had not given any public notice about this, and not provided light, danger signal, caution notice or barricade, etc. to prevent such accidents. The Court said that the fact that the cyclist did not have any light fixed in front of the cycle do not make any different because light of the kerosene lamp which is used by the cyclists generally could not still make the ditch visible. The Court held that the accident occurred due to the negligence of the defendants and therefore they
were liable. It was their duty to give proper notice, and not provided any light to the passer-by about the ditch on the road which they did not comply.

In Union of India v. Supriya Ghosh, the plaintiff was employed as an Inspector in a factory. He was posted in the office of the company at Chhopra on 17th Feb, 1971 at about 8.45 p.m. he was returning to the office Chhapra from tour. He was himself driving the car, while he was
passing through a railway crossing. His car was dashed by a mail train as a result of which the car was smashed into pieces and he was seriously injured and when he was being taken to the hospital he died. In an action brought by his widow she contended that the level crossing was unmanned and gates were open at the time of passing of the trains and the accident occurred due to the negligence of Railway authorities. The fact showed that there was no contributory negligence on the part of the deceased as he could not have a look at the railway line from a distance as his view was obstructed by some trees nor could he hear the sound of coming mail train while he was in the car with the engine running and the windo-screen closed. The Court held that the railway administration was liable as not closing the level crossing gate at the time when the train was about to arrive was negligence on their part.

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In Orissa Road Transport Co. Ltd. v. Umakant Singh, a passenger bus entered the level crossing when the gateman was closing the gate. There was sufficient time for the bus to cross the gate but due to some mechanical defect the bus became immobile while on the railway track and was hit by an incoming train, consequently, two of the passengers in the bus died and the others got injured. It was found that the bus used to have frequent starting trouble and the driver knew it. The Court held knowing about the starting trouble and still trying to cross the level crossing when the train was about to approach was an act of negligence on the part of the driver. The owner of the bus were held liable for providing a defective bus, and also vicariously liable for the negligence of its driver.

In Krishna Malvahak (Private) Ltd. v. Union of India, the Delhi High Court has held that where the railway line is passing through a public way there must be minimum danger to the public and for this purpose reasonable precaution should be taken which would depend on the circumstances of the case. It is a customary practice of railway authorities to close the gate at the railway crossing when they think that it is risky to cross the level crossing and any carelessness in taking customary precaution would be proof of negligence for which railway authorities would be liable to persons who sustain injuries. To keep the gates of the level crossing open is an invitation to passer-by to cross it, that is, the plaintiff can cross it safely. In such a situation he is not bound to take care which he would have done without such invitation to cross it. Under the Railway Regulation it is the duty of railway authorities to close the gate. An action can be brought for an injury caused due to violation of duty imposed by rules.

In this case, the plaintiff was going to Delhi from Meerut by his truck when be reached the level crossing seeing the gate open wanted to cross it but in the meanwhile the train had come at a very high speed and hit his truck as a result it was badly damaged. It was held that the railway company was liable to pay damages because the accident had occurred due to the negligence of the gateman of railway.

In C. B. Singh v. Agra Cantonment, the plaintiff Dr. C.B. Singh was going to see the Taj Mahal at about 10 P.M. in the right by his car. He was himself driving the car. Suddenly the car dashed against the control post on the road as a result he himself and others were injured. In an action against the Cantonment Board, the plaintiff contended that the traffic island was constructed at an inconvenient place and was almost in the middle of the road. There was no light post to give notice to drivers of vehicle in the night. It was held that the Cantonment Authority was liable for constructing defective and dangerous speed breakers on the road.

In Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Sushila Devi, the fact was that when the petitioner was passing by the road a branch of the tree standing on the road suddenly fell on him and injured him seriously and as a result of this he died. The Supreme Court held that the Municipal Corporation was negligent in performing its duty under common law and was therefore liable to pay damages to the claimant. The Court held that if there is a tree standing on the defendant’s land which is dried or dead and for that reason may fall and that defect is one which is either known or should have been known to the defendant, then the defendant is liable for any injury caused by the fall of the tree. The premises must be maintained in a safe state of repair. The owner/occupier cannot escape the liability for injury caused by any dangerous thing existing on the premises by pleading that he had employed a competent person to keep the premises in safe epairs. If the tree is dangerous in a sense that on account of any discase or being dead the tree or its branch is likely to fall and thereby injure any passer-by then such tree or branch must be removed so as to avert the danger to life. The Court held that “he cannot be permitted to take defence that he neither knew nor ought to have known the danger. The owner is legally responsible irrespective of whether the damage is caused by a patent or latent defect”. The Court followed the principle laid down in Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Subhagwanti.

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