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In MACT Cases Non-Examination of 'Best Witness' is not Fatal: SC

Team SoOLEGAL 15 Feb 2019 11:20am

In MACT Cases Non-Examination of 'Best Witness' is not Fatal: SC

Non-examination of 'best witness' in any Motor Accident Claim cases is not fatal, this has been recently observed by the supreme court. It was observed by the bench of 2 judges including Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Ajay Rastogi that under this act in case for compensation a hyper technical and trivial approach should not be adopted, in connection with a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of a family member.

Tribunal was mainly set aside by the High Court in case of Sunita vs. Rajasthan State Transport Corporation, on the ground pillion rider was the best witness in the case, but even after surviving the accident he was not examined. High Court also observed that Tribunal was mistaken in placing their dependence on the deposition by another witness who could not even tell in his cross--examination with regard to the age of the person, who was sitting on the pillion seat.

It was observed by the apex court bench that it would not be fatal to the case if pillion rider would not be examined in the appeal filed by the claimants. The court further said: "The approach in examining the evidence in accident claim cases is not to find fault with non-examination of some "best" eye witness in the case but to analyse the evidence already on record to ascertain whether that is sufficient to answer the matters in issue on the touchstone of preponderance of probability."

The bench observed considering other witnesses that incapability of the witness to recognize the age of the pillion rider cannot, per se, be a relevant factor to dismiss his entire version especially since the non-absence of the witness at the time and place of the accident has remained unshaken and including his deposition regarding the manner of occurrence of the accident and identity of the driver of the offending vehicle.

It was clarified by the bench that while deciding cases arising out of motor vehicle accidents, the standard of proof is of preponderance of probability and not the mandatory standard of proof beyond all relevant factors which is usually followed in criminal cases. Tribunal’s role would be to calculate the quantum of just compensation when the actual occurrence of the accident has been established if the accident had taken place by reason of negligence of the driver of a motor vehicle and the Tribunal would not be strictly bound by the pleadings of the parties while doing that, the court said.

One more fault was found by the High Court with one of the witness being named in the list of eye witnesses in the criminal proceeding.  The bench further stated on this aspect that:

 "There is nothing in the Act to preclude citing of a witness in motor accident claim who has not been named in the list of witnesses in the criminal case. What is essential is that the opposite party should get a fair opportunity to cross examine the concerned witness. Once that is done, it will not be open to them to complain about any prejudice caused to them. If there was any doubt to be cast on the veracity of the witness, the same should have come out in cross examination, for which opportunity was granted to the respondents by the Tribunal. "

 The bench restored the award passed by the Tribunal by setting aside the order of the High Court.


Tagged: MACT   Non-Examination   Best Witness   Supreme Court  
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