- Delhi High Court said public transport undertaking can't unleash untrained drivers on public
- Insurance company concerned has the right to recover the amount from DTC and driver
- The bus driver had a “fake” driving license and was negligently driving the vehicle
Delhi: Refusing to interfere with compensation of over Rs 19 lakh to the family of a 26-year-old who died in an accident involving a DTC bus in 2011, the Delhi High Court has said that a public transport undertaking is not expected to unleash untrained, incompetent, and unlicensed drivers upon the unsuspecting innocent public.
Justice Gaurang Kanth noted that the bus driver had a “fake” driving license and was negligently driving the vehicle and Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) failed in its duty to exercise reasonable care while employing him.
The court observed that the numerous instances of rash and negligent driving involving DTC buses resulting in severe injuries and deaths cannot be lost sight of and a public employer should check the antecedents of its prospective employees and offer special training to selected candidates before offering employment.
“It is relevant to mention that the numerous instances of rash and negligent driving involving DTC buses resulting in severe injuries and deaths in Delhi in the period concerned cannot be lost sight of. Even today, the strain of this malaise subsists. A public transport undertaking is not expected to unleash untrained, incompetent, and unlicensed drivers upon the unsuspecting innocent public,” the court said in its recent order.“It is expected from a public employer such as the appellant DTC, being a statutory undertaking, that it would exercise due caution and care apropos verification of documents submitted by a person who is offered employment,” it said.
The court’s order was passed on an appeal by DTC against an order passed by a Motor Accident Claims Tribunal awarding over Rs 19 lakh as compensation to the wife, father, and minor son of the deceased.
The claims tribunal also said the insurance company concerned would have the right to recover the amount jointly and severally from DTC and the driver.
Dismissing the appeal, the court observed that since DTC did not lead any evidence to prove the skills of the driver and also failed to take the necessary driving test or was concerned about the genuineness of the driver’s license, it cannot absolve itself of its liability.
“The position of a public transport undertaking, or a large public transporter, who engages a number of drivers-in hundreds and thousands, to drive their fleet of vehicles, is different from a private individual who engages one or two drivers for his/ her personal service,” the court observed.
"It is evident that the Appellant/DTC being the employer/owner of the vehicle has clearly failed in its duty to exercise reasonable care apropos use of the public transport bus for ferrying ordinary unsuspecting passengers who board it with the bonafide belief that its driver is duly licensed and has undergone requisite training and has the competence to drive a public bus on the roads of Delhi," the court added.
The court also said that an insurance contract is based on “utmost good faith” and when an insurer extends an insurance cover, it is done on the belief that the insured would take all necessary precautions and act as a reasonable person.
“In the employment of drivers by a Government undertaking, the basic qualification is the possession of the driving license. The exercise of checking the validity of the driving license could be carried out even after offering provisional employment to the successful candidates,” it stated.
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