Bombay High Court Denies ‘Act of God’ Claim in Road Accident, Orders Compensation

In a landmark decision, the Bombay High Court has rejected the notion of a road accident being an ‘Act of God’, thereby overturning the ruling of the Mumbai Motor Accident Claims Tribunal. The Tribunal had previously denied compensation to the family of a victim involved in a tragic road mishap, citing divine intervention as the cause. Challenging this verdict, the victim’s family sought justice in the High Court.

Presided over by Justices A.S Chandurkar and Jitendra Jain, the court declared that an ‘Act of God’ refers to events beyond human control, which did not apply to this particular case. The incident involved a collision between a State Transport (ST) bus and a Maruti car, resulting in fatalities. The court emphasized that vehicular accidents typically stem from negligence on part of one or both drivers involved, dismissing the possibility of no fault in such circumstances.

Discrediting the Tribunal’s conclusion as flawed, the bench stated that there was no mention of adverse weather conditions or any other uncontrollable factor contributing to the accident. Therefore, attributing the mishap to an ‘Act of God’ was deemed unjustifiable.

The court held both drivers responsible to a certain extent, highlighting the importance of accountability in such incidents. The ruling directed the insurance company of the Maruti car and the ST Corporation to jointly compensate the victim’s family with a sum of INR 40,34,000, along with an interest rate of 6%.

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The accident, which dates back to November 14, 1997, involved Rajesh Sejpal, an officer from a private company, who was traveling with colleagues from Mumbai when their vehicle was struck by an ST Corporation bus. Sejpal succumbed to his injuries during the treatment and the subsequent legal proceedings.

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