With his challenge being dismissed by the High Court of Bombay at Goa, Sidharth Kerkar of Vasco will have to pay Rs 14 lakh plus 9 per cent interest from December 2012 to the victim of a motor vehicle accident who suffered 75 per cent disability due to head injuries.
Since it took nearly 10 years for completion of the judicial process, Kerkar will have to cough up nearly double the original amount once interest is computed.
The burden is expected to fall on Kerkar as no insurance company was made party to proceedings, which is usually an indication that the vehicle was not insured at the time of the accident.
Sandesh Dessai, a house electrician, was 23 years old when the accident occurred at Vasco in August, 2011. Kerkar was riding the two-wheeler while Dessai was the pillion.
The duo was proceeding from Mangor Hill to St Andrew’s church. When they reached the slope of Shivsagar Building, Kerkar lost control and struck a cement slab laid on a drain.
Incidentally, Kerkar was acquitted by court of criminal charges arising due to the accident, but lost the claim petition before the Tribunal.
The Tribunal had ruled that Kerkar should pay Rs 14 lakh plus 9 per cent interest to Dessai. This order was challenged by Kerkar in the High Court.
The argument that Kerkar’s lawyer put forward was that he was acquitted of criminal charges as there were several inconsistencies in the evidence and it could not be concluded that the two-wheeler was being ridden in a rash and negligent manner. Hence the claim petition has no legs to stand on.
The High Court pointed out that at the trial Kerkar kept on changing his version of events.
In the first version, Kerkar claimed that he had parked the scooter near Shusheela Bhuvan and was waiting for his friend (Dessai) who came on another bike and picked him up.
In the second version, Dessai came and took the two-wheeler from Kerkar’s residence and that Kerkar came to know of the accident via a phone call. He rushed to the spot and accompanied Dessai to the hospital.
In the third version, Dessai was riding the scooter while he was sitting pillion when the accident occurred.
Considering these versions, the High Court noted that, “Kerkar deposed in this matter without any regard for the truth”.
Justice M S Sonak, when dealing with the acquittal of criminal charges on one hand and success of the claim petition on the other, relied on Supreme Court judgements.
In the Mangal Ram case, the Supreme Court held that the nature of proof required to establish culpability under criminal law is higher than the standard required under the law of torts to create liabilities.
The High Court, while upholding the claim tribunal’s findings, noted that there is no dispute about the accident and the involvement of the scooter and there is evidence about Kerkar riding the two-wheeler.
“Considering the circumstance of the accident, the smell of alcohol, the spate of contradictory defences and prosecution by neutral agencies, the Tribunal’s findings need to be sustained,” the High Court concluded.