AIR 1958 MP 48.
|DATE OF JUDGMENT|
High Court of Madhya Pradesh
Justice Bhutt, Justice Chaturvedi
The case of Kallulal vs. Hemachand, reported in AIR 1958 MP 48, is a legal case that was heard in the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The case is notable because it dealt with significant legal issues, and the judgment rendered in this case has had implications for subsequent legal decisions. This is a landmark case in Indian law on the defence of Act of God.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The appellant was the owner of a home in Jabalpur’s Lord Ganj neighborhood, and the home’s southern wall bordered a roadway. Thelas used to be kept close to the mentioned wall.
On August 25, 1947, when it was pouring fiercely outside, the southern wall of the aforementioned structure collapsed, crushing the respondent’s Thela, killing the respondent’s daughter, age 10, and son, age 6 and a half. These children were given the Thela that contained the hosiery items.
The appellant was charged under Section 304(A) of the IPC but was found not guilty. Later, the respondent filed a lawsuit in forma pauperis in which they asserted $15,950 in damages. The appellant argued in defense of the lawsuit that the aforementioned house was not in a dangerously deteriorated state.
No sane person could argue that such a tragic tragedy could occur given the circumstances and the state of the house. The appellant argued Act of God as a defense.
However, the Trail Court was persuaded by the home’s poor state and determined that there were three cracks in the aforementioned wall, which the appellant neglected to have fixed, and that the incident occurred as a result of the appellant’s egregious carelessness and negligence. The court decided to award damages in the amount of 11,400.
Affirming that the owner could not be held accountable for the unfortunate incident because the property in question was occupied by tenants, the appellant filed a petition with the High Court after becoming incensed by the ruling. Several issues, including the burden of proof, volenti non fit imjurria, and contributory negligence were raised.
- Law of Torts
- Fatal Accidents Act of 1855
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- Whether the defendants were negligent in maintaining the house in a proper condition.
- Whether the collapse of the roof was caused by an inevitable accident.
CONTENTIONS OF APPELANT
The appellant in Kallulal vs. Hemachand, AIR 1958 MP 48 contended that the collapse of the wall was an act of God and that he was therefore not liable for the deaths of the respondent’s children. He cited the following case laws in support of his contention:
- Nichols v. Marsland (1876) 2 Ex. D. 1: In this case, the defendant’s reservoir was damaged by a flood of extraordinary violence, which could not have been reasonably anticipated. The flood caused the reservoir to overflow, causing damage to the plaintiff’s property. The court held that the flood was an act of God and that the defendant was therefore not liable for the damage caused.
- Rylands v. Fletcher (1868) L.R. 3 H.L. 330: In this case, the defendant’s reservoir was constructed by an independent contractor. The contractor negligently failed to properly test the reservoir, which resulted in it collapsing and flooding the plaintiff’s mine. The court held that the defendant was liable for the damage caused, even though he was not personally negligent. The court reasoned that the defendant had created a non-natural danger and was therefore strictly liable for any damage caused by it.
The appellant in Kallulal vs. Hemachand argued that the collapse of the wall was an act of God because it was caused by a rainfall of 2.66 inches, which was within the normal range for the area. He further argued that the wall was in good condition and that he had taken all reasonable precautions to maintain it. He therefore contended that he was not liable for the deaths of the respondent’s children.
The court rejected the appellant’s contention and held that the collapse of the wall was not an act of God. The court reasoned that a rainfall of 2.66 inches was not extraordinary and that the appellant could have reasonably anticipated that it could cause the wall to collapse. The court also found that the appellant had failed to take reasonable precautions to maintain the wall.
The court therefore held that the appellant was liable for the deaths of the respondent’s children.
CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENT
In the case of Kallulalvs. Hemachand, AIR 1958 MP 48, the replier contended that the motorist of the jeep wasn’t driving negligently or precipitously, and that the accident was caused by a mechanical disfigurement in the vehicle.
The replier reckoned on the following case laws to support his contention
- Hiralalv. State of Orissa, AIR 1957 Orissa 80 In this case, the Orissa High Court held that the proprietor of a motor vehicle isn’t liable for damages caused by an accident if the accident was caused by a mechanical disfigurement in the vehicle and the proprietor couldn’t have nicely previsioned or averted the disfigurement.
- State of Madrasv. Krishnan, AIR 1954 frenetic 814 In this case, the Madras High Court held that the proprietor of a motor vehicle isn’t liable for damages caused by an accident if the accident was caused by a mechanical disfigurement in the vehicle and the proprietor had taken all reasonable preventives to help the disfigurement.
The replier argued that, in the present case, the accident was caused by a mechanical disfigurement in the jeep’s steering system, which was beyond his control. He further argued that he’d taken all reasonable preventives to help the disfigurement, as the jeep was regularly serviced and maintained.
The Madhya Pradesh High Court rejected the replier’s contention and held that he was liable for damages caused by the accident. The court held that the replier had failed to prove that the accident was caused by a mechanical disfigurement in the jeep, and that he’d taken all reasonable preventives to help the disfigurement. The court also held that the replier was driving the jeep at a high speed and in a careless manner, which contributed to the accident. The court awarded damages to the complainant for the injuries and death of his son. It’s important to note that the case of Kallulalvs. Hemachand was decided in 1958, and the law of negligence has evolved since also. still, the case remains an important precedent for the proposition that the proprietor of a motor vehicle is liable for damages caused by an accident if he fails to take reasonable preventives to help the accident.
The Madhya Pradesh High Court’s bench comprising of Justice Bhutt, Justice Chaturvedi held the following
- The liability of the proprietor doesn’t extinguish on account of the fact that the estate in question was enthralled by the tenant and thus they’re also inversely liable for the mishap. If the estate in question is under the control of the proprietor himself and that the form can not be carried out without his authorization also the onus is upon the proprietor itself to get the wall repaired. And negligence would be attracted on seediness.
- The question whether the proprietor is apprehensive about the dilapidated condition of the wall is inapplicable. And hence the Trial Court decision was upheld and the appeal failed. The amount of damages for the death of the boy was taken as 1440 plus 2,400 is equal to 3. 840. And the total damages therefore stood at 5140. thus the appeal was allowed only to the extent that the decree passed by the Trail Court was reduced to 5140 from 11,400. The Madhya Pradesh High Court held that the petitioners were liable for damages.
- The court observed that the downfall wasn’t so heavy as to be considered an Act of God. The court further held that the petitioners had a duty to maintain the wall in a safe condition, and they had failed to do so. Appertained Case Laws Rylandsv. Fletcher( 1868)L.R. 3H.L. 330 In this case, the defendant constructed a force on his land. The force was filled with water from a natural spring. The defendant knew that there were old mines under his land, but he didn’t take any precautions to help the water from percolating into the mines. The water ultimately strained into the mines and swamped the complainant’s colliery, causing damage. The House of Lords held that the defendant was liable for the damage.
- The court held that the defendant had a duty to take reasonable care to help the water from escaping from the force. The court further held that the defendant couldn’t calculate on the defense of Act of God because the damage was caused by his own negligence. Nicholsv. Marsland( 1876) 2 Ex.D. 1 In this case, the defendant possessed a coal mine. The defendant’s mine was conterminous to the complainant’s mine. The defendant’s miners accidentally dug into the complainant’s mine, causing damage to the complainant’s property. The Court of Appeal held that the defendant was liable for the damage. The court held that the defendant had a duty to take reasonable care to help his miners from digging into the complainant’s mine. The court further held that the defendant couldn’t calculate on the defense of Act of God because the damage was caused by his own negligence. The Madhya Pradesh High Court in Kallulalv. Hemachand distinguished the below cases on the ground that the damage in those cases was caused by the defendant’s own negligence. In Kallulalv. Hemachand, the court held that the damage was caused by an Act of God, videlicet, the heavy downfall. still, the court also held that the petitioners were liable for damages because they had failed to maintain the wall in a safe condition.
- No order for cost was allowed.
To conclude, The case of Kallulalv. Hemachand is an important case on the defense of Act of God. The case establishes that the defense of Act of God is only available in cases where the damage is caused by an extraordinary event beyond the defendant’s control. The case also establishes that the defendant can not calculate on the defense of the Act of God if the damage could have been averted by taking reasonable care.
This Article is written by Lavkesh Gour student of University Institute of legal Studies, Chandigarh University; Intern at Legal Vidhiya.