The Kerala High Court has recently came up with an interesting question of law while deciding appeals against a Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal Order on whether the Tribunal could reduce the compensation payable on a motorcycle accident if the deceased pillion rider rode without a helmet.
While permitting the family of a deceased person in a motorcycle accident to claim compensation applied the principle of contributory negligence, the Tribunal stated that the deceased was not wearing a helmet. To this, the court modified the compensation and reduced the quantum of reward.
Subsequently, the deceased family moved to the High Court and the court was required to decide whether the principle of contributory negligence could be applied to such cases.
Referring to the Section 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act that made the non-wearing of a helmet an offence, the court underlined the need for a connection between the violation of the helmet rule and the accident or consequences of the accident for the principle of contributory negligence to apply.
The court also cited Mohammed Siddique versus National Insurance Company Ltd. in which the court had made similar declaration in the context of an accident case that violates Section 128 of the Motor Vehicles Act. Regarding this, the court ruled that
“Simply because there is a violation of Section 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 by a victim in an accident, there is no presumption that there is contributory negligence on the part of the person who was not wearing the helmet. It is to be decided in the facts and circumstances of each case.”
However, the court also advised against using its decision as a license to ride without a helmet. While making it clear the court held that this is not a license to drive motorcycles without wearing a helmet. The authorities concerned shall see that Section 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act is compiled in its letter and spirit. Accordingly, the compensation allowed by the Tribunal is modified by the court.