Kerala High Court: Pedestrians have the priority on the Zebra Crossing

The Kerala High Court recently directed the State Authorities to take up necessary steps to ensure the safety of the pedestrian while crossing the road using the ‘Zebra crossing’. Further, the High Court was disappointed by the argument put forth by State Insurance Department stating that person using the zebra crossing ought to be extra careful. [Kerala State Insurance Department v Joy Wilson & Ors].

Facts of the case

The Kerala State Insurance Department (Appellant), called into question the compensation awarded by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal (MACT) to the kin of a 50 years old woman who died when crossing the road.

The Original Petitioners were the husband, children, and mother of the late Doreena Rola Mendeza. As she was crossing the National Highway, Cherukunnu by taking the advantage of the Pedestrian “Zebra Crossing” a vehicle owned by and registered in the name of the Director General of Police of Thiruvananthapuram hit her caused severe injuries and lead her to death. They approached the MACT and thereupon the Tribunal awarded an amount of Rs. 48,32,140/- (Rupees Forty-Eight Lakhs Thirty-Two Thousand One Hundred Forty Only).

Arguments by Appellants

The learned Senior Government Pleader Mr. S. Gopinadhan stated that evidence on record implied that the deceased was careless and negligent while crossing the road and ought to be aware of the surroundings as the area was known for heavy traffic. Hence the amount granted by the MACT should not have been awarded. He appealed the compensation amount to be set aside and substantially reduced to the extent after taking into the account of negligence by the deceased.

 Response by Respondents

The learned counsel appearing for the Respondent submitted that the deceased was working as a Headmistress at a School and was drawing a monthly salary of Rs. 51,704/- (Rupees Fifty-One Thousand Seven Hundred and Four Only). The claim by the family of the deceased was of Rs. 85,95,000/- (Rupees Eighty-Five Lakhs Ninety-Five Thousand Only) however the MACT awarded them compensation of a lesser amount which they have chosen to accept and prayed that this appeal put forth by the Kerala State Insurance Department be dismissed.

Kerala High Court’s observation

Justice Devan Ramachandran pointed out that there is no evidence to support the argument by the Senior Government Pleader who stated that the deceased was negligent when crossing the road.

The excerpts read from the judgement:

“It is baffling for this Court that an argument is made out by the appellant that, when a pedestrian crosses the road at the earmarked place for such purpose – which is commonly known as ‘zebra crossing’ – the rash conduct of a vehicle, in hitting him/her, should be justified on the ground that liability of care is more on the said person.”

The Court took note of the First Information Report and concluded based on the findings of the Investigating Officer that the offending vehicle was a Police Jeep driven by a Police driver. The Driver is obliged to slow down the vehicle at a road intersection, road junction, pedestrian crossing and road corner, as per the Rules of the Road Regulation 1989. The deceased obeyed the law while crossing the road whereas the offending vehicle neither stopped or even slowed down. The drivers of the vehicles should understand that the pedestrians have the priority on the ‘Zebra Crossing’.

The Court further stated, “As far as the family of the victim is concerned, they face the prospect of having lost their loved one, solely because she chose to act as per law and to make the crossing in the designated area. Any interference with the Award of the Tribunal, therefore, would be an anathema to the principles of justice and fair play; and am fully of the view that it would be impermissible for this Court, in any manner, to accede to any of the grounds pleaded in this appeal”.

Source: Bar and Bench, LiveLaw

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