Case Briefs
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State Of Tripura Vs Bina Choudhary

 


Author: Bharat Sharma, 3rd Year student at RNB Global University.


Citation: AIR (2007) SC 3821

Date of decision: May 22, 2007

Bench: Arijit Pasayat & L. S. Panta

Original copy: View

Statutes involved: The Indian Forest (Tripura Second Amendment) Act, 1986

 

Issues in question

  • Whether the compensation awarded by the Court is valid?
  • Whether the per day income calculated by the Court is valid?


Background of the case:

  • An offence report was launched on 11.06.1993 by the Forest Beat Officer at Champabari Beat Office, Champaknagar against the owner of vehicle number TRL 2443 for carrying saw wood. The driver of the vehicle, Kartik Chandra, was arrested as he was unable to produce the required documents for the forest department. The vehicle was also seized in Champaknagar range under Teliyamura police station.
  • Notice was issued to the owner of the vehicle on 21.06.1993 regarding seizure of the vehicle stating why the vehicle was not seized under Section 52-A of the Indian Forest (Tripura Second Amendment) Act, 1986.  On 26.06.1993 the owner of the vehicle Sudhir Bhushan Choudhary confessed his guilt and on 13.08.1993 the Chief Conservator of Forests, Tripura as compensation Rs.5000 for the truck and Rs.2500 for the valuation of the truck was determined.
  • After the Chief Conservator of Forest decided the valuation and compensation of the vehicle, the owner of the vehicle on 27.09.1993 prayed for reducing and reassessing the compensation and valuation of the vehicle. According to the owner, the vehicle was very old and income is also less from this old vehicle. 
  • So on the same day 27.09.1993 the Chief Conservator of Forest, revised his past decision and decided Rs10000/- as a valuation of the truck and Rs2000/- as a compensation for the truck. Due date for payment was fixed 30.10.1993, but on 12.10.1993 or 13.10.1993 one of the important parts, the gear-book of the truck, was stolen by someone from the Range office.
  • As the gear box was stolen, the first information report of the theft of the gear box was filed on 14.10.1993. In May 1994, the owner of the vehicle, filed a money suit in the court of Assistant District Judge, West Tripura, Agartala for compensation of Rs 1,68,000/- along with 18% per annum of interest rate from 10.01.1994 till payment.
  • On 22.7.1966, the trial court ordered to pay Rs. 2,03,364 for the period from 18.10.1993 to 31.12.1995 and at the rate of Rs. 252/- per day. The trial court also directed the respondent to return the vehicle within two months.  Then the first appeal was filed before the High Court and during this time the vehicle was handed over with some mechanical changes or in good condition.
  • The real owner of the vehicle, Sudhir Bhusan Choudhary, expired during the period of pending appeal and his legal heirs were brought on record. The valuation done for the vehicle by the trial court is Rs 10000/-. The original claim was Rs.15,54,000/- and no evidence was produced to prove that the owner of the vehicle was earning Rs.2000/- per day from his vehicle.  The trial court also found that the owner was demanding an excessive amount for compensation.
  • The High Court in its conclusion ordered that it would not interfere in the appeal. It said that assessment of loss of income was made by the trial court at Rs 252/- per day and according to the nature of the case this was correct. Since it was very difficult to find the actual net income of an old vehicle, the trial court made an approximate assessment and the High Court did not find any illegality in it. 

Judgment:

  • In its judgment, the Supreme Court said that no evidence was presented before the trial court to make any provision with respect to the income of the vehicle.  The Supreme Court also found that an excessive amount was claimed by the plaintiff but not evidence was given by the trial court on the question of loss of income. The actual claim was Rs. 1,68,000/- and it was increased to Rs. 15,54,000/- by the trial court.  Both the lower court’s decision and the High Court’s order have no legal basis.  Even the prosecution witness had a statement that he had not produced any documents regarding the income of the vehicle.
  • The Supreme Court said that the impugned order of the High Court to be set aside. It also directed the trial court to rehear the trial. Due to the large amount of time which had already passed the Court decided to direct the final settlement of claim, and that is the plaintiff will be paid Rs. 35,000/- by the defendant in two months from the date of the order. 

Critical analysis:

  • So it is clear from the above discussed fact that Section 52 of the Indian Forest Act, 1986 empowers the Forest Officer to take any transport which has been used for the Forest Department and if any offense is committed against that use.  If so, the vehicle can be confiscated.
  • Points of vicarious liability can be seen. The driver of the vehicle was arrested but the real owner of the vehicle was liable to compensate. The vehicle was in possession of the Forest Range office and the gear box was stolen, however, the forest department was made liable to pay the compensation to the real owner of the vehicle because at that time the vehicle was in possession of the forest department.
  • At the end no evidence of loss of income of the plaintiff was submitted and so that’s why the second appeal’s final settlement was decided by the court.

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