New Delhi, Jan 22 (PTI) A court here dismissed a motor accident claim petition and called the police officers who filed the case "ignorant of basic law" for filing an FIR against a fire tender driver at the complaint of an illegal hawker.
It observed that registering an FIR against an official — in this case, the fire tender driver — going on an emergency reflected the "inefficiency of the system" where senior officers, such as the Station House Officer (SHO) and Assistant Commissioner of Police(ACP), appeared "ignorant of basic law." The motor accident claims tribunal was hearing the plea of Arun Kumar, a fruit vendor, who in his complaint claimed he sustained injuries at Matia Mahal Chowk in Central Delhi, when a fire tender, being driven in a rash and negligent manner, hit a cart, which in turn hit his leg on December 12, 2018.
"I hereby hold that the petitioner Arun Kumar is not entitled to any compensation. The Detailed Accident Report (DAR) which was registered as a claim petition is hereby dismissed," Presiding Officer Kamini Lau said in a recent order.
The court said that Kumar was not a licensed hawker and was squatting in the area by illegally putting his cart.
As he was causing obstructions to the public way because of illegal hawking, the risks necessarily followed, the court said.
On the other hand, Constable Somander, the driver of the fire tender posted at Jama Masjid fire station, had complete immunity from being prosecuted as he was discharging his official functions, being on emergency duty, the court said.
"The manner in which the FIR has been registered against the respondent no. 1 (Somander) a public servant on official emergency duty (going to attend a call) and in favour of a wrongdoer, speak volumes about the inefficiency of the system where even the senior officers of the rank of SHO and ACP appear to be ignorant of basic law," the court said.
It said the Investigating Officer (IO) of Chandni Mahal Police Station had "seriously erred" in booking the vehicle and its driver.
It is settled law that there is a yielding right of way for emergency vehicles and when such a vehicle approaches, it is to be given a free passage, the court said.
It said the hawker, who was seeking compensation, was himself found to be plying his trade in contravention of not only the Indian Penal Code, but also the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act.
With these observations, the court denied the sanction to prosecute Somander, ordered by a magisterial court in September 2019.
The court also said the manner in which Somander was dragged in the case could "demoralise" other officials of the fire department.
It said the directions for registration of an FIR against the public officer engaged in discharge of official duty and protected by sovereign immunity was "per se illegal" and had caused him "immense harassment." "Securing monetary benefit by those who do not respect and follow existing law has become a trend and cannot be encouraged.
"There can be no monetary compensation for those who violate the law and constitutional as well as legal rights of others," the court said.
It said the "conscience of the nation" would be shaken if wrongdoers, specifically those who faked a claim by wrongly booking a public servant, were rewarded through a monetary benefit.
The court also observed that the fire department is protected by sovereign immunity and cannot be sued for decisions during a fire emergency.
"Emergency vehicles are protected from lawsuits in cases of accidents that happen en route to a fire and fire tenders do not have to follow the standard traffic law during an emergency," the court said.
"Emergency vehicles have a right of way and if you see flashing lights, safely move towards the left side of the road or move out of the lane (and if )the fire tender is moving; slow down, pull over and stay out of the way till the emergency vehicle passes," the court added. PTI MNR VN VN