The Delhi High Court while refusing to interfere with compensation of over Rs 19 lakh to the family of a 26-year-old who died in an accident involving a DTC bus in 2011, has held that DTC is not expected to unleash untrained, incompetent, and unlicensed drivers upon the public.

Justice Gaurang Kanth observed that DTC must check the antecedents of the prospective drivers and especially if they possess a valid driving licence before employing them.

In addition, the Court also observed, "A public transport undertaking is not expected to unleash untrained, incompetent and unlicensed drivers upon the unsuspecting innocent public."

The Court noted that in the case of 2011, the bus driver had a fake driving licence and was negligently driving the vehicle and Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) failed in its duty to exercise reasonable care while employing him.

"It is expected from a public employer to check the antecedents of its prospective employees and in particular the fact that the candidate possessed a valid driving license and that only after passing the special training, the selected candidates would be offered employment," the Court held.

The Bench further also observed –

"The exercise of checking the validity of the driving license could be carried out even after offering provisional employment to the successful candidates. The position of a public transport undertaking, or a large public transporter, who engage a number of drivers-in hundreds and thousands, to drive their fleet of vehicles, is different from a private individual who engages one or two drivers for his/ her personal service."

The Court also noted, "…it is relevant to mention that the numerous instances of rash and negligent driving involving DTC buses resulting in severe injuries and deaths in Delhi in the period concerned cannot be lost sight of. Even today, the strain of this malaise subsists."

Furthermore, the Court held that it is expected from a public employer such as the appellant DTC, being a statutory undertaking, that it would exercise due caution and care apropos verification of documents submitted by a person who is offered employment.

DTC had assailed the order of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal before the High Court awarding over Rs 19 lakh as compensation to the wife, father, and minor son of the deceased.

The Court held that DTC being the employer/owner of the vehicle has clearly failed in its duty to exercise reasonable care apropos use of the public transport bus for ferrying ordinary unsuspecting passengers who board it with the bonafide belief that its driver is duly licensed and has undergone requisite training and has the competence to drive a public bus on the roads of Delhi.

Dismissing the appeal, the Court observed that since DTC did not lead any evidence to prove the skills of the driver and also failed to take the necessary driving test or concern about the genuineness of the driver's licence, it cannot absolve itself of its liability.

Cause Title – Delhi Transport Corporation v. Ruby & Ors.

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