S.N. Hussain v. State of A.P (1972)
By: Robin Pandey Date: 01/03/2022
The accused/appellant a bus driver, was driving the bus in the winter morning reached the railway level crossing gate which was in charge a gateman and it was the duty of the gateman to close the gate when a train is expected to pass by. It is an admitted fact that at the time when the accused with his bus reached the level crossing the gate was open. At the time when the bus was entering the railway gate, it was going dead slow. The situation of the road and the level crossing would clearly go to show that no vehicle which is to negotiate two near bends and climb up a gradient can maintain high speed. The road was lined by babool trees, and therefore, a passing train coming from a distance was not visible from the bus. When the bus was already on the railway track, having noticed the approaching train, the driver decided to clear the track but the goods train dashed against the bus on the rear side with the result that the bus was thrown off causing serious injuries to the passengers. There were about 43 passengers in the bus. Out of these, one died on the spot, three died later in the in the hospital and about 21 other passengers received more o less severe injuries. The charge against the accused was that he was rash or negligent in crossing the railway track when a goods train was about to pass the gate.
He was neither rash nor negligent and the accident was unavoidable. He did not realize at all that a goods train was passing at the time and since the gate was open he crossed the railway crossing absolutely oblivious of the fact that a train was approaching.
Whether the accused was either rash or negligent to upheld his conviction under Section 304A IPC?
Lower Court's Decisions:
The trial court acquitted the accused but the High Court was of the opinion that the accused was both rash and negligent and accordingly convicted him and sentenced him to suffer rigorous imprisonment for two years under Section 304A IPC. The accused was guilty of criminal rashness because he “tried to negotiate the level crossing in a spirit of bravado and absolutely callous and unmindful of the consequences of the impending collision". The accused was guilty of criminal negligence because he had not taken note of the road signals. On either side of the railway track, some distance away, there were road signals which required a vehicle to stop, and the driver was at fault in not stopping vehicle. The accused should have first come to a dead stop at the road signal and made sure that there was no train on the railway line.
Supreme Court's Observations:
Rashness consists in hazarding a dangerous or wanton act with the knowledge that it is so, and that it may cause injury. The criminality lies in such a running the risk of doing such an act with recklessness or indifference as to the consequences.
(2) Criminal negligence on the other hand, is the gross and culpable neglect or failure to exercise that reasonable and proper care and precaution to guard against injury either to the public generally or to an individual in particular, which having regard to all the circumstances out of which the charge has arisen, it was the imperative duty of the accused person to have adopted
(3) Culpable negligence lies in the failure to exercise reasonable and proper care and the extent of reasonableness will always depend upon the circumstance of each case.
This was a clear case of unavoidable accident because of the negligence of the gateman in keeping the gate open and inviting the vehicle to pass. The accused was not guilty of criminal negligence merely because he did not stop when the road signal wanted him to stop. It is very clear from the evidence that the driver received no warning either from the approaching train or from the passengers in the bus in sufficient time to save the collision. There was no question that the accused driving the bus in a spirit of bravado or adventure on seeing the rain after he crossed the track the best he could do was to drive as fast as he could in order to avoid the collision. This cannot be regarded either as bravado or adventure. It is, therefore, impossible to say on the evidence that the accused was criminally rash.