You Be The Judge

What Is the Similarity between Dumpers and Pizza Deliveries?
Both Can KILL

Behram Doctor, a chartered accountant, was a dear friend and a very decent human being. On 29 September 2011, he got on to his motor-bike to take it to the garage for servicing. At Mahalaxmi, being a law-abiding citizen, he waited for the traffic signals to change in his favour.

A municipal dumper hit him from behind and he fell to the ground. But fortunately he was unhurt. A policeman whistled. The dumper driver tried to flee. Behram Doctor was crushed to death.

Everyone wants a hot, hot pizza; abhi-ka-abhi
The practice started in USA where pizza deliveries competed with one another in terms of time. The race was about which chain delivered the fastest. Some even offered not to charge if the order was not at your doorstep within the guaranteed period!

And in one such case, a child was run over and killed. Two deaths. Two maladies. What are the remedies? Now you be the judge. Who is responsible?

In the pizza delivery case, the court came to the conclusion that the pizza-maker was equally to blame—as much as the driver of the offending vehicle. The company had set time-limits, forcing the staff to drive recklessly. The court opted for the doctrine of vicarious liability. It means that the responsibility is transferred to a related party also.

We believe this to be a perfect judgement. An employer is, thus, roped in when his staff acts irresponsibly in the conduct of their duties. The pizza company was bound to ensure that its drivers obeyed the law and took the necessary precautions.

A master has to be held responsible for the acts of his servants in the course of the job.

Fortunately, such a law is taking root in India. A few weeks back, a minor son took his dad’s car out for a drive. An accident followed. The father was booked too. It is immaterial whether the father was aware or not. It is the dad’s duty to properly secure his vehicle. It is akin to allowing your child to play with your licensed revolver! A car in inexperienced hands is a homicidal weapon.     

Next, should not car-owners be held liable when their drivers fail to obey laws or are involved in accidents? How often are drivers appointed solely because one is available for Rs500 less than another? How many background checks are ever made before hiring chauffeurs?

Every morning, private taxis speed on Marine Drive to pick up passengers from south Mumbai hotels. Accidents are inevitable. Is the cab company held responsible, especially when it knows that the driver departed late and would, therefore, over-speed?

Coming back to Mr Doctor, we are told that the dumper driver was so young that he could not possibly be the holder of a heavy vehicle licence. He was not a municipal employee. He worked for a transporting contractor and was ostensibly on a contractor’s payroll, where the contractor is farmed out work on municipality-owned dumpers. Are not all three, the driver, the contractor and the municipality/officer, responsible?

There is a further catch here. Just like the pizza delivery boys, these contract drivers are given a minimum number of trips to make per day. Their pay depends on that quota. It is the same with cement-mixers and earth-movers/garbage transporters.

Does the vehicle-owning agency ensure public safety by keeping tabs, or better still, by building the necessary features into their contracts? Should they be left untouched after awarding the contract to bidders of successful tenders? Has anyone even thought of this necessity? We bet not.

Now you be the judge. And, in this case, be both, the Devil’s advocate as well as a recommender of rules.

And, the next time you order a pizza, please try not to impose restrictions. You never know whose child is next.

The choice can be stark. A hot pizza or a cold body.

Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to [email protected] or [email protected]



Thomas Kuruvilla

4 years ago

This was an interesting article. The issue of Mr Behram Doctor is extremely unfortunate. There is little doubt that the driver of the dumper is guilty & if he was underage & doing a job which he was not authorised to do (by law), his employer is similarly guilty. But the issue of vicarious responsibility is rather vague. If an employee commits a mistake despite being fully qualified & despite the circumstances of the job being undertaken being well within the capacity of the employee, I wonder why the employer should also be held responsible. The case of the pizza delivery man is not so clear. I would think vicarious responsibility can be applied if the man delivering the pizza had to perform a function which was difficult in the that particular circumstance. Before one decides that the employer is vicariously responsible, the circumstances in which the accident occurred needs to be taken into account. But it is an interesting & thought provoking issue.

Mahesh S Bhatt

4 years ago

There was real life incident where economically challenged destitute 30+ year women psychiatric patient certified by Thane Mental hospital,As per our legal process judge should certify the same for free stay in Thane Mental Hospital but judge rejected the certificate & told me that this job is of police who refused to support or of Samiritan.Later at beggar's home also she was removed albeit after 1 year support.She was again on streets 6 months back & now not tracebale.Sad Judiciary/Society Mahesh(true story can back with papers)

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Sensex, Nifty script a rally: Weekly Market Report

The Nifty will struggle at the current level. If it breaks out of 6,030, it may head towards 6,220

The market closed higher for the third week in succession on supportive global cues and upbeat results from IT major Infosys. Assurance from US Federal Reserve that the central bank will continue with its bond buying programme for the “foreseeable future”, and quarterly results from Infosys which beat expectations were seen as the main reasons for the gains. Investors will focus on headline inflation figures for June and quarterly results from corporates in the week ahead.


The Sensex closed the week at 19,958, up 463 points (2.37%) and the Nifty settled 141 points (2.40%)  higher at 6,009. The market alternated between losses and gains in the early part of the week while positive cues boosted the market in the last two days. The Nifty will struggle at the current level. If it breaks out of 6,030, it may head towards 6,220.


The fall of the rupee to an all-time low against the dollar and weak global cues led the market lower on Monday. Positive global cues help the indices close higher on Tuesday. The market closed near the lows of the day on Wednesday on concerns that quarterly earnings from corporates would come in below expectations.


Assurances from the US Fed that it will continue with its stimulus programme boosted the market on Thursday. The market settled higher on Friday on support from IT and technology stocks after Infosys’ quarterly results beat estimates.


BSE IT (up 10%) and BSE TECk (up 8%) were the top sectoral gainers this week while BSE Auto (down 2%) and BSE Oil & Gas (down 1%) settled at the bottom of the list.


The top gainers in the Sensex list were Infosys (up 14%), Sun Pharmaceuticals, Wipro (up 7% each), Larsen & Toubro (up 6%) and BHEL (up 5%). The main losers were Maruti Suzuki (down 7%), Mahindra & Mahindra, ONGC (down 6% each), GAIL India and Tata Motors (down 1% each).


Infosys (up 14%), HCL Technologies, Kotak Mahindra Bank (up 8% each), Reliance Infrastructure, Sun Pharma (up 7% each) were the top performers on the Nifty. The key losers on the index were L&T (down 29%), Maruti Suzuki, M&M (down 7% each), ONGC and BPCL (down 6% each).


Domestic passenger car sales fell 9% to 1,39,632 units in June 2013 over June 2012, as demand continued to suffer due to rising ownership costs and sluggish economic growth. Sales of motorcycles fell 9.2% in June to 799,139 vehicles while truck and bus sales were down 13.5% at 56,197 units, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) said.


India's merchandise exports declined 4.56% to $23.78 billion in June 2013 over June 2012, government data released on Friday showed. Imports rose 0.37% to $36.03 billion. The trade deficit in June 2013 stood at $12.24 billion down from $20.1 billion in the previous month.


India’s consumer price index (CPI) or retail inflation rose to 9.87% (combined) in June 2013 as compared to 9.31% in the previous month. The corresponding inflation rates for rural and urban areas are 9.63% and 10.13%, respectively.


IT major Infosys on Friday reported a 3.7% increase in consolidated net profit to Rs2,374 crore for the first quarter ended 30 June 2013, up from Rs2,289 crore in the year-ago period.


Consolidated revenue for the reporting quarter was up 17.2% to Rs11,267 crore from Rs9,616 crore in the year-ago period.


While, Infosys kept its US dollar revenue guidance unchanged at 6%-10% for this fiscal, it revised its rupee revenue guidance upwards to 13%-17% from 6%-10% for the same period.


In international news, US Fed chief Ben Bernanke on Wednesday said the economy still needs help from the Federal Reserve’s low interest rate policies. The comments boosted world markets the next day.


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