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Manindra Nath Mukherjee v Mathuradas Chatturbhuj Case Brief

Manindra Nath Mukherjee v Mathuradas Chatturbhuj Case Summary

Citation: AIR 1946 Cal. 175.

Facts 

In this case, the defendant is a proprietor of a motion picture exhibition establishment named Rupali Cinema. On the roof of the part of building adjacent to the streets, at almost four feet from its western edge a licensed sky sign of about 12 ft. High and 25m wide, is erected to display the banners, which are held against the galvanized sheets by means of cheap coir ropes fastened to the four corners of the wooden frame.

On the stormy evening of 5th July, 1943 a banner within the wooden frame fell from its position and hit the 51 year old Plaintiff’s head, and he sustained a cut thereon, which was described by the medical evidence as severe bleeding profusely.

This case is an action for damages for the injury caused to the Plaintiff by the fall of banner from the roof of the Defendant’s premises. 

Issue

The question of law aroused in this case was- 

  • Whether the Defendant, an occupier adjoining a public thoroughfare, owes any duty to the Plaintiff, who is a passerby thereon?
  • Whether the maxim res ipsa loquitur applies to the case?  

Rule

  • The application of rule of Negligence and the principle of Res Ipsa Loquitur. 
  • The application of the defence of rule of Act of God. 

Held

The court while ruling in favour of the Plaintiff, held that-

  • The maxim of res ipsa loquitur is a rule of evidence which is applicable to the case so as to cast a burden upon the Defendant to exercise due care to the things which is implanted in his own land or building at his own peril. 
  • The defence of Act of God with respect to the velocity of wind blowing at the rate of 27 miles per hour during the monsoon season in Calcutta does not hold good as this rate of wind could not be said to be so unexpected that no human foresight could reasonably expect to anticipate.

Rationale

Prof. Winfield defined the Act of God as ‘an operation of natural forces so unexpected that no human foresight or skill could reasonably be expected to anticipate it’. In Greencock Co. V. Caledonian Railway, Lord Parker criticising the approach given in Niochols v. Marshland,., observed that the Act of God may not have offered a shield to every act which is ordinary act which could be foreseeable, and this question was resolved in the affirmative. 

Current Day Significance:

This case sets a precedent for the Indian Tort law wherein the defendant cannot always resort to the plea of Inevitable Accident or accident being out of the Act of the God. This rule was brought in the case of Rylands v. Fletcher, according to which any person setting up a thing in his own land is obligated to guard against all possible reasonable outcomes or any harm to the other person. This principle was adopted in India as a strict liability on the part of those who keeps anything in their land which maybe dangerous or hazardous in nature and to make them absolutely liable for their escape from the land. 

References

Greencock Co. V. Caledonian Railway (1917) A.C. 556.

Niochols v. Marshland [1876] 10Ex.255.

Rylands v. Fletcher [1868] LR 3HL 330.

By – Aayusha

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