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Present: Garvin A. C. J.
BYBDE 17. PEREBA.29$—P. C. Colombo, 19,664.
Motor ear—Wilfully hindering free passage—Speedlimit— Vehicle
Ordinance, No* 4 of 1916, s. 28, r. 87.
The accused, the driver of a motor car, while fully aware thatthe complainant who was following him .wished to overtake him,kept the complainant back for a distance of over two miles andobstructed the free passage of his car.
Held, that the accused was guilty of wilfully hindering the freepassage of a car in breach of rule 27 framed under section 23 of theVehicles Ordinance.
PPEAL from an acquittal from the Police Court of Colombo.The facts appear from the judgment.
Hayley, for complainant-, appellant.
Sandarasegara, K.C. (with de Jong), for accused, respondent.
July 23, 1926. Garvin A.C.J.—
This is an appeal from an acquittal with the sanction of theSolicitor-General. The charge against the accused is that he didon February 4 last on the Colombo-Avissawella high road wilfullyhinder the free passage of a motor car No. C 6457 .in breach of rule27 framed under section 22 of Ordinance No. 4 of 1916.
The accused was the driver of a car which was proceeding alongthe road in the direction of Colombo. Near the 8th milepostfrom Colombo the complainant, who was proceeding in the 6amedirection, observed the accused's car ahead of him travelling at amoderate speed. As the conditions did not in his judgment admitof his passing the accused’s car, the complainant travelled for aboutone-sixth of a mile behind it. He then signified his desire to passby sounding his horn. A passenger in the leading car turned roundand noticed the approach of the complainant. Presently theaccused himself looked round. It is not denied that the accusedwas aware of the approach of the complainant’s car and of his desireto pass.
The accused immediately increased his speed and kept to themiddle of the road. The complainant followed, sounding his horn.He tried repeatedly to pass the accused’s car, but each time theaccused moved to the right and obstructed his passage.
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The complainant states that the accused was not travelling at morethan twenty miles an hour. This is not expressly denied, andis probably a correct estimate, since the accused himself says thatthe road was in a bad state' and he was travelling as fast as he couldconsidering its state.
The complainant says that they travelled thus- till they reacheda point about five and a half miles from Colombo. There theaccused's car touched a cart which was proceeding in the oppositedirection and he came to a halt. The complainant himself stopped,got out of his car, and asked accused whether he would even nowlet him pass. What further transpired between the parties is of noimportance. What is material is that the accused went on andcontinued to hold the road till' he stopped to drop his passengerabout four miles from Colombo.
These facts show that the accused, who was fully aware that thecomplainant was following him and wished to pass him, kept himback while the two cars travelled a distance of about two and ahalf miles, and then after they had all come to a halt resumed thejourney and obstructed the passage of the complainant till he hadto stop to drop a passenger about one and a half mile further on.
Unless the accused is able to offer a sufficient explanation of thesefacts consistent with his innocence, the complainant must be held tohave established that the accused wilfully hindered the free passageof his car.
It was urged that the conduct of the accused was justifiable ontwo grounds: —
That the road was in a state of disrepair, that there were metal
heaps at intervals on the road, and that the conditionsgenerally were such that it would have been dangerousto let the complainant pass.
That inasmuch as the accused was travelling at a speed, which,
having regard to the state of the road, was as .fast as onecould reasonably travel, he was entitled to retain the. advantages of travelling ahead of the complainant's car.
Where the state of the road and the conditions to traffic are suchthat in the honest judgment of the driver of the leading car it wouldbe dangerous to let a car pass him he is not bound immediatelyto make way at all hazards. It cannot be said in such a case thatit is wilful hindrance. But it is difficult to believe that on a road25 to 30 feet wide it was not possible over a distance of four milesto let another car go past except at grave risk. I do not think theaccused intended to convey the impression that over the whole ofthis distance no suitable opportunity to let the complainant passhim presented itself. It is the second of these grounds which wasmainly relied on by counsel for the respondent in justification of theconduct of the accused. Let it be assumed that the accused was
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travelling at a speed of approximately twenty miles an hour, which,having regard to the state of the road, was in his judgment theutmost speed at which a motor oar should travel.
He was entitled to regulate his own actions by the opinion he hadformed and travel well within the limits of speed prescribed by thelaw. But the law does not vest any user of the road with the rightto determine, not only for himself, but for all those who happen tobe travelling behind him at what speed they should travel andto enforce his judgment by obstructing their free passage. Theassumption that such a right exists is wholly fallacious. In cross-examination the complainant admitted that Jie did not like dust.It might have been taken for granted that the complainant did notlike dust any more than the accused or any other user of the road.But so long as the complainant was prepared to travel at a greaterspeed he was entitled to a free passage, even if his only reason fordoing so was to avoid the dust from the accused’s car. There issome indication that the accused’s reluctance to let the complainant’scar pa6s proceeded from a fear that having gained the advantagehe would moderate his speed and leave the accused to travel in thedust thrown up by his car. Had the complainant acted in thatmanner the accused would not have been left without remedy underthe law. But the case did not arise, and there is no reason tosuppose that the complainant would have behaved Avith such grossdiscourtesy.
The use of the road is free to all. Each individual is entitled,within the limits prescribed by the law and with due recognitionof the rights of others, to the fullest enjoyment of that privilege.Any person exceeding the speed limit, or within that limit? infringingany of the provisions which the law has made for the regulation oftraffic or the safety or convenience of the public, must be dealt withas provided by law. The co-operation of the public is essentialto the due and efficient administration of these regulations. Butthis does not vest every individual with a right to obstruct, restrain,or prevent the free use of the road by another, even when in hisjudgment such use amounts to an infringement of any of theseregulations. The remedy is prosecution in a Court of law.
That the accused obstructed the complainant and hindered thefree passage of his car is beyond question, nor is there any doubtthat he did so wilfully.
I allowed the appeal, set aside the acquittal, and convict the accused.But he is entitled to the benefit of the Magistrate’s finding on thefacts. Those findings tend to show that he acted in an erroneousbelief as to his rights. Under the circumstances a fine of>B6. 10will meet the justice of the case. The imprisonment in default ofpayment of the fine will be one week simple.
BYRDE v. PERERA