1. This appeal gives rise to a short question of law, viz., whether the Claims Tribunals, after the Amending Act 56 of 1969, can entertain and try claims with regard to damages to properties only?
2. The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation, Hubli Division, Hubli, by its Deputy General Manager (hereinafter referred to as the Corporation) instituted a claim against the respondents in that petition for damages to the bus caused by truck bearing registration No. MYD 5057 on 3-4-1972. It is the case of the Corporation that the bus was going on the main road when suddenly a truck came by the by-road and the driver of the bus (PW 2) on seeing the truck coming with high speed, halted the bus but even so the truck came and dashed against the right broad side of the bus causing damages to it, and the damages were calculated to be at Rupees 1,345.66 paise. For claiming these damages, the Corporation instituted a petition under section 110-A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) before the Claims Tribunal Dharwar. This was resisted by the owner and driver of the truck on the ground that the Claims Tribunal had no jurisdiction, even after the Amending Act 56 of 1969, to entertain claims only with regard to damages to property. They further contended that the accident was not the result of rash and negligent driving of the truck. According to them, the claim was exorbitant.
3. During hearing, PW 1 Ambariah, Divisional Mechanical Engineer, PW 2 Mahamad Hayat and PW 3 Mahaboob, an eye-witness, were examined on behalf of the claimants. None was examined on behalf of the respondents. The Claims Tribunal, however, took up the issue as to whether the Tribunal could entertain and try a claim regarding only damages to the property, for consideration as a preliminary issue, and discussing that issue at length, came to the conclusion that it could not. In that view, it dismissed the claim petition. Aggrieved by the said order dates 29-11-1974 passed by the Claims Tribunal. Dharwar, the Corporation has come up in appeal before this Court.
4. The learned advocate appearing on behalf of the Corporation vehemently submitted that the Tribunal was not justified in coming to the conclusion that the Claims Tribunal could not entertain petitions claiming only damage to property. He submitted that after the Amending Act 56 of 1969, the Claims Tribunal could entertain such petitions. As against that, the learned advocate appearing for the respondents in this case submitted that reading of Ss. 110(1) and 110-A of the Act it became clear that the intention of the Legislature was not to allow Claims Tribunals to entertain petitions only with regard to damages to property. He, in this connection, invited our attention to the three categories of persons contemplated as petitioners under S. 110(1) of the Act. According to him, though the wordings in S. 110(1), after amendment, were wide enough to enable the Claims Tribunal to adjudicate upon a claim regarding damages to property, since S. 110A(1) of the Act was not correspondingly amended enabling a party to present a petition for damages to property only, it should be taken that the Tribunal was not entitled to entertain and try a claim petition pertaining to damages to property alone.
5. The short point, therefore, that arises for our consideration is, whether after the Amending Act 56 of 1969 the Claims Tribunal is entitled to entertain, try and adjudicate upon a claim with regard to damages to property, involved in a motor accident, without anything more?
6. Section 110(1) of the Act reads thus:
'110(1) A State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitute one or more Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals (hereinafter referred to as Claims Tribunals) for such area as may be specified in the notification for the purpose of adjudicating upon claims for compensation in respect of accidents involving the death of, or bodily injury to, persons arising out of the use of motor vehicles, or damages to any property of a third party so arising, or both.'
Thus, a mere reading of the aforesaid provision would make it amply clear that after the amendment, the Claims Tribunal has been authorised to adjudicate even upon a claim with regard to damages to any property of a third party arising out of the use of motor vehicles. This is not disputed before us. What is disputed is that such a person who suffers only damages to property is not entitled to apply to the Claims Tribunal for compensation under S. 110-A(1) of the Act. It reads:
'110-A(1) An application for compensation arising out of an accident of the nature specified in sub-section (1) of S. 110 may be made
(a) by the person who has sustained the injury ; or
(b) where death has resulted from the accident, by all or any of the legal representatives of the deceased; or
(c) by any agent duly authorised by the person injured or all or any of the legal representatives of the deceased, as the case may be.'
7. The learned counsel appearing for the respondents pointed out that even after amending S. 110(1), the Legislature has not thought it proper to amend Section 110-A(1) enabling an additional category of persons who have suffered damages to property to prefer an application. That way he submitted that, reading of the two sections together, the Court should come to the conclusion that persons who suffered merely damages to property are not entitled to apply to the Claims Tribunal for compensation. According to him, at best, only those persons who have suffered composite injuries, both to body and property, or death or damages to property could apply to the Tribunal.
8. As against the aforesaid submission, the learned advocate appearing on behalf of the appellant vehemently contended that Clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 110A of the Act provides that the person who has suffered damages to property also could apply. The said clause reads thus:
'(a) by the person who has sustained the injury.'
He, in this connection, submitted that the term 'injury' is wide enough to cover damages to property also, and as such, the Legislature, perhaps, thought it unnecessary to further amend that section.
9. The term 'injury' is defined in Stroud's Judicial Dictionary, Fourth Edition, at page 1372, inter alia, thus:
'Injury (1) 'injury', 'injuria' (1) A wrong or damage to a man's person or goods.'
Thus the very first definition given therein shows that 'injury' includes, a wrong or damage to a man's person or goods.
10. The word 'sustain' is defined in Webster's Dictionary, Third Edition, Vol. III thus:
'Sustain', to give support to, to supply, to provide for the support, to cause to continue, to allow, to play, to bear up, to endure etc.'
It therefore becomes clear that even the word 'sustain' has wide amplitude of meanings. Even to endure damages or to suffer damages, is included in the word 'sustain'. It is obvious that there was, therefore, no necessity for the Legislature to correspondingly amend Section 110-A of the Act, creating a fourth category of petitioners covering persons who have suffered damages to property. Clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 110-A of the Act, as pointed our above, in the words 'a person who has sustained injury' also covers the person who has suffered damages, besides personal bodily injury.
11. In Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes, eleventh Edition, at page 6, the learned author quotes, with approval, a passage from the judgment of Viscount Simon in Nokes v. Doncaster Amalgamated Collieries, 1940 AC 1014: (1940) 3 All ER 549 wherein it is stated thus:
'The golden rule is that the words of a Statute must prima facie be given their ordinary meaning..................At the same time, if the choice is between two interpretations, the narrower of which would fail to achieve the manifest purpose of the legislation, we should avoid a construction which would reduce the legislation to futility, and should rather accept the bolder construction, based on the view that Parliament would legislate only for the purpose of bringing about an effective result.'
12. The Supreme Court has made similar observations in Sheikh Gulfan v. Sanat Kumar Ganguli, : 3SCR364 , of the Judgment, His Lordship, Chief Justice, Gajendragadkar (as he then was), has observed thus:
'.....................Normally, the words used in a statute have to be construed in their ordinary meaning; but in many cases, judicial approach finds that the simple device of adopting the ordinary meaning or words does not meet the ends of a fair and reasonable construction. Exclusive reliance on the bare dictionary meaning of words may not necessarily assist a proper construction of the statutory provision in which the words occur. Often enough, in interpreting a statutory provision, it becomes necessary to have regard to the subject-matter of the statute and the object which it is intended to achieve. That is why in deciding the true scope and effect of the relevant word in any statutory provision, the context in which the words occur, the object of the statute in which the provision is included, and the policy underlying the statute assume relevance and become material. As Halsbury has observed, the words 'should be construed in the light of their context rather than what may be either their strict etymological sense or their popular meaning apart from that context...........................'
13. Again, in Kanai Lal Sur v. Param Nidhi Sadhukhan, : 1SCR360 the same Judge at para 6 of the Judgment, has stated as follows '
'In support of his argument Mr. Chatterjee has naturally relied on the observations made by Barons of the Exchequer in Heydon's case (1584) 3 Co Rep 7a. Indeed these observations have been so frequently cited with approval by Courts administering provisions of welfare enactments that they have now attained the status of a classic on the subject and their validity cannot be challenged.'
14. Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, Eleventh Edition, at page 18 of the Book, explaining Heydon's case has stated thus:
'............... To arrive at the real meaning, it is always necessary to get an exact conception of the aim, scope and object of the whole Act; to consider, according to Lord Coke, in Heydon's case:
(1) What was the law before the Act was passed:
(2) What was the mischief or defect for which the law has not provided;
(3) What remedy Parliament has appointed; and
(4) the reason of the remedy.'
15. It is in this light that we have to examine S. 110(1) and S. 110-A(1) of the Act. Before the amending Act 56 of 1969, the High Courts in India rendered conflicting decisions on whether the Claims Tribunal could entertain a claim for damages to property. Some of the High Courts held that the Claims Tribunal could entertain such petitions, if they formed part of a composite claim, viz., along with bodily injury or death. The other High Courts held that even so, the claim could not be entertained. It is to remedy this state of affairs that the Legislature has stepped in and has amended, in unmistakable terms, S. 110(1), enabling the Claims Tribunal to entertain petitions even with regard to damages to property alone. The aim and purpose of Ss. 110 and 110-A to 110-F are to provide to the victims of the accident cheap and speedy remedy. Keeping in view the purpose of the Act and the purpose for which S. 110 (1) was amended, it is obvious that it is necessary to give a wider interpretation to the words 'sustain' and 'injury' occurring in S. 110-A(1) (a) of the Act, as covering damages to property also.
16. The Tribunal has entirely missed to notice this aspect, while holding that the Claims Tribunal could not entertain petitions for claiming damages to property.
17. The Claims Tribunal has relied on three decisions while coming to the conclusion. The first decision is in the case of Farsubhai Altapbhai Saiyad v. Dullabhai Bhagabhai Patel, : AIR1972Guj244 . This decision was rendered before the amendment of S. 110(1) of the Act, by Act 56 of 1969. Hence, this decision would not be of any assistance in interpreting the section after amendment. The second decision in the case of Joshi Ratansingh Gopaji v. Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation, 1968 Acc CJ 338 (Guj) was also rendered before Amendment Act 56 of 1969. In fact, after the amendment, the same High Court, in the case of Ratansingh Karsanbhai Nakum v. Isadkhan Gulamkhan, 1975 Acc CJ 455 has taken the view that Claims Tribunal is competent to entertain and try a claim merely for damages to property, and that, the application could be entertained under S. 110A(1)(a) of the Act. The next decision relied on by the Tribunal is in the case of B. S. Nath v. Bachan Singh, 1971 Acc CJ 37: (AIR 1971 Punj 144). This is a decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which has differed from the said decision later in the case of Haryana State v. Pusa Ram, AIR 1978 Punj & Har 171. In that case, His Lordship, Goyal, J. Who delivered the judgment for the Bench, speaking about that case, has observed thus (at p. 172):
'4........... So far as B. S. Nath's case (supra) is concerned, what was relied upon by the learned counsel were some obiter dicta observations of C. G. Suri, J., according to which some corresponding amendments consequential to the changes made in S. 110 should have been made in clauses of S. 110-A(1) which are supposed to give an exhaustive list of the categories of persons who can file application under the Act. These observations by the learned Judge can hardly be said to contain any expression of opinion on the interpretation of the provisions of S. 110-A(1) and, therefore, are also of no help.'
18. On the other hand, in the aforesaid case (AIR 1978 Punj & Har 171), their Lordships have taken the view that Claims Tribunal is entitled to entertain a petition, merely claiming damages to property under S. 110-A(1)(a) of the Act. Similar are the views taken by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh in the cases of Banwari Lal v. Vishnunarayana, 1975 Acc CJ 40 and Shyambihari v. Shiv Singh, 1976 Acc CJ 95. That being so, we have no hesitation to hold that the Claims Tribunal, as discussed above, is competent to entertain a petition merely for damages to property without anything more under Section 110(1) read with S. 110-A(1)(a) of the Act. The order passed by the Tribunal, per contra, is hereby set aside.
19. That leads us to the question of actionable negligence on the part of the driver and the quantum of compensation to which, if at all, the claimant is entitled on the facts of this case.
20. It is true that in the memorandum, of appeal there is only a prayer for remand. But, we find that the case was decided after full hearing; the evidence of the witnesses was recorded and the case was ready for judgment. That being so, no useful purpose would be served by remanding this case now at this stage. The case was instituted in the year 1972. Already six long years are over. Hence, we are not inclined to remand the case. We heard the advocates on merits.
21. It is the case of the driver who is examined as PW 2 that on 3-4-1972 he was driving Corporation Bus bearing No. MYF 5534 from Hubli to Panji. He left Dharwar at about 10-15 A. M. and was proceeding towards Panaji viz., Haliyal and when he was at the junction where a road from Kalgeri also joins, the truck in question came with high speed and dashed against the right broad side of the bus, as a result of which, the bus was pushed and went and dashed against a tamarind tree. It is on these averments that the Corporation has claimed compensation for the damages caused to the bus. The damages caused to the bus, is spoken to by PW 1 Ambariah, Divisional Mechanical Engineer. PW 3 Mahaboob is a passenger who was travelling in the bus and has spoken to the manner of the accident. As against this, there is no evidence adduced on behalf of the respondents.
22. It is in the evidence of the driver, PW 2, that he was going on the main road, viz., Dharwar-Panaji road via Haliyal. The road coming from Kalgeri was a by-road. Hence, it is obvious that it was the duty of the driver of the truck in question to wait and stop before entering on the main road, to allow the bus to pass by before he entered the junction. Instead of that, he suddenly entered the junction and dashed against the right broad side of the bus, and therefore, it is obvious that it was the truck driver who was entirely negligent on the facts of this case in causing the accident. In the circumstances, we have no hesitation to hold that the accident was the result of rash and negligent driving of the truck in question.
23. That leads us to consideration of the quantum of compensation. The bus which suffered damages was sent to the Divisional Workshop where the Engineer examined it. The Engineer was examined before the Tribunal as PW 1. He has given the details of the damages caused to the bus and has given his estimate at Ext. P-1. According to him, repairing charges would be Rs. 1,354-66 paise. As against this evidence adduced on behalf of the respondents. There is no reason why we should not accept the evidence of PW 1. Hence, we are inclined to hold that the bus suffered damages to the extent of Rs. 1,354.66 paise, to be rounded off to Rs. 1,350/-. We have held that the Corporation is entitled to recover damages to the property before the Claims Tribunal. In fact, it is not at all open to the Corporation to approach the Civil Court, as the jurisdiction of Civil Court is taken away under S. 110-F of the Act. That being so, we hold that the claimant-Corporation is entitled to compensation of Rs. 1,350/-.
24. In the result, this appeal is allowed. The Corporation is granted compensation of Rs. 1,350/- along with interest at 6 per cent from the date of petition till payment.
25. Under S. 110-B of the Act, we direct that the entire amount of compensation awarded with interest shall be paid over by the second respondent, viz., the insurer of the truck. No costs.
26. Appeal allowed.