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Shanti Devi Vs. General Manager, Punjab Roadways and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberF.A.F.O. No. 14 of 1964
Judge
Reported in(1970)72PLR798
ActsMotor Vehicles Act, 1939
AppellantShanti Devi
RespondentGeneral Manager, Punjab Roadways and ors.
Appellant Advocate Manisubrat Jain, Adv.
Respondent Advocate Laxmi Grover, Adv.
Cases ReferredSimla v. Joginder Singh
Excerpt:
.....it was held that where a claim application was filed before the motor accident claims tribunal, arising out of the death in a motor accident of a person, then it has to be remembered that a claim of this kind, which arises out of the fatal accidents act, 1855, is to be taken to have been made on behalf of the heirs like the wife, husband, parents and children mentioned in section 1a of the said act. the dependents would naturally be inclined to place before us a very optimistic and bright side of the deceased's future prospects but the future does not always hold all the good things in life that one may wish or hope for. tuition is at best an irregular source of income which can be relied upon for only a few months before the promotion tests every year......sum of rs. 3,000/- only as compensation. a sum of rs. 8,520/- which was found payable to her four minor children from her wedlock with the decease, has been withheld from her on the ground that smt. shanti devi had not joined her children as applicants. it may be mentioned here that the eldest of these minors was a girl aged about 10 years. smt. shanti devi naturally feels aggrieved and has come up in appeal. according to her, the income of the deceased and the amount of compensation due to the dependants had been meagrely assessed and the learned tribunal has added insult to injury by withholding the amount due to the minors. i am inclined to agree with her on both these points.2. the finding of the learned tribunal that the accent was due to the negligence of the driver of the punjab.....
Judgment:

1. Shri Bhim Sen Sharma, a School teacher, aged about 43 years, was going on a cycle when he was knocked down and killed by Punjab Roadways Bus No. PNE - 8388 at about 3-45 P.M. on 22nd of January 1962 on the Grand Trunk Road near village Padhana. His widow Smt. Shanti Devi filed a claim for compensation under Section 110-A of the Motor Vehicles Act, and the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Punjab, has awarded her a sum of Rs. 3,000/- only as compensation. A sum of Rs. 8,520/- which was found payable to her four minor children from her wedlock with the decease, has been withheld from her on the ground that Smt. Shanti Devi had not joined her children as applicants. It may be mentioned here that the eldest of these minors was a girl aged about 10 years. Smt. Shanti Devi naturally feels aggrieved and has come up in appeal. According to her, the income of the deceased and the amount of compensation due to the dependants had been meagrely assessed and the learned Tribunal has added insult to injury by withholding the amount due to the minors. I am inclined to agree with her on both these points.

2. The finding of the learned Tribunal that the accent was due to the negligence of the driver of the Punjab Roadways bus has not been seriously challenged before me. The deceased was on a cycle, but he was going on his left side of the road when he was knocked down by the bus. He was removed to the hospital where he died the same day. He had injuries all over his body and 7 ribs had been broken and the right lung was found to be ruptured. Dr. Hari Ram, a private medical practitioner, and Ram Krishen, a landlord, had witnessed the accident. According to both these witnesses, the bus was going at a very fast speed. The deceased was thrown off from the cycle and fell at a distance of 10/12 feet and the bus driver lost control over the vehicle. The bus fill into kathans and the bus driver Shri Wazir Chand was challenged for rash and negligent driving under Section 304A, Indian Penal Code. He has been convicted and sentenced by the Criminal Court though his negligence has been proved independently by evidence examined in this case.

3. It is true that the appellant had not mentioned in her claim application that she had four minor children from her wedlock with the deceased. If on that ground the learned Tribunal was to ignore the existence of the children, then the amount due as compensation for the death of the deceased on account of loss of income to the dependants should have been paid in its entirety to the sole surviving heir and there was hardly any justification for withholding the major portion of that compensation amount. The mother was after all the natural and de factor guardian of the minor children and was charged with the duty of bringing them up. The learned Tribunal took at the a harsh and unrealistic view in making the helpless minors suffer for a small lapse on the part of the widow in distress or that of her legal adviser. It may be mentioned that in a notice served by the widow on the General Manager of the Punjab Roadways before the filling of the present petition, it had been mentioned that the deceased had left four minor children who were dependent on the deceased. This fact had again been mentioned by the widow in her statement made before the learned Tribunal in the course of the proceedings. The erroneous view taken by the learned Tribunal goes against a long string of rulings. In an unreported case Mst. Parsini v. Sohan Singh, (Letters Patent Appeal No. 273 of 1963, D/- 26-4-1967 (Punj) ), by Mehar Singh, C.J., and Harbans Singh, J.) the same question had arisen on almost similar facts. In the claim application filed on the prescribed form, it had not been mentioned that the deceased had left seven minor children besides the widow. The prescribed form has no separate column requiring that the names of all the dependents of the deceased may be mentioned therein. The column in the application with the heading 'relationship of the applicant with the deceased' may seem to lay a trap in which the widow had fallen in that case as well as in the case now before me. The Answer 'wife of the deceased' cannot be equalled in its simplicity and innocence and naturally does not mention that there were minor children also. In that case also, the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal denied the minors the share that would have been payable to them out of the compensation amount because of a venial and excusable omission of their mother. It was observed that the Tribunal had taken rather a narrow view in holding that the application could be treated only as on behalf of the wife and not on behalf of the children. The view taken was that the application had been made by the widow not only for herself but also on behalf of the children as it had been indicated in an earlier application that the deceased had left some minor children and that those minors had been produced in Court. It was further observed that the minor children could not have themselves filed and claim and that the delay, if any, in pressing their claim should be condoned.

4. Besides this unreported case, there are reported ruling taking the same view. The latest is a Division Bench ruling of Dulat and Pandit JJ. In Northern India Transporters Insurance Co. v. Smt. Amravati, (1966) 68 Pun LR 538, in which it was held that where a claim application was filed before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, arising out of the death in a motor accident of a person, then it has to be remembered that a claim of this kind, which arises out of the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855, is to be taken to have been made on behalf of the heirs like the wife, husband, parents and children mentioned in Section 1A of the said Act. In that case, a sum of Rs. 8,000/- out of the total compensation amount of Rs. 18,000/- payable in respect of the accident was allowed by the Tribunal to the widow but a sum of Rs. 10,000/- due to the two minor daughters was withheld on the ground that the application on their behalf was belated. On appeal the delay was condoned by the High Court and it was held that the claim was essentially on behalf of all the dependants of the deceased. A similar view had been taken by another Division Bench in an earlier decision in Alwar Motor Association (Private) Ltd., Alwar v. Hazari Lal, (1964) 66 Pun LR 804. The case of Jeet Kumari v. Chittagong E. & E. Supply Co., AIR 1947 Cal 195 = ILR (1946) 2 Cal 433 was relied upon and this ruling had in turn relied on Johnson v. Madras Rly. Co., (1905) ILR 28 Mad 479, Nani Bala Sen v. Auckland Jute Co. Ltd., AIR 1925 Cal 893, Mrs. E. V. Penheirio v. M. Minney , AIR 1934 Cal 655 and Pym v. Great Northern Rly. Co., (1863) 4 B & S 396. The amount due to the minor should therefore be made payable to the widow of the deceased, Smt. Shanti Devi appellant who is the natural and de facto guardian of the minor children of the deceased.

5. The service record of the deceased has been produced by an official of his Department and gives us a fair idea about his age, monthly income and future prospect. It gives his date of birth as 9-1-1919 which means that on the date of accident the deceased was about 43 years of age. The learned Tribunal has calculated the loss of income of the dependents for a period of 12 years implying thereby that the normal life expectancy was 55 years. My attention has however been drawn to some recent rulings which take the view that average life expectancy in India should in such cases be taken as 70 years. A Division Bench ruling of the Allahabad High Court in Shiv Prasad Gupta v. S. M.Sabir Zaidi, 1967 ACJ 321 = (AIR 1968 All 186), has been cited in this connection. This ruling was followed in two Bench decisions of this Court reported as Mrs. Savitri Devi v. Malerkotla Bus Service (Plaintiff) Ltd., (1969) 71 Punj LR 306 and Sukhdev Singh v. Pepsu Road Transport Corporation Patiala, 1969 ACJ 197 (Punj). The same view may appear to have been taken in Gomathi Ammal v. Ramachandran Pillai, 1967 ACJ 15 (Mad), but the deceased in that case had already attained the age of 63 years at the time of his death in an accident. In Madhya Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, Bhopal v. Smt. Munnabai, 1967 ACJ 214 (Madh Pra), the average life expectancy was taken to be 75 years. There was however, evidence in all such case that the members of the deceased's family were generally long lived. These ruling would justify our calculating the compensation amount a little more liberally. The main idea however, should be to personably compensate the dependents for the loss of that part of the income which the deceased might have made available to them if he had lived out his normal span of life. The dependents would naturally be inclined to place before us a very optimistic and bright side of the deceased's future prospects but the future does not always hold all the good things in life that one may wish or hope for. The uncertainties of the future introduce an element of discount in the formula that has to be evolved for working out the compensation amount. Ordinarily, the income would have argued due to the deceased in small driblets spread out over a long period but the accident has the effect of precipitating all these small amounts suspended over the future years into a hard lump sum which if wisely invested could yield a recurring income in the shape of interest at a rate which may very nearly come upto the dependents share of the deceased'' monthly income and still leave the corpus intact as a substantial provision which the deceased may himself have been unable to make for his dependants if he had continued living his normal uneventful life. The court should not allow a misfortune to be turned into a windfall. When the lump sum payment worked out over a certain length of years yields a recurring income which is very near the dependents' share in the monthly income of the deceased, a stage is reached where the length of the remaining life span ceases to have any meaning. The lumpsum or the corpus can then be taken as adequate compensation for the possible brightening up of the future prospects of the deceased, eliminating at the same time the possibility of the future taking a turn for the worse for unknown reasons other than the accident. Normal cuts or deductions have also to be made at recognised rates. Circumstances of each case have to be kept in mind as was observed in Oriental Fire & General Insurance Co., Ltd., New Delhi v. Chuni Lal, 1969 ACJ 237 (Punj) and the rulings relied upon by the learned counsel for the appellant, namely, Punjab State v. Smt. Hardeep Kaur, (1969) 71 Pun LR 837 ; Prem Singh v. Tika Ram, 1967 ACJ 243 (Delhi) ; Narain Devi v. Dev Raj, 1967 ACJ 344 (Delhi) and Himachal Govt. Transport, Simla v. Joginder Singh, (1970) 72 Pun LR 42, proceed on their peculiar facts.

6. According to the service record of the deceased, he was drawing a salary of Rs. 95.00 with dearness allowance of Rs. 40.00/- per month at the time of his death. There has been however an improvement in the grades of such teachers within a few years of the accident. The widow had also stated that the deceased used to supplement his income by private coaching and tuition but the evidence on the point is not very satisfactory. Tuition is at best an irregular source of income which can be relied upon for only a few months before the promotion tests every year. At a reasonable estimate it ca safely be said that the deceased was making available a sum of about Rs. 100/- per months to his widow and four children. The learned Tribunal had assessed this amount at Rs. 80.00/- per month. A sum of Rs. 20,000/- as lump sum payment to the widow and four minor children would yield them an income of Rs. 100/- per months if the amount is invested at a reasonable rate of six per cent per annum. The income from the interest could be higher if the amount is kept in fixed for a long term and considering the age of the minors the widow may not have to draw upon the capital for many years to come. If the normal life span is taken as 70-75 years as laid down by the ruling cited above and the compensation amount is calculated over the unexpired portion of the life span, then it may work out to a much higher figure. A sum of Rs. 20,000/- however is being taken as a reasonably adequate compensation for the widow and the four minor children had no further cuts or deductions from the lump sum are being made.

7. For reasons given above, I accept the appeal and allow the widow and the minor children a sum of Rs. 20,000/- as compensation. The widow's share is fixed at Rs. 8,000/- while the share of each minor child is fixed at Rs. 3,000/-. No order as to costs.

8. Appeal allowed.


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