1. Denial of just compensation to victims of motor accidents could never have been the aim of the law, relating to the payment of court-fees in such cases as now exists in the State of Haryana, yet this is the inevitable consequence in the case of claimants unable to pay the heavy court-fees prescribed. Illustrative of this is the case in appeal here.
2. The claimant-Balbir Singh has suffered permanent loss of vision from the right eye as also a head injury as a result of the injuries, he sustained when the Haryana Roadways Bus HRE 1244, he was travelling in, met with an accident with the truck HRE-2452 coming from the opposite direction. This happened on September 8, 1978 on the Ambala-Chandigarh road.
3. It was the finding of the Tribunal that this was a case of contributory negligence with both the bus driver as also the truck driver being equally to blame.
4. The claimant has limited his claim to Rs. 10,000/- as according to his counsel, he was unable to pay court-fees is payable on claims up to Rs. 10,000/- but beyond this sum ad valorem court-fee is charged, which the claimant could not afford. To add to this, the Tribunal on its part held the claimant entitled to recover only half the amount claimed, that is, Rs. 5,000/- from the bus driver and its owner the State of Haryana, keeping in view the extent of their liability vis-a-vis that of the driver of the offending truck and its owner. The truck-driver and its owner not having been impleaded as parties, Rs. 5,000/- was all that the claimant could get as compensation.
5. The claimant cannot be denied the compensation claimed. Indeed, but for the claim here being limited to Rs. 10,000/-, he would undoubtedly have been held entitled to a considerably larger sum, as would be apparent from the recent precedent of F. A. O. No. 508 of 1980 Amrik Singh v. Ved Prakash, decided on 13-11-1984, where the claimant was awarded Rs. 50,000/- which was incidently the sum claimed for loss of vision from the left and fracture of the left cheek bone.
6. The evidence on record shows that on account of the injuries sustained, the claimant was hospitalised for about three weeks and he also had to undergo an operation. He is now left with this permanent disability of loss of vision from the right eye. Further, the claimant was also burdened with expenses of his medical treatment and there is ample material on record to establish loss of earning too. Considering the nature and extent of the pain and suffering which the claimant must undoubtedly have undergone and the loss of amenities of life, which the claimant now has to live with for the rest of his life on account of his vision being so seriously impaired, there can be no manner of doubt that the compensation payable to him would far exceed the sum claimed and there is thus no warrant for denying him at least the meagre amount claimed.
7. Further, this being a case of contributory negligence, both the bus-driver and the truck driver were joint tortfeasers and it was thus open to the claimant to recover the entire or any part of the compensation awarded from either or both of them. The Tribunal, therefore, fell in error in restricting the right of the claimant to recover compensation from the bus-driver and its owner only to the extent of their liability. It is, therefore, clarified that the claimant may, if he so chooses, recover the entire amount awarded from the bus-driver and the State of Haryana.
8. The compensation payable to the claimant is accordingly enhanced to Rs. 10,000/- (Rs. Ten thousand only), which he shall be entitled to along with interest at the rate of 12 per cent per annum from the date of the application to the date of the payment of the amount awarded. The respondents shall be jointly and severally liable for the compensation awarded.
9. Before concluding, it must be observed that this case brings out in bold relief not only the denial of just compensation to those unfortunate victims of motor accidents, unable to pay the heavy court-fees as is now charged in the State of Haryana, but also how discriminatory the law is made to look in this Court inasmuch as being the common High Court of the States of Punjab, Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh in motor-accident cases coming to this Court from the State of Haryana, the awards are often limited to small amounts whereas those from the State of Punjab and the Union Territory, Chandigarh, for similar injuries or losses are much higher. In other words, the mere occurrence of the accident in Haryana operates to the detriment of the claimants. This is to be attributed wholly to the burden of court-fees placed upon the claimants in Haryana which claimants, similarly situated, in Punjab and Chandigarh are so rightly spared. Such court-fees are clearly not in consonance with the concept of a welfare State. A strong plea for change in the law must, therefore, be voiced. A copy of this judgment is accordingly directed to be sent to the Chief Secretary, Haryana, Chandigarh.
10. With these observations, this appeal is accepted with costs. Counsel's fee Rs. 300/-.
11. Appeal allowed.