1.A bus and an oil-tanker coming from opposite direction collided on the Rajpura-Patiala road resulting in injuries to Sukhdev Singh, a young student travelling in the bus. This happened on May 26, 1973. Sukhdev Singh succumbed to his injuries in the hospital the next day.
2. On the finding that the accident had been caused entirely due to the negligence of the driver of the oil-tanker, the Tribunal awarded Rs. 19,000/- as compensation to the claimants, they being the parents of Sukhdev Singh, deceased. The driver and owner of the oil-tanker as also the Insurance Company, with which the tanker had been insured were held liable for payment of the amount awarded.
3. In appeal now, Mr. Munishwar Puri, counsel for the appellants sought to assail the finding of negligence recorded against the driver of the oil-tanker, by adverting to the evidence of the only witness examined in this behalf namely AW. 11 Labh Singh. This Labh Singh too was a passenger in the bus involved in the accident.
4. According to the said Labh Singh when the bus, which was proceeding towards Patiala reached near Kandoli, an oil tanker came from the opposite direction. A horse-cart was also at that time proceeding towards Rajpura. The oil-tanker's head-lights were switched on and it was while crossing this car that it dashed against the side of the bus. The bus driver had in the meanwhile taken the bus further towards the left on to the Kacha portion of the road, but to no avail.
5. What Mr. Munishwar Puri stressed here was the light signal given by the driver of the oil-tanker. The argument being that as this signal had been given the bus driver was at fault in not giving way to the oil-tanker and allowing to pass. This is indeed a wholly untenable contention. It reflects, what appears to have now become a common fallacy regarding this light signal, a fallacy which the safety of road users renders it imperative to dispel. The light signal, that is, the switching on of the head-lights during day time and asserting thereby precedence over traffic coming from the opposite direction, whether while overtaking a vehicle or otherwise, is not a signal or rule of the road known to or recognised by law. It has no legal sanctity and cannot, therefore, be pleaded in justification for any disregard of the duty of car owed to road users or for any violation of the regulation as contained in Schedule X of the Motor Vehicles Act. In other words, it provides no cover for any negligence.
6. In the matter of overtaking a vehicle travelling in the same direction Regulation 4 of the Xth Schedule of the Motor Vehicles Act, so far as it is relevant here specifically provides 'The driver of a motor vehicle shall not pass a vehicle travelling in the same direction as himself (a) if his passing is likely to cause inconvenience or danger to other traffic proceeding in any direction' This Regulation was observed only in its breach by the driver of the oil tanker. Switching on the hear-lights of the oil tanker while overtaking the cart did not absolve him from complying with the requirements of this Regulation. Negligence of the driver of the oil tanker was thus writ large. It is also significant to note that he did not appear in the witness box to depose to his version of the accident. The finding of negligence recorded against the driver of the oil-tankers thus warrants no interference in appeal.
7. Mr. Munishwar Puri had also sought to contend that the appellants had not been afforded adequate opportunity by the Tribunal to adduce evidence. A reference to the record would show that on the completion of the evidence of the claimants on Feb. 4, 1976, the case was adjourned for the evidence of the respondents to Feb. 17, 1976. No evidence was produced on that date not summoned and the case was then adjourned to Feb. 2 4, 1976 and then again to Feb. 26. 1976 on which date, it was the appellants themselves who closed their case. The appellants cannot now be heard to make any such grievance here.
8. The question next arises with regard to the payment of compensation to the claimants. It has come on record that Sukhdev Singh, deceased, was a student studying in the 8th Class at the time of his death. He was then 15 years old. The parents of the deceased, who are the claimants here, were 35 to 38 years of age. His father being a Gram Sachiv. Sukhdev Singh, deceased was described by his father as a bright student.
9. Sukhdev Singh, deceased was no doubt not an earning hand at the time of his death, but considering his circumstances, there certainly existed his circumstances, there certainly existed a reasonable probability of him soon starting to earn and from his earning to have passed on some pecuniary advantage to his parents. Whether the deceased would have taken up employment with government or with some private person or even if he had worked as an ordinary agricultural laborer, with salaries and wages being what they are these days, it is reasonable to assume that the deceased would have contributed at least Rs. 100/- per month to his parents. This is also after making an allowance for the deceased getting married and raising a family.
10. Here Mr. Munishwar Puri, counsel for the appellants, cited a number of authorities in support of his contention that the claimants were only entitled to a sum of Rs. 14,000/- and no more. He relied in the first instance upon Himachal Govt. Transport. Simla v. Joginder Singh 1970 ACC CJ 37 (Punj & Hry), where in the case of the death of a son aged 16 years, Rs. 9600/- were awarded as compensation. Counsel next referred to Hari Chand v. Union of India, 1971 Acc CJ 475 (Punj & Hry), where Rs. 12,000/- were awarded as compensation for the death of an 18 years old son. In Pepsu Road Transport Corporation, Patiala v. Darshan Singh, 1976 Acc CJ 66 (Punj & Hry) the Court applying the interest theory reduced the compensation awarded by the Tribunal from Rs. 14,400/- to Rs. 9,200/- in the case of the death of a 16 years old son. Finally, in Phool Mati v. Jai Singh 1978 Acc CJ 319 (Punj & Hry) a sum of Rs. 18,900/- was awarded on account of the death of a 15 years old son.
In dealing with such precedents it has to be borne in mind that each case has to be considered on its own facts. What is more, the Full Bench of this Court in Lachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur, (1979) 81 Pun LR 1: (AIR 1979 Punj & Hry 50) has since set out the relevant principles for computation of compensation payable to the claimants in such cases. In the light thereof, taking into account the circumstances and the age of the deceased and the claimants the loss here must be computed at the rate of Rs. 100/- per month with a multiplier of 16. This would work out to Rs. 19,200/- which may be rounded off to Rs. 20,000/-
11. For the foregoing reasons the compensation payable to the claimants is hereby enhanced to Rs. 20,000/- which they 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 liability for the payment of the amount awarded shall be that of the driver, owner and insurance company with which the oil tanker was insured.
12. This appeal is consequently hereby dismissed and the cross-objections filed by the claimants accepted to the extent indicated above. The claimants shall be entitled to costs of these proceedings, Counsel's fee Rs. 500/-.
13. Order accordingly.