1. The controversy in appeal here is with regard to the quantum of compensation payable to the claimants, they being the widow and 3 sons of Amarjit Singh deceased, who was killed in an accident with a truck at the crossing on the road between Sectors 35 and 36, Chandigarh. Amarjit Singh deceased was sitting on the pillion seat of the Scooter HIL 4098 when the truck CHW 1615 came and knocked him down. This happened on Nov. 14, 1977.
2. The Tribunal found this to be a case of contributory negligence with 75 per cent of the blame being apportioned to the driver of the scooter and the remaining 25 per cent to the truck driver. The loss to the claimants was assessed to be Rs. 48,000/-, but in view of the finding of contributory negligence, the compensation awarded was only Rs. 12,000/-.
3. The Tribunal committed a patent error in so reducing the compensation payable to the claimants. The contributory negligence here was that of the drivers of the truck and the scooter, not in any way that of Amarjit Singh. There was, thus, no occasion for any deduction being made from the compensation that the Tribunal had assessed to be payable to the claimants.
4. Faced with this situation, Mr. V. P. Gandhi, counsel for the respondent-Insurance Company, sought to question the finding of contributory negligence recorded by the Tribunal with a view to show that the negligence here was wholly that of the driver of the scooter, and, therefore, no liability could be fastened on those concerned with the truck, namely, its driver, owner and the Insurance Company with which it stood insured.
5. The driver and owner of the truck having chosen not to contest the claim, the respondent-Insurance Company was permitted to question the findings recorded by the Tribunal on all the issues raised.
6. The circumstances of the case clearly show contributory negligence to be writ large. Admittedly, the accident here had occurred at a crossing. Regulation 6 of the 10th Schedule of the Motor Vehicles Act casts a duty upon the driver of a motor vehicle approaching a road intersection to slow down and to proceed to enter it only if he can do so without endangering the safety of person there. Such persons include the driver of the vehicle, namely, the scooter or the truck had been slowed down while approaching this crossing or that any care had been taken by either of them to seek to ensure that their entry into the crossing would not endanger the safety of any person there. In other words, both the truck driver and the scooter driver observed the requirements of Regulation 6 only in their breach. As regards the scooter driver, there was an additional requirement binding upon him, namely, that laid down by Regulation 7 of the 10th Schedule of the Motor Vehicles Act. This cast a further duty upon him to give way to the traffic on the main road. The main road here was clearly that on which the truck was travelling. In such a situation, as was held in Piara Singh v. Gian Kaur, (1984) 86 Pun LR 331, the contributory negligence of the truck driver would be one-third and two-thirds that of the driver of the scooter. There can thus, be no escape from the finding of contributory negligence in this case.
7. In order to wriggle out of the rule laid down in Piara Singh's case (supra), Mr. V. P. Gandhi sought to lay stress upon the fact that the scooter had come on to the crossing from a smaller or comparatively less important road than that on which the truck was travelling. The argument being that by his coming on to the crossing without ensuring that it was clear, he rendered himself wholly to blame for the accident. Mr. H. S. Awasthy, counsel for the claimants, on the other hand, contended that as the evidence of P.W. 3 Iqbal singh, P.W. 4 Ranjit Singh and P.W. 5 Balwant Singh Dhillon showed that the scooter was the first to enter the crossing, the entire blame for the accident lay upon the truck driver. Neither of these contentions can, however, stand in the face of the requirements of Regulations 6 and 7 of the 10th Schedule of Motor Vehicles Act. The requirement of Regulation 6 that a motor vehicle approaching a road intersection should slow down is equally applicable whether the road on which the vehicle is coming is a main road or of any other description. Similarly, the question is not who enters the crossing first, but whether the crossing can be entered without endangering the safety of the person there. Seen in this light, the present is indeed a case of contributory negligence.
8. The finding of contributory negligence would render both the truck driver as also the driver of the scooter joint tort feasore, and it would, thus, be open to the claimants to recover the whole or any part of the compensation awarded from either or both of them and the Insurance Company would thus be liable to indemnify the truck owner to the extent of the limit of its liability.
9. Next arises the question with regard to the quantum of compensation payable to the claimants. The evidence on record shows that Amarjit Singh deceased was only 38 years of age at the time of his death. He died leaving behind his widow, who was a year younger than him and three minor children. Agriculture was his means of livelihood, He was cultivating about 150 Bighas of land which he owned. The management and supervision of the cultivation of the land by the deceased was taken by the Tribunal to constitute the head under which the claimants had suffered financial loss on account of the death of the deceased. This was estimated at Rs. 400/ per month. It is no doubt true that the land owned by the deceased has now come to the claimants by way of accelerated inheritance, but considering the manner in which the claimants were placed, the death of the deceased must undoubtedly have resulted in financial loss to them.
10. The compensation payable in such cases has to be assessed keeping in view the principles laid down by the Full Bench in Lachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur, (1979) 82 Pun LR 1: (Air 1979 Punj & Har 50). Considering the circumstances of the claimants and the deceased in the light thereof, 16 would clearly be the appropriate multiplier to be applied and the loss deserves to be taken at Rs. 5,000/- per annum, which would work out to Rs. 80,000/-.
11. The compensation payable to the claimants is accordingly hereby enhanced to Rs. 80,000/-, 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 payment of the amount awarded. Out of the amount awarded, a sum of Rs. 10,000/- each shall be paid to the children off the deceased and the balance to his widow. The amount payable to the minor claimants shall be paid to them in such manner as the Tribunal may deem to be in their best interest.
12. The respondents shall be jointly and severally liable for payment of the compensation awarded. The liability of the respondent-Insurance Company shall, however, be limited to Rs. 50,000/- in view of the terms of policy of insurance.
13. This appeal is consequently hereby accepted while the cross-objections filed by the respondent-Insurance Company are dismissed. The claimants shall be entitled to their costs in these proceedings. Counsel's fee Rs. 300/-.
14. Appeal allowed.