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Mrs. Supriti Dean and ors. Vs. Pratap Steel Rolling Mills Pvt. Ltd. and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberFirst Appeal Order No. 245 of 1981
Judge
Reported in[1986]59CompCas31(P& H)
AppellantMrs. Supriti Dean and ors.
RespondentPratap Steel Rolling Mills Pvt. Ltd. and ors.
Appellant Advocate R.M. Suri, Adv.
Respondent Advocate R.N. Narula, Adv. for Respondent No. 1 and; L.M. Suri, Adv. for Respondent No. 2
Cases ReferredN.K.V. Bros. (P) Ltd. v. M. Karumai Ammal
Excerpt:
.....acquire knowledge of passing of the said order. - ' ultimately, the tribunal came to the conclusion that, in the circumstances, it was a clear case of contributory negligence for which the driver of the truck as well as the driver of the scooter was equally responsible......by its driver and there was no question of any rash and negligent driving on the part of the truck driver. the criminal proceedings taken against the truck driver were subsequently filed. in the pleadings of the parties, the learned tribunal framed the following issues :1. whether the petitioners have locus standi to file this petition ? 2. whether the petition bears proper court-fee ? 3. whether eric oliver dean died as a result of rash or negligent driving of truck in question by respondent no. 3 ? 4. whether the accident was caused by rash or negligent driving of the scooter by the deceased ? 5. to what amount of compensation are the petitioners entitled and against whom 3. under issue no. 1, the learned tribunal found that the widow and two minor daughters of eric oliver dean.....
Judgment:

J.V. Gupta, J.

1. Eric Oliver Dean, aged 33 years, died in an accident in which scooter No. HRP 997 and truck No. HRC 2596 were involved on November 25, 1978, at about 5.30p.m., in sector 7A, Faridabad. His widow, two daughters and mother filed a claim petition under Section 110A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, which was dismissed by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Gurgaon (for short 'the Tribunal'). Dissatisfied with the same, the claimants have filed the appeal in this court.

2. According to the claimants, Eric Oliver Dean was driving scooter No. HRP 997 on November 25, 1978, at about 5'30 p.m., when the offending truck came from behind him. The truck hit the scooter and as a result of the impact, Eric Oliver Dean was thrown out of the scooter and he sustained multiple injuries and died at the spot. The truck belonged to M/s. Pratap Steel Rolling Mills, respondent No. 1, and it was being driven by Swaran Singh. The truck was insured with the insurance company, respondent No. 2. The deceased was 33 years old and was employed in the Shipping Corporation of India and his monthly income was Rs. 867.63 besides usual perks. Thus, the claimants claimed Rs. 1,50,000 on account of compensation. In the written reply filed on behalf of the owner of the truck, it was, inter alia, pleaded that the accident had taken place entirely due to rash and negligent driving of Eric Oliver Dean. However, it was conceded that the truck belonged to the said respondent. With regard to the manner of accident, it was stated that the truck in question was going on the main road of sectors 6 and 7 from North to South at a very low speed as it had to turn towards the right side. The deceased was driving the scooter and came on his scooter rashly and negligently and hit the rear part of the truck after the truck had taken a turn to its right side for entering sector 6. Immediately, the truck was stopped by its driver and there was no question of any rash and negligent driving on the part of the truck driver. The criminal proceedings taken against the truck driver were subsequently filed. In the pleadings of the parties, the learned Tribunal framed the following issues :

1. Whether the petitioners have locus standi to file this petition ?

2. Whether the petition bears proper court-fee ?

3. Whether Eric Oliver Dean died as a result of rash or negligent driving of truck in question by respondent No. 3 ?

4. Whether the accident was caused by rash or negligent driving of the scooter by the deceased ?

5. To what amount of compensation are the petitioners entitled and against whom

3. Under issue No. 1, the learned Tribunal found that the widow and two minor daughters of Eric Oliver Dean (deceased) were competent to file the claim petition. Since the proper court-fee was paid, therefore, issue No. 2 became redundant. Issues Nos. 3 and 4 were discussed together. The learned Tribunal, after discussing the evidence, came to the conclusion that the version about the manner of accident, as pleaded on behalf of the truck owner, could not be accepted, particularly when the truck driver was not produced in evidence. The two witnesses, Binda Parshad (RW1) and Shiv Narain Pandey (RW2), who were alleged to be present at the time of the accident, were found to be doubtful. Consequently, it was observed : ' I am, therefore, not prepared to believe that the truck was going at a very slow speed or that the driver had given a signal to turn to his right side. Moreover, neither Binda Parshad, who was allegedly sitting by the side of the driver of the truck, nor Shiv Narain Pandey, who was on the rear side of the truck, either claimed to have seen or were in a position to see the manner in which the accident occurred. The testimony of Anil Khosla (PW1) who was sitting on the pillion seat of Eric Oliver Dean (deceased) was accepted. According to him, the accident was caused because the truck suddenly turned towards right without giving any signal when the deceased was about to overtake him from the right side. The deceased applied brakes on the scooter as a result of which. Anil Khosla and the deceased were thrown off the scooter. Eric Oliver Dean was crushed under the rear right wheel of the truck.' Ultimately, the Tribunal came to the conclusion that, in the circumstances, it was a clear case of contributory negligence for which the driver of the truck as well as the driver of the scooter was equally responsible. At the same time, in the earlier part of its judgment, it was also found that the claimants were not entitled to succeed as the manner of accident sought to be proved was altogether different from what was pleaded in the claim petition. Under issue No. 5, the Tribunal found that taking the annual dependency to be Rs. 3,900, the multiplier of 16 was the most suitable and thus the figure arrived at works out to Rs. 62,400. Because earlier, under issues Nos. 3 and 4, the case was found to be of contributory negligence, the claimants were entitled only to one-half of the amount, that is, Rs. 31,200. In view of the findings under issue No. 3 that the claimants were not entitled to succeed as the manner of accident sought to be proved was altogether different from what was pleaded in the claim petition, the petition was ultimately dismissed.

4. The learned counsel for the appellants contended that from the evidence on the record, the learned Tribunal rightly came to the conclusion that it was a clear case of contributory negligence for which both the driver of the truck and the driver of the scooter were responsible, but, at the same time, the learned Tribunal erred in dismissing the claim petition on the ground that the appellants were not entitled to succeed as the manner of accident sought to be proved was altogether different from that pleaded in the claim petition. According to the learned counsel, culpability must be inferred from the circumstances where it is fairly reasonable. The court should not succumb to niceties, technicalities and mystic maybes. In support of his contention, he relied on N.K.V. Bros. (P) Ltd. v. M. Karumai Ammal [1980] ACJ 435 ; AIR 1980 SC 1354.

5. After hearing the learned counsel for the parties on this point, I am of the considered opinion that the approach of the learned Tribunal in this respect was wrong and illegal. After coming to the conclusion that the offending truck driver was negligent in taking a sudden turn on his right side while going on the main road, the claim petition could not be dismissed on the short ground that this was not the manner of the accident pleaded in the claim petition. It is not denied that Eric Oliver Dean died at the spot as a result of the accident with the offending truck. Under these circumstances, the strict rule of pleadings could not be invoked in the claim petition's, particularly when it has not been shown that any prejudice as such was caused to the respondents. It has been held in N.K.V. Bros. (P.) Ltd.'s case, AIR 1980 SC 1354, as follows (p. 1354) :

'Accidents Tribunals must take special care to see that innocent victims do not suffer and drivers and owners do not escape liability merely because of some doubt here or some obscurity there. Save in plain cases, culpability must be inferred from the circumstances where it is fairly reasonable. The court should not succumb to niceties, technicalities and mystic maybes.'

6. Thus, the finding of the learned Tribunal in this respect is set aside.

7. As regards the amount of compensation found by the learned Tribunal, there is no dispute between the parties and it has not been challenged in appeal. Consequently, this appeal succeeds ; the order of the learned Tribunal is set aside and the appellants are held entitled to a sum of Rs. 31,200 by way of compensation, with interest at the rate of 6 per cent. per annum from the date of the claim petition, i.e., June 14, 1979, till the realisation of the compensation with costs. The said amount will be payable by the insurance company, respondent No. 2.


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