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Uttam Devi Vs. State of Haryana and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectInsurance;Motor Vehicles
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1(1984)ACC26
AppellantUttam Devi
RespondentState of Haryana and ors.
Cases ReferredLachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur
Excerpt:
.....the normal course vehicles do not collide with each other except when there is negligence. this circumstance clearly leads to the conclusion that these marks occurred at or soon after the collusion between the two vehicles resulting also in the car being dragged by the bus to some distance. 13. the next important aspect of this case, which deserves mention, is that whereas the claimants have produced the best witness to the accident, namely pw. 2 parma nand sharma, which considered in the totality of the circumstances of the case clearly leads to the conclusion that the accident here was caused due to the rash and negligent driving of the bus driver. 16 would clearly be the appropriate multiplier here. the amounts payable to the minor children shall be paid to them in such manner as the..........sister of mr. vinod kumar malik, deceased, blamed both the car driver and the bus driver for the accident. negligence was imputed to them both.5. the case of the respondents, on the other hand was, that the accident took place when the car, which was being driven rashly and negligently tried to over-take another car and in the process, the car driver lost control and struck against the left side of the bus which was coming at its correct side of the road at a slow speed. a plea was also raised that the driver of the car was drunk at that time.6. turning to the evidence led by the claimants on the issue of negligence, there is the statement of pw. 2 parma nand sharma, inspector police, bhiwani, who was travelling in the car at the time of the accident. according to his testimony, at the.....
Judgment:

S.S. Sodhi, J.

1. In an accident between a car DHB-4787 and Haryana Roadways bus HRB-4397, which took place on the Sirsa-Fatehabad read on September 2, 1974, Dewan Chand Batra, the driver and owner of car an Vinod Kumar Malik, an Assistant District Attorney, who was travelling in this car were amongst the persons killed. The claims for compensation put in by the widow and minor children of Dewan Chand Batra, deceased and the mother and sisters of Mr. Vinod Kumar Malik, deceased, were dismissed by the Tribunal on the finding that there was no fault either of the car driver or of the bus driver and that the collusion between the two vehicles was a pure accident. The challenge here is to this finding and the consequent dismissal of the claims for compensation filed by the claimants.

2. The view of the Tribunal that the collusion between the two vehicles was a pure accident cannot be sustained. Negligence is writ-large in a situation like the present where vehicles travelling in opposite directions collide. The maxim res ipsa loquitur would clearly be attracted to such a situation as in the normal course vehicles do not collide with each other except when there is negligence. The question, thus, the consider in the present case is, whose negligence it was that caused this accident.

3. According to the claimants, Smt. Lalita Rani and the minor children of Dewan Chand Batra, deceased, the accident occurred entirely due to the rash and negligent driving of the bus driver. The case pleaded being that the bus was being driven at a wreckless speed and without switching on the lights or blowing horn, the bus came and struck against the car.

4. The other claimants namely, Smt. Uttam Devi and her daughters being the mother and sister of Mr. Vinod Kumar Malik, deceased, blamed both the car driver and the bus driver for the accident. Negligence was imputed to them both.

5. The case of the respondents, on the other hand was, that the accident took place when the car, which was being driven rashly and negligently tried to over-take another car and in the process, the car driver lost control and struck against the left side of the bus which was coming at its correct side of the road at a slow speed. A plea was also raised that the driver of the car was drunk at that time.

6. Turning to the evidence led by the claimants on the issue of negligence, there is the statement of PW. 2 Parma Nand Sharma, Inspector Police, Bhiwani, who was travelling in the car at the time of the accident. According to his testimony, at the time of the accident the speed of the car was 55 to 60 kilometers per hour. The bus, he stated, was coming in a zig-zag manner when the car driver took the car towards the right side in a bid to save the accident. The speed of the bus, he estimated at 60 to 65 Kilometers per hour. He stated that before the accident, the car was proceeding on its correct side of the road; while the bus was coming in the centre of the road. Further, it was his testimony, that the bus lights were not put on; whereas the car lights were on. Five persons died at the spot, including the two deceased Dewan Chand Batra and Mr. Vinod Kumar Malik.

7. The bus driver Gurmej Singh apperaed as RW. 6 and deposed that he was driving his bus at a speed of about 60 Kilometers per hour on the left side of the road when he noticed two cars coming from the opposite direction. Seeing this, he slowed down his bus and took it to the extreme left on the kacha portion. His lights were on and he blew the horn. One car was trying to over-take the other, but it could not do so and it went on to the wrong side of the road and came and hit against the left front portion of the bus. In cross examination, he stated that when the car came and struck against the bus, the bus had come to stand still.

8. The other witness examined by the respondents was RW. 5 Hazoor Chand, who deposed that he was a passenger in the bus when the accident took place. According to him too, it was when the car was trying to overtake another car that it came and struck against the bus.

9. The testimony of RW. 5 Hazoor Chand was not relied upon by the Tribunal and rightly too. According to his own showing, he was not known to the driver nor had the driver enquired his name. He did not go to the Police nor was he called by anyone to give evidence in this case. He stated, he never met the driver after this accident and that he came to Court of his own accord. On the face of it, such a witness deserves no credibility.

10. It stands established from the evidence on record, which also includes photographs, taken soon after the accident, that after the accident the bus and the car were both seen standing on the kacha portion of the road, on the left hand side of the road, qua the bus which would be the right side of the road for the car. In other words, the car had gone on to the wrong side of the road on to the kacha. The photographs also show skid marks for a considerable distance. In evidence, it has come that these skid marks were of the bus and they extended to a distance of about 10 yards, The damage to the car was extensive and it is no wonder that five of the occupants thereof were killed in this accident.

11. The crucial point which arises for determination in this case is whether the accident took place when on seeing the bus coming at a fast speed in a zig-zag manner, the car driver took the car towards the right in order to avoid the accident or whether the accident occurred when the car was trying to over-take another car. In dealing with this aspect of the matter, it would be pertinent to note that no suggestion was made to PW. 2 Inspector Parma Nand Sharma that the car had been, trying to over-take another vehicle at the time of the accident. Further the bus driver has also not been consistant with his version of the manner in which the accident took place. In this written statement, it has been stated that the accident had been caused by the car coming and hitting into the bus while trying to over-take another vehicle, but in evidence the bus driver took up a different stand, namely that the bus had come to stand still and that too on the kacha portion of the road when the car came and hit into it. This was never the case pleaded by the driver.

12. A pertinent feature of this case, are the skid marks of the bus. This circumstance clearly leads to the conclusion that these marks occurred at or soon after the collusion between the two vehicles resulting also in the car being dragged by the bus to some distance. These marks are again in consistant with the accident having taken place with a standing bus.

13. The next important aspect of this case, which deserves mention, is that whereas the claimants have produced the best witness to the accident, namely PW. 2 Parma Nand Sharma, an occupant of the car, no bus passenger has been examined by the respondents to support the version of the bus driver. RW. 5 Hazoor Chand, having been found to be unworthy of reliance, cannot be taken to off set this flaw in the respondents' case.

14. Further, it will be recalled that a plea had also been raised that the car driver was drunk. There is no material on record to substantiate this allegation.

15. The manner, in which the accident took place, must thus be taken to be as per the testimony of PW. 2 Parma Nand Sharma, which considered in the totality of the circumstances of the case clearly leads to the conclusion that the accident here was caused due to the rash and negligent driving of the bus driver. It must also be remarked that there was at the same time some misjudgment on the part of the car driver too in that he turned to his right to avoid the bus when perhaps if he had kept to his side the accident may have been avoided as the bus too turned to its left. This misjudgment can be construed as some negligence on the part of the car driver too though to a degree much less than that of the bus driver. The car driver is accordingly attributed contributory negligence to the extent of 25 per cent.

16. The question next arises with regard to the amount payable to the claimants as compensation. It was conceded that in the case of Mr. Vinod Kumar Malik, deceased, no amount could be awarded as compensation to his sisters. The only claimant, thus, entitled to compensation was his mother, who according to the evidence on record was 60 years of age at the time of his death. Mr. Vinod Kumar Malik was an Assistant District Attorney with a salary of Rs. 700/- per month. In his future carrier there were undoubtedly prospects of further advancement, but at the same time in the normal course he would also have assumed further liabilities upon his marriage and raising a family. Keeping in view the principles set out by the Full Bench in Lachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur 1979 P.L.R. 1, it would be fair and just to take the loss suffered by the mother of the deceased at the rate of Rs. 250/- per month with a multiplier of 10. So computed, this claimant must be held entitled to Rs. 30,000/- as compensation.

17. In the case of Dewan Chand Batra, deceased, evidence is that he was 37 years of age and was an agriculturist of the some standing. He owned no land, but, both his father and his children were land-owners and it is their land that he looked after. It has also come in evidence that earlier he had been employed as a Development Officer with the Life Insurance Corporation of India at a salary of Rs. 450/- per month. He had left this job and taken to farming. He was a progressive farmer and had also earned awards for grapes cultivation. His income was, according to his brother-in-law PW. 4 Gobind Rai, Rs. 10,000/- to 12,000/- per annum. He died, leaving behind his young widow and 5 minor children. Applying the principles as set out in Lachhman Singh's case (supra) the loss to the claimants cannot, but be computed at atleast Rs. 600/- per month. 16 would clearly be the appropriate multiplier here. On this basis compensation would work out to Rs. 1,15,200/-. After making an allowance for the contributory negligence of Dewan Chand Batra, deceased, the amount payable to the claimants comes to Rs. 86,400/-.

18. In the result the claimant Smt. Uttam Devi is hereby awarded a sum of Rs. 30,000/- as compensation while Smt. Lalita Rani and other claimants are awarded Rs. 86,4000/- as compensation. Out of the amount awarded, a sum of Rs. 10,000/- each shall be paid to the children with the balance being be paid to the widow Smt. Lalita Rani. The amounts payable to the minor children shall be paid to them in such manner as the Tribunal deems to be in their best interest.

19. The claimants shall be entitled to the amount awarded 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.

20. In the result both the appeals are hereby accepted with costs. Counsel's fee Rs. 300/-.


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