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Jupiter General Insurance Co. Ltd. and ors. Vs. Balkishan and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectInsurance;Motor Vehicles
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1(1984)ACC82
AppellantJupiter General Insurance Co. Ltd. and ors.
RespondentBalkishan and anr.
Cases ReferredLachman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur
Excerpt:
.....without caring to see whether or not it was safe to do so. 5,000/- as compensation for loss of love and affection was also questioned. an essential part of this duty consists in regulating the speed at which a vehicle is driven in a particular area or locality the present case, being near the bus stand, it was clearly incumbent upon the truck driver to have driven it at a slow speed. the deceased too cannot escape blame in that he had proceeded to go across the road without taking due care to see whether it was safe to do so. it is now well settled that computation of compensation in such cases has to be assessed and determined in accordance with the principles as laid down by the full bench in lachman singh v......was over-taken by the truck and was fatally injured thereby. negligence was thus imputed to the truck driver.7. the respondents, on the other hand, took the plea that it was the deceased, who had been negligent. the version being that he had crossed half of the road when on hearing the horn, he suddenly stopped and turned back. in the meanwhile, the truck reached there and the deceased struck against the right mud-guard thereof. it was denied that the truck was being driven at a fast speed.8. turning now to the evidence on record the eye witness account of the occurrence was given by aw. 1 sardara singh, the addl incharge, who deposed that he was on duty there when the accident took place. according to him, the truck came at a high speed. he heard no horn. the deceased was in the.....
Judgment:

S.S. Sodhi, J.

1. Amar Nath Sachdeva, who had a newspaper stall at the bus stand Zira was run-over by the truck PNB-2560 while going across the road to hand over a bundle of newspapers to the driver of the bus going to Talwandi Bhai. This happended on July 7, 1973 at about 9 A.M. He died later at night at the hospital at Amritsar, where he had been taken after the accident.

2. It is in respect of this accident that the Tribunal awarded a sum of Rs. 50,000/- as compensation to the claimants, who are the two minor sons of the deceased, Balkishan and Yudhvir.

3. The contention raised in appeal was that the accident had occurred entirely due to the fault of the deceased, himself, as he had proceeded to cross the road without caring to see whether or not it was safe to do so. In the alternative, it was argued that this was a case of contributory negligence and despite a finding to this fact no reduction in compensation has been made on account thereof.

4. The legality of the award of Rs. 5,000/- as compensation for loss of love and affection was also questioned.

5. A reading of the award of the Tribunal would show that while dealing with the issue of negligence, it had been held that the driver of the truck was 'guilty of culpable negligence' as the accident had been caused due to the rashness and negligence of Darbara Singh, driver. Turning to the issue relating to the amount payable as compensation however, the Tribunal observed, 'since the accident had taken place due to the rashness and negligence of Darbara Singh respondent, the applicants are entitled to compensation but it will have to be borne in mind that Amar Nath (deceased) had also contributed to the negligence to some extent as he had tried to cross the road without being cautious of[the vehicles moving on the road and that the accident had taken place when he had retraced mid-way. This circumstance will be taken into account only for the purposes of arriving at a conclusion about the damages.'

6. The Tribunal appears to have over-looked these findings when awarding compensation as admittedly no reduction was made on account thereof. Be that as it may, the question remains, who is to be blamed for accident and to what extent. There is no dispute that the deceased was run over while trying to cross the road. What was stated in the claim application was that when the deceased had stepped on to the road, he suddenly saw a truck coming from the side of Talwandi Bhai. This truck was being driven rashly and negligently. No horn was blown. In order to save himself, the deceased tried to get back but was over-taken by the truck and was fatally injured thereby. Negligence was thus imputed to the truck driver.

7. The respondents, on the other hand, took the plea that it was the deceased, who had been negligent. The version being that he had crossed half of the road when on hearing the horn, he suddenly stopped and turned back. In the meanwhile, the truck reached there and the deceased struck against the right mud-guard thereof. It was denied that the truck was being driven at a fast speed.

8. Turning now to the evidence on record the eye witness account of the occurrence was given by AW. 1 Sardara Singh, the Addl Incharge, who deposed that he was on duty there when the accident took place. According to him, the truck came at a high speed. He heard no horn. The deceased was in the middle of the road, when he was run-over. The truck stopped 20 to 25 yards away from the place of impact. Next is the testimony of AW. 2 Constable Swaran Singh who was on traffic duty at that time. He stated that he did not actually see the truck hitting into the deceased, but he deposed that the truck had stopped 10 to 15 yards from him.

9. It deserves note that AW. 1 Sardara Singh had also been examined as a witness in the criminal case against the truck driver. His statement there was that the truck was being driven at a slow speed. In the face of this contradictory evidence, what becomes important is the distance at which the truck stopped after the accident. No inconsistency was alleged here. The fact that it had stopped about 20 yards away is by itself indicative of the fast speed of the truck at that time.

10. The main evidence of the respondents on this issue is the statement of RW. 1 Darbara Singh, the truck driver. His testimony was that Amar Nath, deceased, had crossed the middle of the road when a car came from the opposite side. Amar Nath immediately turned back and struck against the right mud-guard of the truck. He further stated that the truck had been travelling at slow speed and hold down the born.

11. The version of the car having come from the opposite direction and the deceased having turned back on seening it was for the first time put forth when the truck driver came into the witness box. There was no mention of it in the return filed by him nor was it put to either AW. 1 Sardara Singh or AW. 2 Constable Swaran Singh. This cannot, therefore, but be treated to be an afterthought.

12. Further, it deserves note that there is no mention that the truck driver applied breakes on seeing the deceased. If indeed the truck had been coming a t a slow speed, it would not have required a distance of almost 20 yards for it to stop. There is a duty of care owed by all road users to avoid harm or in jury to others. An essential part of this duty consists in regulating the speed at which a vehicle is driven in a particular area or locality the present case, being near the bus stand, it was clearly incumbent upon the truck driver to have driven it at a slow speed. In these circumstances, the truck driver cannot escape finding of negligence, moreso, when regard is had to the fact that the accident had occurred in the middle of the road and consequently there was a greater chance available with the truck driver to avoid the accident than the deceased. The deceased too cannot escape blame in that he had proceeded to go across the road without taking due care to see whether it was safe to do so. In the circumstances, therefore, it must be held that the accident here was caused by the rash and negligent driving of the truck driver and there was also contributory negligence of the deceased to the extent of 25 per cent.

13. Next arises the question relating to the amount payable as compensation to the claimants. The claimants here being Balkishan and Yudhvir, the sons of the deceased, who were 16 and 9 years old respectively at the time of the death of the deceased. Amar Nath, deceased, was about 55 years of age at the time of his death. It is now well settled that computation of compensation in such cases has to be assessed and determined in accordance with the principles as laid down by the Full Bench in Lachman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur 1979 P.L.R. 1. In the context of the relevant factors set out therein considering the age, health, nature of occupation and generally the situation of the deceased, it would be fair and just to take the appropriate multiplier here to be 7. As regards the financial loss, it was the unrebutted testimony of AW. 3 Balkishan that the deceased was earning about Rs. 1600/- per month. There is also on the record and demand notice Exhibit A-7 from the Income-tax authorities which shows the income of the deceased to be almost Rs. 20,000/-per annum. The business income being Rs. 15,000/- per annum. Assuming the loss that the claimants have suffered here to be only in the business income, the other part of the income would still be available to them. On this basis, it would be reasonable to assume that the loss would be atleast at the rate of Rs. 800/- per month. The compensation, on this basis, would work out to Rs. 67,2000/- and after making a deduction on account of the contributory negligence of the deceased, the amount payable to the claimants would turn out to be almost as much as the amount already awarded. In this view of the matter, the amount awarded warrants no interference in appeal.

14. In the result, the appeal as also the cross-objections filed herein are thereby dismissed. There will be no order as to costs.


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