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Raghbir Singh and ors. Vs. Harbans Kaur and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectInsurance;Motor Vehicles
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1(1984)ACC314
AppellantRaghbir Singh and ors.
RespondentHarbans Kaur and ors.
Cases ReferredLachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur
Excerpt:
- - trishanjit singh, he went on to state that he was deeply unconscious when admitted and because of his poor general condition no surgery could be performed......or that the authority should be in writing, but includes a person having implied authority to claim compensation for the one who is injured in the accident.15. further, it deserves note that in the claim application filed by parkash singh, the father of the claimant, it was specifically mentioned that the application has been filed for the grant of compensation to the claimant trishanjit singh. what is more, no suggestion was put to dr. trishanjit singh when he was examined on commission suggesting any lack of authority in his father in filing the claim application on his behalf.16. as regards the objection that each day's delay had not been accounted for, it will be re-called, as discussed earlier, that the requirement of law here is that the claimant must establish sufficient.....
Judgment:

S.S. Sodhi, J.

1. In an accident between a motor-cycle and a tanker, both Gurdev Singh, the driver of the motor-cycle, as also Dr. Trishanjit Singh, the pillion rider thereof, sustained serious injuries with disasterous consequences for them both. Gurdev Singh succumbed to his injuries soon thereafter and died while Dr. Trishanjit Singh has been left crippled and severely handicapped thereby. This happened on December 5, 1973 at about 9 P.M. opposite to the Punjab Roadways workshop at Ludhiana.

2. Two separate claims for compensation were filed in respect of this accident, one by Harbans Kaur the widow of Gurdev Singh deceased and the other by Dr. Trishanjit Singh. A sum of Rs. 40,000/- was awarded as compensation to Harbans Kaur and Rs. 65,000/- to the other claimant Dr. Trishanjit Singh. It is these awards which have been challenged in two separate appeals.

3. It was finding of the Tribunal which warrants no interference in appeal that the accident here took place due to the rash and negligent driving of Rabhbir Singh, the driver of the tanker.

4. According to the claimants, the tanker came on to the wrong side of the road, at a fast speed and hit into the motor-cycle which was coming on its left. The version of the opposite party, on the other hand, was that the driver of the motor-cycle did not know driving and could not, therefore, control it. He was also stated to be under the influence of liquor at that time. The fault for the accident was thus imputed to Gurdev Singh deceased.

5. The case of the claimants rests upon the testimony of Gurmel Singh and Sukhdev Singh, who are examined as eye-witnesses in both these cases. It was their testimony that the tanker had gone on to the wrong side of the road when it hit into the motor-cycle coming on its correct side from the opposite direction. The matter was reported to the police soon thereafter. The First Information Report Exhibit P-2 was recorded on the statement of Gurmel Singh. This report fully corroborates his testimony in Court. The account of the accident as given by Gurmel Singh and Sukhdev Singh was consistent and admits of no contradictions or discrepancies to create any doubt therein.

6. In the claim filed by Dr. Trishanjit Singh, there is also his statement recorded on commission besides photographs of the scene of occurrence which lend further support to the Claimant's version.

7. What is pertinent to note here is that no evidence is forthcoming from the side of the tanker driver or the owner's thereof. The driver of the tanker too was not examined. There is thus no escape from the conclusion that the Tribunal rightly held that the accident had been caused entirely due to the rash and negligent driving of the driver of the tanker.

8. No reduction in the amount awarded as compensation to Harbans Kaur is warranted. Gurdev Singh deceased was 40 years of age at the time of his death, and he died leaving behind his widow and six children, who according to the evidence on record, were all dependent upon him. It has further come in evidence that he had a workshop known as Saggu and Co. of which he was the proprietor. The deceased was engaged in the business of manufacture and repair of diesel engines. It was the unrebutted testimony of his widow Harbans Kaur as also brother-in-law Gurmel Singh that his income was Rs. 2,000/- per month. There is, however, also on record evidence that the income of Saggu and Co. during the year 1972-73 as per the income-tax orders was Rs. 5,290/- Even if this is taken as income of the deceased, the amount awarded can by no means be said to be excessive. Considered in the light of the principles laid down by the Full Bench in Lachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur 1979 P.L.R. 1, there can be no doubt that 16 would be the appropriate multiplier here. The loss to the claimants would be at least to the tune of Rs. 300/- per month. So computed, the compensation that the claimant here would be entitled to would come to much larger that the amount awarded to them. The relief claimed in this appeal must accordingly be declined.

9. The main contest arose in the appeal relating to Dr. Trishanjit Singh, while the appellants namely, the driver, owner and Insurance Company sought to raise the bar of limitation to his claim for compensation, the claimant on his part sought enhanced compensation.

10. The claim for compensation was admittedly filed long-after the expiry of the prescribed period of limitation for the filing thereof. The proviso to Sub-section 3 of Section 110A of the Motor Vehicles Act, however, empowers the Tribunal, on sufficient cause being shown to entertain a claim for compensation filed beyond limitation. What is sufficient cause, of-course depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case. The view now held by the Courts is that the expression 'sufficient cause' as used in Section 110A of the Motor Vehicles Act deserves to be liberally construed in order to advance the cause of substantial justice, particularly where no serious negligence, in action or want of bona fides can be attributed to the claimant. This view was also expressed by this Court in New India Assurance Co. Limited v. Punjab Roadways, Ambala City 1964 P.L.R. 156.

11. The claim application in the present case was filed on October 19, 1974 and that too by Parkash Singh, the father of Dr. Trishanjit Singh. This was accompanied by a separate application for the condonation of the delay in the filing thereof, in this application, it was stated that the claimant Dr. Trishanjit Singh was still under treatment in the hospital and was not in a position to make any statement and that it was only at some times that he behaved in a proper manner. Mention was also made therein of its post traumatic amnesia.

12. On June 11, 1975, an application under Order 1 Rule 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure was filed seeking thereby the substitution of the name of the petitioner Dr. Trishanjit Singh in the claim application for that of his father Parkash Singh. This prayer was allowed on August 23, 1975.

13. There can be no manner of doubt, as it would presently be shown, while dealing with the evidence regarding the injuries and the disabilities of the claimant that grave indeed was the nature and the extent of the injuries suffered by him as also the consequences thereof. Counsel for the appellants did not even attempt to suggest any negligence or remissness on the part of the claimant for the delay in the filing of the claim application in this case. The point canvassed in this behalf was that as the claim had been filed beyond the period of limitation, it was incumbent upon the claimant to account for each day's delay. A contention was also raised that Parkash Singh the father of the claimant had not been shown to have been duly authorised to file the claim application. There is no merit in either of these contentions.

14. In dealing with the question whether the father of the claimant had been duly authorised to file the claim application on behalf of the claimant, Dr. Trishanjit Singh, it would be relevant to advert to the observations in New India Assurance Co. Ltd. and Anr. v. Punjab Roadways, Ambala City and Ors. AIR 1964 Punjab 235, where it was observed:

The expression 'duly authorised agent' contained in Clause (c) of Sub-section (i) of Section 110-A of the Motor Vehicles Act does not mean a person expressly authorised or that the authority should be in writing, but includes a person having implied authority to claim compensation for the one who is injured in the accident.

15. Further, it deserves note that in the claim application filed by Parkash Singh, the father of the claimant, it was specifically mentioned that the application has been filed for the grant of compensation to the claimant Trishanjit Singh. What is more, no suggestion was put to Dr. Trishanjit Singh when he was examined on commission suggesting any lack of authority in his father in filing the claim application on his behalf.

16. As regards the objection that each day's delay had not been accounted for, it will be re-called, as discussed earlier, that the requirement of law here is that the claimant must establish sufficient cause for the condonation of the delay. The question to be considered therefore is whether such a cause has been shown. When regard is had to the circumstances of the claimant in the context of the nature and extent of the injuries suffered by him and the consequences thereof, there can be no escape from the conclusion that ample justification exist for the condonation of the delay in filing of the claim application in this case.

17. Turning now to the injuries that Dr. Trishanjit Singh suffered in this accident and the disabilities caused to him thereby, a reading of the testimony of Dr. H.S. Kang, of the department of Orthopaedic, Christian Medical College, Ludhiana, would show that the claimant was unconscious when he examined him on December 6, 1973 and he did not regain consciousness till almost 6 weeks thereafter, i.e. January 27, 1974. He had as many as 10 injuries on his person. These being:

1. Closed head injury with bruises and haematoma on left side of the neck.

2. Commuted fracture shaft right femur lower 1/3rd.

3. Ligamentous injury to the right knee. Anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments were torn.

4. 8' X 3' wound on the anterior-medial aspect of right tibia only skin deep, wound.

5. 1' superficial wound on the shin of right leg.

6. Ligamentous injury to the left knee, medical collateral ligament was torn.

7. Fracture of shaft fibula right side.

8. Fracture of horizontal ramus of mandible in the region of right pre-molar.

9. Fracture middle 1/3rd right clavicle.

10. Hemiplegia left side of the body.

Injury No. 1 was described as dangerous, while all the other injuries except injuries Nos. 4 and 5 were found to be grievous. On December 27, 1973, the right leg of the claimant above the knee had to be amputated. He was discharged from the hospital almost 9 months after the accident on August 5, 1974 but had to be re-admitted for a few days again in November, 1974 for osteomyelits right femur, a complication which had arisen after his amputation.

18. As regards the disabilities caused to the claimant on account of his injuries, when Dr. H.S. Kang was re-called for further examination, he deposed that the disabilities to the claimant, of the right lower limb, left upper limb and left lower limb were complete and permanent. The total disability was assessed at 80 per cent. Dr. Kang in this behalf also deposed to the correctness of his certificate Exhibit PW1/1 of October 15, 1975, wherein he listed the disabilities of Dr. Trishanjit Singh as under:

1. Right lower limb (amputation) 70 %2. Left upper limb (brachial) plexuses injury 70 %3. Left lower limb. 20 %

19. Next to note is the certificate Exhibit P-2 of Dr. K.A. Abraham of August 1, 1974 which was proved by Dr. H.S. Kang. After noting therein the injuries of Dr. Trishanjit Singh, he went on to state that he was deeply unconscious when admitted and because of his poor general condition no surgery could be performed. It was also stated that he developed a severe infection of the leg with gangrene on December 26, 1973, and on account thereof his right leg had to be amputated the next day. He was still deeply unconscious on January 12, 1974, when he developed a severe bronchopneumonia. Later, on March 14, 1974 he developed myositis ossificans in the left shoulder which restricted the movements of that joint.

20. In dealing with the disabilities suffered by Dr. Trishanjit Singh, it was recorded in the certificate Exhibit P. 2 that he had not regained useful functioning on the left half of the body. He could not sit in bed without support. He had a severe malocclusion which required correction later. The only normal functioning limb was his right upper extremity. His mental status had been gradually and steadily improving, but it was difficult at that stage to assess the ultimate residual disability.

21. There is then the testimony of P.W. 2 Dr. Lajpat Rai who deposed that on examining the claimant Dr. Trishanjit Singh, on October 17, 1974, he found that he had post traumatic amnesia and he had issued a certificate Exhibit P. 6 to this effect. Dr. Trishanjit Singh was not fit to make a statement about the accident when he had examined him, as he was not able to recollect about the accident at that time.

22. Turning now to the testimony of the claimant Trishanjit Singh, he deposed that besides remaining as indoor patient in the hospital for 9 months, he was treated as outdoor patient for about two years. His treatment was still continuing. His state, according to him, now was that he could not move without having someone lift him and carry him. He stated that he was incapable of doing any work and his left leg has become paralysed as a result of this accident while his right leg has been amputated. It was further his testimony that on account of his injuries, he was declared unfit by the Medical Board to continue in service with the Punjab Agricultural University and his services thereafter were terminated.

23. The question now arises as to the quantum of condensation payable to the claimant. There is, in the first instance, the costs incurred by the claimant on his treatment. It was the unrebutted testimony of Dr. Trishanjit Singh that the amount spent by him on this account was Rs. 11,428/-. P.W. 3 David A. Longfellow of the Christian Medical College, Ludhiana, deposed that as per the hospital records, the total expenses received from the claimant were Rs. 7,320. 80. In considering the claim for medical expenses it deserves mention that being an employee of the Punjab Agricultural University, the claimant was entitled to medical re-imbursement. According to P.W. 4 Nachbattar Singh Accountant, the claimant was actually reimbursed to the extent of Rs. 5617.20.

24. The contention of Mr. Ujagar Singh, counsel for the claimant was that reimbursement of medical expenses to the claimant was not a benefit the advantage of which could be claimed by the driver or owner of the vehicle involved in the accident or the Insurance Company thereof. The claimant was entitled to the entire amount spent, leaving the matter of reimbursement to be decided between him and his employer. There is indeed merit in this contention, and consequently the claimant must be held entitled to a sum of Rs. 11,428/- as medical expenses.

25. Pain and suffering on account of the injuries suffered by the claimant and the loss of amenities of life and the disabilities caused to the claimant thereby constitute the next head of claim. By the very nature things, there can be no precise yard-stick by which compensation payable under such heads can be assessed and determined. It would, however, be pertinent to bear in mind the observations in P.S. Bhatnagar v. State of Punjab and Ors. 1977 A.C.J. 213, where it was stated:

The broad general principle which should govern the assessment of damages in cases such as this is that the Tribunal should award to injured party such a sum of money as will put him in the same position as he would have been in if he had not sustained the injuries. The principle is sometimes referred to as the principle of restitutio integrum; but it is manifest that no award of money can possibly compensate a man for such grievous injuries as the appellant in this case has suffered. The principle, therefore, affords a little guidance in the assessment of damages for the pain and suffering undergone and for the impairment which results from the injuries and fixing such damages the Judge can do no more than an endeavour to arrive at a fair estimate taking into account all the relevant considerations

Having regard to the nature and extent of the injuries suffered by the claimant and the totality of the circumstances as have arisen as a consequence thereof, it would be just and reasonable to hold him entitled to a sum of Rs. 50,000/-as compensation on these counts.

26. Next to note is the loss of income and prospects of further advancement in life which have arisen for the claimant on account of the accident in this case. It has come in evidence that Dr. Trishanjit Singh was an Assistant Professor at the Punjab Agricultural University drawing a salary of almost Rs. 900/- per month. He was only 30 years of age. He obviously had before him bright prospects of further advancement in life. Not only have these prospects now come to an end, but what is more his services from the post held by him had to be terminated on account of his disabilities. Indeed his disabilities are such that one wonders if he can at all take up any other gainful employment. It would be pertinent to note that it is not even possible for him to move on his own even on a wheel chair. In this situation, he in fact requires an attendant to look-after him. This requirement is likely to continue till the end of his days. The compensation payable to the claimant must thus not only take into account his loss of earnings, but also the added cost of services which have now been rendered imperative for him by his physical condition. There are of course various imponderable factors which must also be reckoned with, for example early natural death, disability arising due to illness and other natural clamities. Generally speaking, the principles which must govern the computation of compensation in such cases are akin to those relating to the determination of compensation payable to the dependants of the deceased. The value of services must figure as a component of the damages that the claimant would be entitled to. Considered in this light and having regard to the principles laid down by the Full Bench in Lachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur 1979 PLR 1, the compensation payable to the claimant under these heads deserves to be taken at Rs. 1000/ per month with a multiplier of 16. So calculated, the amount works out to Rs. 1,92,000/-.

27. The amount claimed as compensation in this case was rupees two lacs and consequently, the amount payable to the claimant cannot exceed this figure. The compensation payable to the claimants is accordingly enhanced to rupees two lacs. The claimant shall be entitled to this amount along with interest at the rate of Rs. 12/-% per annum from the date of the application to the date of payment of the amount awarded.

28. In result, both the appeals are hereby dismissed while the cross-objections filed by the claimant are accepted. The claimants shall be entitled to the costs in both these appeals. Counsel fee Rs. 500/- (one set only).


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