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Asha Rani and anr. Vs. Suraj Bhan and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectInsurance;Motor Vehicles
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1(1984)ACC326
AppellantAsha Rani and anr.
RespondentSuraj Bhan and ors.
Cases ReferredLachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur
Excerpt:
- - the tribunal came to the conclusion that neither of these witnesses appeared to be reliable and it was on this account that it recorded a finding against the claimants on the issue of negligence. pyare lal had clearly stated that it was a holiday, the day on which the accident took place. it is apparent that this was but an unsuccessful attempt to cook up evidence to escape liability for the accident in this case. further in view of the fact that girdhari lal, deceased was only about 29 years of age at the time of his death with the claimants being his young widow and minor child, the appropriate multiplier here would clearly be 16. this would work out to rs. this amount shall be paid to the child in such manner as the tribunal deems to be in her best interests......the dependency to be to the extent of rs. 300/- per month. the evidence on record shows that the deceased girdhari lal had a cycle repair shop and his income was said to have been about rs. 600/- per month. after making an allowance for some exaggeration in these matters, more so, when no corroborative documentary evidence is available and also for the amount that the deceased would have spent upon himself and keeping in view generally the principles laid down by the full bench in lachhman singh v. gurmit kaur 1979 p.l.r. 1, the dependency at the rate of rs. 300/- per month does not warrant interference. further in view of the fact that girdhari lal, deceased was only about 29 years of age at the time of his death with the claimants being his young widow and minor child, the.....
Judgment:

S.S. Sodhi, J.

1. The claim for compensation in this case arises from the death of Girdhari Lal, the claimants here being his widow Smt. Asha Rani and their minor daughter Kamlesh Kumari.

2. According to the claimants, the accident occurred on May 13, 1978 at about 10 or 11 A.M. When the truck HRS-1735 came and struck against Girdhari Lal. It was said that this truck was being driven rashly and negligently. The place of accident being the Rohtak Road outside the Gur Mandi Sonepat. Girdhari Lal was first admitted to the Civil Hospital, Sonepat, but was latter sent to the Safdar Jang Hospital, New Delhi where he died on May 17, 1978.

3. Both Ram Kishan, the driver of the truck as also Suraj Bhan, the owner there of denied that any such accident had taken place. Their plea being that this truck had not been involved in any accident.

4. The Tribunal accepted the plea put forth by the respondents holding that the evidence on record could not justify the finding that the respondents were responsible for the death of Girdhari Lal, deceased. The claim for compensation was thus declined. It is this finding which now stands challenged in appeal.

5. The case of the claimants rests upon the testimony of PW 6 Deep Chand and PW. 7 Pyare Lal, who were examined as eye witnesses to the occurrence. The Tribunal came to the conclusion that neither of these witnesses appeared to be reliable and it was on this account that it recorded a finding against the claimants on the issue of negligence.

6. It was the testimony of both PW 6 Deep Chand as also PW 7 Pyare Lal that they saw the truck coming there at a fast speed and hit into Girdhari Lal. They further deposed that after causing this accident the truck stopped at a short distance. The driver after getting down, got into the truck again and went off. The injured Girdhari Lal was then removed by them to the hospital at Sonepat. Other persons had also gone with them to the hospital at that time.

7. A reading of the testimony of Deep Chand and Pyare Lal would show that they were neither related to or interested in the deceased or the claimants. The Tribunal, however, took the presence of PW 7 Pyare Lal to be unnatural as the accident had taken place on a Saturday which was assumed to be a working day and the accident was thus said to have taken place during his hours of employment. Saturday being a working day for Pyare Lal indeed an unwarranted assumption. Pyare Lal had clearly stated that it was a holiday, the day on which the accident took place. No suggestion to the contrary was put to him to lead to any inference that it was not so. As regards PW 6 Deep Chand, his presence was taken to be unnatural in that he had come to Sonepat to enquire about the rates of wheat and gur when the market of Narela was much nearer. This again cannot be taken a circumstances to doubt the presence of this witness. Sonepat being a bigger market and less than 7 miles away from his village, it is no wonder that he had come there to enquire the price of wheat and gur whether it be for sale or purchase.

8. In doubting the presence of PW 6 Deep Chand and PW 7 Pyare Lal, the Tribunal was also influenced by the fact that neither of them had on their own informed the police of this accident and it was also said that they had not informed the relations of the deceased either. A reference to the testimony of PW 9 Lok Nath the father of the deceased would, however, show that it was Pyare Lal who had told him about this accident the same after-noon. Both Pyare Lal and Deep Chand are illiterate villagers. The fact that they did not report the matter to the police on the date of the incident cannot be held against them. They having done the more important and natural thing of taking the injured to the hospital. It is pertinent to note, however, that the statements of both these witnesses were recorded by the police and they were also examined as witnesses in the criminal case registered against the truck driver, Ram Kishan. The further criticism that the names of these two witnesses did not figure in the Medico Legal Report cannot detract from their varacity in view of the fact that these two witnesses were not the only persons who had taken the injured to the hospital.

9. Reading the statements of PW 6 Deep Chand and PW 7 Pyare Lal as a whole in the totality of the circumstances of the case, there appear to be no valid reasons to discard their testimony. The contradictions and discrepancies that the Tribunal adverted to are merely of a minor nature, of a type which can and do often arise in the testimony of villagers giving evidence many months after the incident. In material particulars both these witnesses have given a consistent account and their conduct as revealed thereby was quite natural and plausible. In other words, the Tribunal erred in declining to accept the version as given by them to be correct. It is significant to note that no motive or reason was suggested muchless established for their coming-forth to depose in this manner in favour of the claimants and against the respondents.

10. It was also said by the Tribunal that the medical evidence did not established that the deceased had died in a road accident with a motor vehicle. In this behalf, a reference to the testimony of PW 5 Dr. H.B. Singh would show that the time when Girdhari Lal was admitted in the hospital it was recorded that it was a road side accident case. The nature and extent of the injuries suffered by the deceased have not been shown to be in any manner inconsistent with this statement.

11. In dealing with this matter what is significant to note is the stand of the respondent truck driver and the truck owner. As has been mentioned above, the plea in the written statement was merely one of denial. When they came into the witness box, however, an attempt was made to show that the truck was undergoing repairs at Samalkha on that day. If indeed this was so, there is no explanation why it was not so stated in the written statement. The evidence led in this behalf, also cannot stand scrutiny and was rightly discarded by the Tribunal. No corroborated evidence in the form of any bill or receipt or of any spares purchased is forthcoming. Even the mechanic RW 3 Sukhbir could produce no record or any account of the repairs done. It is apparent that this was but an unsuccessful attempt to cook up evidence to escape liability for the accident in this case.

12. For the foregoing reasons there is no escape from the conclusion that the accident here was caused by the rash and negligent driving of Ram Kishan, truck driver and consequently both he and RW 2 Suraj Bhan, the owner thereof must be held liable for the amount payable as compensation to the claimants. There is no dispute here that Suraj Bhan was not the insured at the time of the accident and consequently no liability can be fastened upon the respondent-Insurance Company.

13. In dealing with the question of compensation that the claimants are entitled, to the Tribunal rightly took the dependency to be to the extent of Rs. 300/- per month. The evidence on record shows that the deceased Girdhari Lal had a cycle repair shop and his income was said to have been about Rs. 600/- per month. After making an allowance for some exaggeration in these matters, more so, when no corroborative documentary evidence is available and also for the amount that the deceased would have spent upon himself and keeping in view generally the principles laid down by the Full Bench in Lachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur 1979 P.L.R. 1, the dependency at the rate of Rs. 300/- per month does not warrant interference. Further in view of the fact that Girdhari Lal, deceased was only about 29 years of age at the time of his death with the claimants being his young widow and minor child, the appropriate multiplier here would clearly be 16. This would work out to Rs. 57,600/-. To make it a round figure a sum of Rs. 58,000/- is hereby awarded to the claimants as compensation. The claimants shall be entitled to interest thereon 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. Out of the amount awarded, a sum of Rs. 10,000/- shall be paid to the minor child. This amount shall be paid to the child in such manner as the Tribunal deems to be in her best interests.

14. In the result, this appeal is hereby accepted to the extent indicated above with costs. Counsel's fee Rs. 300/-.


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