S.S. Sodhi, J.
1. In a head-on collision between the truck PND-5113 and the bus PUK-866, Kuldip Singh the truck driver was killed while its cleaner Meeka Singh and the bus driver Gian Singh-sustained injuries. This happened on January 11,1976 at about 7.45 A.M. near Khadoor bridge on the Ferozepore-Jalandhar Road.
2. It was the finding of the Tribunal that the accident had been caused entirely due to the rash and negligent driving of the bus driver. The claim for compensation put forth by the bus driver, Gian Singh, was consequently declined, while Rs. 26,000/- were awarded as compensation to the widow and two minor children of Kuldip Singh deceased and Rs. 5,000/- to Meeka Singh for the injuries suffered by him.
3. The finding of negligence recorded against the bus driver warrants no interference in appeal. It is no dobut true that normally when there is a head-on collision on a straight road between two vehicles coming from the opposite directions, there is some negligence, if not equal, to be imputed to the drivers of both the vehicles, but considering the circumstances in which the accident here occurred, the Tribunal rightly held the bus driver wholly to blame.
4. Eloquent testimony of the accident is provided by the photographs exhibits R/2 to R/8, which were taken by R.W. 2 Madam Chopra, photographer of Zira, on the day of the accident. The extent of the damage as shown therein makes it evident that one of the vehicles must indeed have been coming at a very fast speed. This in turn, would mean that the fog, even if there, at that time could not have been so thick as to curtail visibility to such an extent that no vehicle could dare travel at a fast speed. It may be mentioned here that great emphasis was sought to be laid upon fog there by Mr L.M. Suri, counsel for the bus-driver. If there was indeed thick fog, it is obvious that neither the bus nor the truck could have been driven otherwise than slowly, which was certainly not the case here.
5. As has been mentioned earlier, the accident took place on a straight road and the evidence on record shows that this road was not wide enough to permit the bus and the truck to cross each other without both the vehicles at least partly going on to the kacha portion of the road on their side. It is apparent that the bus remained on the mettalled portion of the road. The photographs show that all the four wheels of the bus were on this portion and no part of it was at all on the kacha. The truck, on the other hand, is clearly shown to be partly on the kacha portion of the road, which is indicative of the attempt on the part of the truck driver to avoid the accident. Indeed, if the bus driver had also taken the bus on to his kacha portion of the road in the same mishap. It is pertinent to note that there is no suggestion made to any of the witnesses examined by the claimants that the truck could have been taken any more towards its left, whereas the photographs exhibits R/6 to R/8 clearly show that there was ample space for the bus on its left side. In other words, there was opportunity available to the bus-driver to have tried to avoid the accident which he chose not to avail of.
6. Turning to the ocular evidence, the most important testimony for the claimants is that of P.W. 8 Pritam Singh who was with the truck-driver at the time of the accident. According to him, two wheels of the truck were taken off the road when the bus was seen coming at a fast speed from the opposite direction. Brakes were also applied before the bus came and struck against it. Important corroboration to this evidence is provided by the first information report exhibit PA, which was recorded within two hours of the accident. It is significant to note that no report of this accident was made by either the bus-driver R.W. 3 Gian Singh or its conductor R.W. 4 Puran Siagh. There is no explanation forthcoming to account for this The statement of P.W. 8-Pritam Singh, is also corroborated by that of P.W. 13-Meeka Singh-cleaner of the truck.
7. Counsel for the bus-driver, on the other hand, sought to rely upon the testimony of R.W. 4 Puran Singh; R.W. 5 Sarwan Singh and P.W. 6 Kasturi Lai, iu an effort to show that it was the truck that was being driven at a fast speed and this was therefore, the vehicle to blame for the accident. These witnesses do not deserve reliance. As has been mentioned earlier, the photographs show all the four wheels of the bus on the metalled portion of the road and yet according to both R.W. 4 Puran Singh and R.W. 5 Sarwan Singh, two wheels of the bus were on the kacha portion of the road. As regards R.W. 5, Sarwan Singh, there is also the further fact to be noted that no statement of his was recorded by the police came there. What is more, his village was over 17 miles from the place of accident which creates further doubt about his presence there at that time.
8. The other circumstances which is a strong pointer to the fast speed of the bus is the short time it took to cover the distance from Ferozepore to the place of accident. This distance was about 35 miles. According to the bus-driver, R.W. 3 Gian Singh, besides taking diesel at Zira, there were 5 or 5 stoppages on the way. According to the bus-conductor, R.W. 4 Puran Singh, the stoppages were as many as 11. The bus took an hour to cover the journey from Ferozepore to Zira and then it stopped at Zira for about ten minutes. The bus left Ferozepore at 6.30 A.M. It could not, therefore, have reached the place of the accident at 7.45 A.M. unless it was being driven at a fast speed. The damage caused to the truck, in this accident, also has its own tale to tell.
9. Taking an over-all view of the evidence on record and the circumstances of the case, there can be no escape from the conclusion that it was the bus driver who was entirely to blame for the accident.
10. As regards the quantum of compensation, payable to the claimants, the evidence on record shows that Kuldip Singh deceased was about 32 years of age at the time of his death. He died leaving behind his young widow Jasbir Kaur, aged 29 years and their two minor sons who were 6 and 4 years old, respectively. According to P.W. 7 Jasbir Kaur the widow of the deceased, her husband Kuldip Singh, who was a truck driver used to provide them Rs. 600/-per month, for their maintenance.
11. Besides the statement of Jasbir Kaur, there is no other evidence on record regarding the emoluments of Kuldip Singh deceased, as a truck-driver. Even if some allowance is to be made for some exaggeration here, considering the usual salary of truck-drivers, in this part of the country, it would be fair and just to assess the dependency of the claimants at Rs. 5,000/- per annum. Applying here the principles laid down by the Full Bench in Lachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur, 1979 PLR 1 '16' would clearly be the appropriate multiplier to be applied. So computed, compensation payable would work out to Rs. 80,000/-.
12. The compensation payable to the widow and two minor children of Kuldip Singh deceased is accordingly hereby enahanced to (Rs. 80,000/-(Rs. Eighty thousand only), which they shall be entitled to 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. Out of the amount awarded a sum of Rs. 15,000/- each, shall be paid to the two minor children of the deceased and the balance to his widow. Gain Singh, bus-driver of the Malwa Bus Service Private Limited and the New India Assurance Company Limited shall be jointly and severally liable for the compensation awarded. The liability of the Insurance Company shall, however, be limited to Rs. 50,000/-.
13. In the result, the cross-objections filed by the widow and children of Kuldip Singh deceased are accepted while the appeals filed by the Gian Singh and others are hereby dismissed with costs. Counsel's fee Rs. 500-.