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Punjab State Vs. Kashmira Singh and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectInsurance;Motor Vehicles
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in2(1985)ACC336
AppellantPunjab State
RespondentKashmira Singh and ors.
Cases ReferredBaldev Krishan and Ors. v. Chander Deep Jain
Excerpt:
.....which the bus must have been travelling is the extensive damage caused by it to the truck when it came and hit into it. as is well known, agricultural produce does indeed cammand a high price, but it demands a teavy price to procure it top. this is clearly not safe to accept for the other and more weighty reason too, namely that he was also said to be cultivating 60 acres of land. he went on to depose that kashmira singh's brain had been so badly damaged that there was no chance ever of any improvement. general physical examination revealed that his physique was good, pules and blood pressure were normal. he would indeed have been an asset for him and should have enabled him to get a good start. he was found to have had a good academic record. the compensation payable to the claimant..........against the bus-driver and awarded rs. 2,01,600/- as compensation to the parents of baldev singh deceased and rs. 3,57,830/- to the claimant kashmira singh for the injuries suffered by him.2. the finding of negligence recorded against the bus-driver warrants no interference in appeal. as would be apparent from the photographs of the scene of occurrence taken by pw 8 harbans lal, the bus was completely on its wrong side at the place of accident whereas the truck was on its extreme left. further, a strong ponter to the fast speed at which the bus must have been travelling is the extensive damage caused by it to the truck when it came and hit into it.3. there is then the testimony of rw 1 chhinda singh, the bus-conductor, who accepted in cross-examination that the bus had swerved to.....
Judgment:

S.S. Sodhi, J.

1. Several persons were killed and many other injured when a Punjab Roadways Bus PBA 9401 met with an accident with a truck PUB 1822 coming from the opposite direction. Amongst those killed were the two drivers as also Baldev Singh the son of the claimants, Narinder Singh and Jagir Kaur while their other son Kashmira Singh sustained serious injuries. Both Baldev Singh and Kashmira Singh were travelling in the bus when the accident occurred. This happened on March 29, 1984 at about 8.30 P.M. near village Chirk on the Moga-Kot Kapura bye-pass. The Tribunal returned a finding of negligence against the bus-driver and awarded Rs. 2,01,600/- as compensation to the parents of Baldev Singh deceased and Rs. 3,57,830/- to the claimant Kashmira Singh for the injuries suffered by him.

2. The finding of negligence recorded against the bus-driver warrants no interference in appeal. As would be apparent from the photographs of the scene of occurrence taken by PW 8 Harbans Lal, the bus was completely on its wrong side at the place of accident whereas the truck was on its extreme left. Further, a strong ponter to the fast speed at which the bus must have been travelling is the extensive damage caused by it to the truck when it came and hit into it.

3. There is then the testimony of RW 1 Chhinda Singh, the bus-conductor, who accepted in cross-examination that the bus had swerved to its right when it hit into the truck coming from the opposite direction.

4. Besides this, there is the consistent testimony of PW 4 Kashmiri Lal, PW 5 Baldev Singh, PW 7 Narinder Singh as also that of RW 2 Jagga Ram, the owner of the truck that the accident occurred when the bus came completely on to its wrong side and hit into the truck which was travelling at a slow speed on the left side of the road.

5. The circumstances of the case and the evidence on record overwhelmingly show that the accident occurred entirely due to the rash and negligent driving of the bus-driver.

6. The main question that arises in appeal here is with regard to the quantum of compensation payable to the claimants. The claimants, in the case of Baldev Singh deceased are his parents, Narinder Singh, his 55 years old father and 40 years of age at the time of his death. It was the case of the claimants that he had an income of Rs. 1,25,090/- per annum from agriculture and this constituted their main financial loss on account of his death.

7. According to the evidence on record, Baldev Singh deceased used to cultivate 60 acres of land; half of this land was owned by his father Narinder Singh while the other half had been taken on lease. There is no evidence on record to show that were the terms on which this land had been taken on lease, not even what the lease money was. As regards the income from this land, there is only the bald statement of the claimant P.W. 7 Narinder Singh, & P.W. 2 Basant Singh Lambardar that the deceased used to earn Rs. 1,25,000/- per annum. It is significant to note however, that there is no mention in the evidence of any sale of foodgrains whether in the from of accounts or evidence of sale through any commission agent. It would also be pertinent to note that there is no evidence of what the present income from this land is in order to assess the loss of income from the land which could bs attributed to the deceased not being thereto cultivate it. As is well known, agricultural produce does indeed cammand a high price, but it demands a teavy price to procure it top. In other words agricultural income is not the total price of the produce sold but the balance of what remains after deducting the costs that go into achieving it, for example, seeds, fertilizers, watering and other such expenses. The net income that emerges often bears little resemblance to the gross sale proceeds. With out proper and credible proof, which is so conspicuous by its absence here, even a gross income of Rs. 1,25,000/- per annum from 60 acres of land, appears far fetched.

8. Further, a sum of Rs. 1,25,000/- per annum would certainly constitute substantial income for a rural household consisting of only four members. There is no evidence of the claimants and the deceased having a standard of living anywhere in consonance with such earnings.

9. Next it was said that the deceased had an income of Rs. 1500/- per month from the sale of milk. The main reliance here being on the testimony of R.W. 3 Ranbir Singh, Secretary of the Milk Co-Operative Society of the village. He deposed that Baldev Singh deceased used to sell 30 kgs. of milk per day to the society and the value of this milk was about Rs. 2,100/- per month. There is then the testimony of P.W. 7 Narinder Singh and P.W. 2 Basant Singh Lambardar to the effect that Baldev Singh had kept 14 buffaloes and used to sell milk and his income from this source was Rs. 1500/- per month. Here again, it must be noticed that no accounts of income, to show sale of milk also being a source of income for Baldev Singh deceased, have been produced in this behalf, it would be pertinent to refer to the testimony of PW 3 Ranbir Singh where he deposed that the society kept regular account of the payments made for the purchase of milk and there were signatures of the persons to whom such payments had been made. No such record is forthcoming. Indeed, no documentary evidence has at all been produced to corroborate the oral testimony of the claimants. Similarly, as regards the buffaloes, said to have been keot by Baldev Singh, there is no account of either their purchase or sale after his death. No credence can, therefore, be given to the evidence regarding sale of milk being a source of income for the deceased.

10. Further, it was said that Baldev Singh also earned about Rs. 700/- per month by cultivating other people's land with his tractor. Here again, there is no evidence to show whose and how much land he so cultivated. This is clearly not safe to accept for the other and more weighty reason too, namely that he was also said to be cultivating 60 acres of land. Persons so engaged in agriculture, looking after single handed a holding of 60 acres of land, cannot be expected to be able to cultivate lands of other too.

11. Such being the situation, the only loss that the claimants can be said to have suffered in respect of Baldev Singh deceased is what can be attributed to his labours in seeing to the cultivation of land. This loss would certainly be something more than that of a more agricultural labourer considering the fact that the deceased was the son of the landowner and he was cultivating the land with a tractor. In computing the loss here, allowance must also be made of what the deceased would have spent upon himself and on his family, which had he lived, it would be reasonable to assume, he would have raised in the next couple of years. Considered in this light and generally in the context of the principles laid down by the Full Bench in Lachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur, 1979 PLR-1, the dependency of the claimants deserves to be fixed at Rs. 6,000/- per annum with the multiplier of '16' This would work out to Rs. 96,000/- which may be rounded to Rs. 1,00,000/- (One lac only).

12. This other and more important claim is that of the claimant Kashmira Singh-the 24 years old son of P.W.7 Narinder Singh. Grave indeed were the injuries suffered by him in this accident.

13. A reference to the testimony of P.W. 1. Dr. T.N. Shadrangi, Neuro-surgeon at the Christian Medical College. Ludhiana, would show that at the time of his admission in the hospital, on the day of the accident, Kashmira Singh was unconscious and had five injuries on his person. These being:

1. Fractured base of a skull.

2. Fractured nose.

3. Fractured left leg.

4. Fractured right numerous.

5. Multiple facial lacerations.

Kashmira Singh remained admitted in the hospital at Ludhiana for about 79 days. According to P.W.1 Dr. Shadrangi, he was unconscious even at the time of his discharge and was talking irrelevantly. He went on to depose that Kashmira Singh's brain had been so badly damaged that there was no chance ever of any improvement. It was a helpless case and the disability that Kashmira Singh was suffering from was permanent and on that account, he was advised to be removed from the hospital. Dr. Shadrangi opined that Kashmira Singh may never regain consciousness and no further treatment could improve his condition According to him, the claimant would require one attendant all the time for the rest of his life.

14. Next to note is the testimony of P.W. 7 Narinder Singh, the father of the claimant Kashmira Singh who deposed that after his discharge from the hospital, at Ludhiana, Kashmira Singh was brought to the Post Graduate Medical Institute at Chandigarh, where he was kept for about three months. He stated that he spent about Rs. 50,000/- at Ludhiana and another Rs. 50,000/- at Chandigarh, on the treatment of his son. He stated that he had to engage two attendants to look after the claimant and he paid them Rs. 300/- per month each besides food.

15. When these appeals came up for hearing, it was noticed, on going through the evidence on record, that there was nothing to show effect, if any, the injuries suffered by the claimant in this accident had upon his life expectancy. A request was accordingly made to the Director, Post Graduate Medical Institute, Chandigarh to constitute a Board to examine the claimant Kashmira Singh and to report with regard to his present condition as also on his life expectancy with reference to the injuries suffered by him in this accident. In pursuance of this order, a Medical Board was constituted consisting of Dr. J.S. Chopra, Professor and Head of the Department of Neurology; Dr. V.K. Kak, Professor and Head, Department of Neurosurgery and Dr. V.K. Verma, Professor and Head, Department of Psychiatry. The report of this Medical Board is now placed on record and marked exhibit PX. The findings of this Board, on examination, were as under:

General physical examination revealed that his physique was good, pules and blood pressure were normal. The patient was unable to walk himself and had deformity of both the hands and right leg. He had marked contractures of the limbs. He had a tracheotomy scar in the neck. Patient was very much agitated and was shouting' He was repeating the same words again and again. Higher mental functions examination showed that the patient was extremely agitated and restless. His speech was not relevant and he gave the same response to all the questions put to him. He had a tendency to repeat the words put to him. It was not possible to test the orientation and memory in detail. It appeared that he was oriented to person but not to time and place correctly. He could not give a reasonable account of the nature of illness he if suffering from.

Detailed neurological examination was difficult in view of the markedly abnormal response and behaviour of this patient. Examination of the heart, chest and abdomen did not reveal any abnormality.

The opinion expressed by the Board being:

In view of the above, the Medical Board felt that Shri Kashmira Singh is a patient of gross brain damage following head injury, which he sustained in 1982, resulting in psychotic organic brain syndrome. This had led to gross abnormality in intellectual and other mental functions and loss control over his sphincters.

It is highly unlikely that his condition will improve in future, nor will he be able to look after himself or earn a living. He will aways need at least 2 persons to look after his bodily needs.

The illness is not likely to have any bearing on his life expectancy and it is expected that he can live a normal life span, if provided with proper care.

16. Such being the condition of the claimant now, as a result of the injuries suffered by him in this accident, there can be no manner of doubt that he will never be able to lead a normal life nor would he ever be in a position to be gainfully employed rather, he would be a financial burden upon all who may have the responsibility of having to look after him. Further, there is no likelihood of any improvement in his condition but he can be expected to have a normal life span, if properly looked after.

17. In assessing the compensation payable to the claimant, the first and foremost matter to consider would be the cost of his care and looking after. As has been mentioned in the report of the Medical Board, he would requlre-two attendants for the rest of his life. This cost may be estimated at Rs. 500/ per month or Rs. 6,000/- per annum. With a multiplier of '16' this would work out Rs. 96.000/- which may be rounded off to Rs. 1,00,000/-.

18. There is then the matter relating to the amount actually spent on the medical treatment of the claimant as also what is likely to be required for the rest of his life. In this behalf, there is only the bald statement of his father, P.W. 7 Narinder Singh that he had spent Rs. 1,00,000/- on his treatment. The only documentary evidence of the amount spent, even if accepted to be correct, works out to a sum under Rs. 10,000/-. There is no evidence on record to show what medicines, if any, the claimant would require for his treatment though undoubtedly he would need some medication and much care. In the circumstances, for both past and future medical expenses, sum of Rs. 50,000/- may be awarded. While dealing with this aspect of the matter, a special award must also be made for the cost of the Medical Board constituted to examine the claimant during the hearing of this appeal in this Court as also the cost of transportation of the claimant from his place of residence to Chandigarh and back and his stay in Chandigarh. This total cost deserves to be fixed at Rs. 3,000/- inclusive of Rs. 1500/- being the cost of the Medical Board.

19. Next is the amount payable to the claimant for pain and suffering undergone by him on account of his injuries and the serious disabilities that he is now left with. Taking an overall view of his situation in the context of the nature and extent of the injuries suffered and the consequent loss of enjoyment of life, this loss deserves to be assessed at Rs. 1,00,000/-(Rs. One lac only).

20. Finally, there is the matter relating to the claimant's loss of income. According to the claimants, Kashmira Singh was intending to start practice as an Advocate in Chandigarh with his uncle Mr. Meja Singh, a practising Advocate of the High Court at Chandigarh. For this purpose, a plot of land had also been purchased at Chandigarh in the name of Kashmira Singh, which had to be sold after this accident.

21. The evidence on record shows that Kashmira Singh had got his LL.B., from the Aligarh University in 1979 and it is also correct that Mr. Meja Singh, who is said to be his uncle practices as an Advocate in Chandigarh. The claimant had yet to start practice and in such a situation, there can obviously be no precise measure to what he would have earned, had he started practice, Mr. Vinod Kataria, appearing for the Advocate General, Punjab, laid great stress here upon the fact that Kashmira Singh had not even obtained a license for practice as an Advocate in Chandigarh till the time of the accident, which was over 2 1/2 years after his passing the L.L.B., Examination. There is indeed no explanation for this. Be that as it may, the fact remains that Kashmira Singh did poessess this qualification and it would therefore, be reasonable to assume that but for his injuries he would have taken up this profession more so when a relation of his was already in the profession. He would indeed have been an asset for him and should have enabled him to get a good start. A somewhat similar case was Baldev Krishan and Ors. v. Chander Deep Jain 1 (1984) ACC 249, where the claimant was a law student whose mental capabilities had been rendered beyond repair on account of the injuries suffered by him in the accident. He was found to have had a good academic record. His father and two brothers were practicing advocates at the High Court. It was on this account held that after obtaining his law degree, he was likely to join the profession and on account of his father and brothers, he could be expected to have earned Rs. 1500/- per month from the junior briefs alone. The loss in this case was taken to be about Rs. 1,000/-a month and applying a multiplier of '16'the total loss was assessed to be Rs. 1,92,000/-. The main distinguishing feature in the present case is that the academic record of Kashmira Singh was only avarage and what is more, he does not belong to a family of lawyers though he does have an uncle practising in the High Court at Chandigarh. Not without relevance is the further fact that he did not join the profession till this accident which, as has been mentioned earlier occurred over 2 years after his passing the LL.B, Examination. The income in his case must thus be fixed at a figure somewhat lower than in Chander Deep Jam's case (supra) Considering the situation of the claimants, loss of earnings in his case deserves to be fixed at not more than Rs. 750/- per month or Rs. 9,000/- per annum. The appropriate multiplier would of course be '16'. This would work out to Rs. 1,44,000/-.

22. The total compensation that the claimant Kashmira Singh must thus be held entitled to would work out Rs. 3,99,000/- which may be rounded off to Rs. 4,00,000/- (Rs. For lacs).

23. The compensation payable to the claimant Kashmira Singh is hereby enhanced to Rs. 4,00,000/- (Rs. four lac only) while (hat payable to the parents of Baldev Singh is reduced to Rs. 1,00,000/- (Rs. one lac only). The claimants shall be entitled to the compensation awarded along with interest at the rate of 12 per cent per annum from the date of the application to the date of payment of the amount awarded. The compensation payable to the claimant Kashmira Singh shall be paid to him in such manner and on such terms and conditions as the Tribunal may deem to be in his best interest.

24. In the result, the appeals filed by the claimant Kashmira Singh and by the State of Punjab in the case of Baldev Singh deceased are hereby accepted while the other two appeals are dismissed. In the cricumstances, however, there will be no order as to costs.


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