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Jawahar Singh Vs. Kesar Rani and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectInsurance;Motor Vehicles
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported inI(1986)ACC208
AppellantJawahar Singh
RespondentKesar Rani and ors.
Cases ReferredLachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur
Excerpt:
.....in lachhman singh v. the amount payable to the minor claimants shall be paid to them in such manner as the tribunal may deem to be in their best interest. he clearly stated that at the time of the accident this truck belonged to manobar lal and that he was an employee of the said manohar lal......both the vehicles went on to their wrong side of the road, in that, the version deposed to by the jeep driver and the claimant a.k. prashar, was that the truck coming from the opposite direction had come on to its wrong side of the road and in the first instance taken to its extreme left, but when it came too near, the jeep driver suddenly turned it to this right with a view to avoid a collision with the truck but the truck driver just, at the last moment suddenly turned his truck to the left and then the accident occurred. on the other hand, the truck driver ram kumar deposed that it was the jeep that came on to its wrong side of the road and it was in order to avoid an accident with it that he turned his jeep towards its right and it was then that the two vehicles collided. in other.....
Judgment:

S.S. Sodhi, J.

1. In an accident between a government jeep HYA-584 and the truck HYA-8192 coming from the opposite direction, two occupants of the jeep namely; Lachhman Dass and Bhoop Singh Bishnoi were killed while the third Avtar Krishan Prashar sustained injuries. This happened on November 7, 1979 at about 7.30 a.m in the area of village Meham on the Rohtak Hissar 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 truck driver. A sum of Rs. 84,672/- was awarded as compensation to the widow and children of Lachhman Dass deceased. Rs. 92,736/- to the parents, widow and children of Bhoop Singh Bishnoi deceased and Rs. 3,000/- to the claimant Avtar Krishan Prashar for his injuries.

3. Assailed in appeal in the first instance was the finding recorded on the issue of negligence. The argument of Mr. H.S. Sawhney counsel for the truck owner being that this was a case of contributory negligence with both the driver of the jeep as also the truck driver being at fault, rather than the entire blame being fastened upon the truck driver alone.

4 A reference to the material on record would show that three witnesses came-forth to depose to the accident; they being RW 2 Ranjit Singh, the driver of the jeep AW 17 Avtar Krishan Prashar, one of the occupants thereof and RW 1 Ram Kumar, the truck driver. A reading of their testimony would show that the accident occurred when both the vehicles went on to their wrong side of the road, in that, the version deposed to by the jeep driver and the claimant A.K. Prashar, was that the truck coming from the opposite direction had come on to its wrong side of the road and in the first instance taken to its extreme left, but when it came too near, the jeep driver suddenly turned it to this right with a view to avoid a collision with the truck but the truck driver just, at the last moment suddenly turned his truck to the left and then the accident occurred. On the other hand, the truck driver Ram Kumar deposed that it was the jeep that came on to its wrong side of the road and it was in order to avoid an accident with it that he turned his jeep towards its right and it was then that the two vehicles collided. In other words, both the drivers admitted to not keeping their vehicles on the correct side of the road They both took their respective vehicles on to their right and then blamed the other for having been constrained to do so. In the circumstances, as have now been pointed by these witnesses, it is apparent that if the vehicles had struck to their side, in all likelihood, they would have crossed without causing damage to each other. This being so, there can be no escape from the conclusion that blame for the accident must lie with both the drivers and not with the truck driver alone.

5. While dealing with this matter, it must be remarked that neither the driver of the jeep nor the truck driver gave their version of the accident in their written statements as was deposed to by them in the witness box. What the driver of the jeep testified to however, finds corroboration from the first information report of this accident which was recorded on his statement within an hour of the occurrence. He is also corroborated by AW 17 A.K. Prashar. Great stress was, however, laid by the counsel for the truck owner on the fact that both the jeep driver and A.K. Prashar belonged to the same government department and there was, therefore, an interest which A.K. Prashar had in deposing in favour of the jeep driver. In the circumstances this is an indeed a factor to be kept in view in assessing the value to be attached to the testimony of this witness regarding the manner in which the accident took place. The other aspect of significance here is that immediately after the accident, the truck driver ran away whereas the jeep driver reported the matter to the police and further that though substantial damage was caused to the truck, in this accident, no claim was put-forth by the truck owner in respect thereof. These matters were adverted to with a view to fasten the entire liability for the present case, as had been mentioned earlier, the accident could have been avoided by the two drivers, had they kept their vehicles on their side of the road. This being so, the inevitable conclusion that emerges is that the accident occurred due to the negligence of both the drivers and they both must be held to be equally to blame for it. The finding on the issue of negligence must be modified accordingly.

6. Turning now to the quantum of compensation payable to the claimants, it is now well-settled that such compensation has to be assessed according to the principles laid down by the Full Bench in Lachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur 1979 PLR 1. Keeping these in view no exception can be taken to the compensation awarded in the case of Lachhman Dass deceased. If anything, the amount awarded should have been even higher, in that, the evidence shows that Lachhman Dass deceased, who was about 46 years of age at the time of his death, left behind his 43 year's old widow and four children, three of whom where dependent upon him. According to AW 13 Parshottam Dass, who brought the service book of the deceased, the total emoluments of Lachhman Dass deceased, at the time of his death, were ever Rs. 1,500/-per month. The Tribunal assessed the dependency at a little over Rs. 12,000/-per annum but then adopted a multiplier of only '7' which was patently unwarranted. This being the situation, no question of any reduction in compensation here can possibly arise.

7. As regards the compensation awarded to the claimants in the case of Bhoop Singh Bishnoi deceased, a reference to the evidence led shows that the deceased was employed as Engineering Assistant in All India Radio, Rohtak at the time of his death. AW 6 Shri H.R. Dhingra, Head Clerk who brought his service book depose that his total emoluments, at the time of his death, we recover Rs 100/- per month and his date of birth was March 2, 1951 which would mean that he was about 28 years of age when he died.

8. Bhoop Singh Bishnoi died leaving behind his young Sarbati, who was only 22 years of age and their two minor children, the eldest of whom was only four years old. Besides this, he also had his parents who were dependent upon him. Considering the circumstances of the claimants and the deceased, '16' must undoubtedly be taken to be the appropriate Multiplier to be applied here and the dependency deserves to be assessed at Rs. 600/-per month. This would work out to Rs. 1,15,000/- which may be rounded off to Rs. 1,15,000/-.

9. Finally, there is the case of Avtar Krishan Prashar, who was able to escape with only injuries in this accident. He suffered ten injuries on his person, which according to AW 3 Dr. Ramesh Verma of the Medical College and Hospital, Rohtak, were as under:

(1) A lacerated wound on the scalp 9 cm long in 'D' shape with the other limb being of about 3 cms.

(2) A lacerated wound 4 cms X 1 cm on the chin bone deep.

(3) A wound 2 cms x 5 cms on the left side of the face and another wound 2.5 cms.

(4) Multiple sharp cut wounds 15 cm X 2.5 cms on the left side of the face and neck.

(5) A defused swelling on the left side of the face and abnormal angulation and closure of the teeth on left side.

(6) Multiple abrasions on the right side of the face near the right ear.

(7) Lacerated wound 1.5 cmX5 cm on the back left lower lip.

(8) A sharp wound 6 cms x 1 cm on the back of the left shoulder.

(9) Defused swelling on the anterior part of the shoulder joint with abrasions.

(10) Flatening of right shoulder.

10. According to Dr Ramesh Verma, the patient had bleeding from both his ears at that time.

11. On X-ray examination, AW 2 Dr. Vinod Kumar Sharma found fractured scapula and clevicsl of the left side and in addition, he also found a fracture of the right side of the condile and mandiable.

12. Deposing to his injuries, Avtar Krishan Prashar stated that he had received a head injury as also an injury on the left side of his face. His jaw was dislocated and his collar bones fractured and besides this, he suffered a deep wound on his left shoulder. He remained admitted in the hospital for about 10 days. i.e. till November 17,1979 and he resumed duty only on March 1, 1980. He also deposed to the expenses incurred by him on his treatment. He said that he had spent Rs. 5,000/- on medicines besides Rs. 4,000/. or Rs. 5,000/- on the entertainments of his relatives who had come to enquire after him. No account or receipts were however, produced. As regards his disability, he stated that even after a period of about 10 months, he could not take any solid food as his jaw movements had recovered only to the extent of about half on one side. His shoulder movements too he stated, were restricted.

13. There can, if course, be no precise measure in monetary terms of all that the claimant must have undergone on account of his injuries and the disabilities that he had to suffer on that account. Taking an overall circumstances of Avtar Krishan Prashar, in the context of the nature and extent of the injuries suffered and the loss of amenities of life caused to him thereby, as also making allowance for some expenses which he must undoubtedly have incurred towards his treatment and special diet and other miscellaneous expenses, it would be fair and just to hold him entitled to a sum of Rs. 25,000/-on these counts.

14. The compensation payable to the claimants in the case of Lachhman Dass deceased, is accordingly hereby upheld while that payable to those of Bhoop Singh Bishnoi deceased is hereby enhanced to Rs. 1,15.000/- (Rs. one lac fifteen thousands only). Out of the amount awarded, a sum of Rs. 15,000/-shall be paid to the parents of the deceased, Rs. 20,000/- each to his two sons and the balance to his widow. The amount payable to the minor claimants shall be paid to them in such manner as the Tribunal may deem to be in their best interest. In the case of Avtar Krishan Prashar, the compensation payable to him as hereby enhanced to Rs. 25,000/-. 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 the payment of the amount awarded.

15. The question that remains to be determined is with regard to the liability of the New India Assurance Company for payment of the compensation awarded in this case. It was the common case of the parties that the insured in respect of the truck HYA-8192 was Jawahar Singh, respondent No. 1 and the driver thereof was Ram Kumar respondent No. 2 said Ram Kumar, in his written statement admitted that he was the driver and that Jawahar Singh was the owner of the truck at the time of the accident. The Insurance Company respondent No. 3, however, took up the plea that Jawahar Singh had sold this truck before, this accident and he consequently, not being its owner at that time, no liability could be fastened upon him and therefore no question of the Insurance Company indemnifying him could arise. In this behalf it was pleaded that Jawahar Singh had transferred this vehicle to one Bahal Singh who, in turn, had transferred it to Manohar Lal and there was no privity of contract with this Manohar Lal.

16. On the plea raised by the Insurance Company, denying its liability in the present case, a specific issue was framed, namely ; issue No. 7. The only evidence led there under consists of the testimony of RW 1 Ram Kumar the driver of the offending truck. He clearly stated that at the time of the accident this truck belonged to Manobar Lal and that he was an employee of the said Manohar Lal. This statement was not challenged in cross-examination. It is pertinent to note that Jawahar Singh did not come into the witness box and what is more, counsel for the opposite party could point to no material on record to in any manner question or rebut this statement of the truck driver. This being so, there can be no escape from the conclusion that Jawahar Singh could not be held to be vicariously liable for the accident and consequently there was no occasion for the Insurance Company to indemnify him. In other words, the New India Assurance Company cannot be held liable for payment of any amount as compensation in this case. The liability for the compensation awarded in the present case would thus be joint and several of the truck drivers Ram Kumar; Ranjit Singh the driver of the jeep and the State of Haryana. The respondents shall, however, be entitled to contribution inter se, in proportion to their respective share of blame for the accident.

17. In the result all the appeals as also the cross-objections filed in the case relating to Bhoop Singh Bishnoi deceased, are accepted to the extent and in the manner indicated above. The claimants shall be entitled to their costs in all these appeals. Counsel fee Rs 500/-.


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