S.S. Sodhi, J.
1. On December 27, 1977 at about 10 P.M. Bakhshish Singh deceased was standing near a tractor trolley parked on the road near Lahori Gate, Amritsar, when a bus came and hit into him as a result of which he sustained injuries and later died. It was the finding of the Tribunal that this accident had been caused by the New Majha Transport Co-operative Society Bus PUA-5021, driven by their driver-Avtar Singh. A sum of Rs. 68,200/- was awarded as compensation to the claimants, they being the widow and two minor children of Bakhshish Singh deceased.
2. The main controversy in appeal here is with regard to the identity of the bus involved in the accident and of the person driving it at that time. The contention of Mr. L.M. Suri, counsel for the New Majha Transport Co-operative Society Limited being that no such accident had been caused by their bus PUA-5021 now was Avtar Singh employed by them as driver on the date of the accident.
3. The case as sought to be set up with regard to the driver Avtar Singh was that he had been employed deposed by Mr. RW 1 Surinder Kumar, Clerk of the Transport Company who further stated that he was re-employed in March, 1978, but he left service again in May, 1978 and did not come back thereafter. In other words, he was not in the service of the Transport Company on December 27, 1977, the day when the accident occurred. In dealing with this aspect of the matter, it deserves note that in reply to the averment in the claim application that the accident had been caused by the bus PUA-5021, driven by Avtar Singh, there was no specific denial by the Transport Company in their return to the effect that Avtar Singh was not the driver of the bus or that he was not in their service on that date. As regards RW 1 Surinder Kumar, it deserves note that he joined service of the Transport Company only in August, 1979 and he, therefore, had no personal knowledge as to whether or not Avtar Singh was an employee of the Transport Company on the date of the accident. He deposed to this being an employee merely on the basis of the two registers which he produced in court, namely; the attendance register and the pay register. It is significant to note that these registers were not being maintained by him and indeed he could not say who had maintained them during the relevant period. The attendance register was neither numbered nor paged and what is more there were some blank spaces under some entries while other pages were blank. No cash book or ledger was produced to show any entries of the salaries disbursed by the Transport Company to their employee, nor is there any documentary evidence regarding the termination of the services of Avtar Singh, in the shape of his resignation or an order of removal from service or the like. There is also no resolution regarding his service coming to an end. This being the state of the evidence on record, no exception can be taken to the finding of the Tribunal that Avtar Singh was indeed an employee of the Transport Company on the date of the accident.
4. Turning now to the other limb of the challenge namely, as regards the identity of the bus involved in the accident, counsel for the Transport Company laid great stress upon the first information report exhibit A/3, which was said to have been recorded on the statement of one Piara Singh. The other person, named as witness in this report was one Tirath Singh. Neither Piara Singh nor Tirath Singh were examined as witnesses in this case. Their was also no mention in this report of the number of the bus involved in the accident nor regarding the identity of the person driving it. It was also pointed out that this report mentioned 8.30 p.m., as the time of the occurrence, whereas according to the claimants, it had taken place at 10 p.m.
5. Turning next to the testimony of AW 6 Mohan Singh and AW 7 Ashok Kapur, the two persons examined as eye-witnesses to the occurrence, counsel laid great stress upon the fact that no reliance had been placed upon their testimony by the Tribunal. It must indeed be observed that the Tribunal did so rightly as their testimon undoubtedly inspires no confidence. According to them, they were the only two passengers travelling in the bus at the time of the accident. The Bus-Driver AW 12 Awtar Singh however, deposed to the contrary when he stated that there were about 50/52 passengers in the bus at that time.
6. Further, there is an inherent implausibility in the conduct of these two witnesses. Having seen the accident, they allowed the bus to proceed on to the bus stand and all, they say they did thereafter, was to note the number of the bus and to take down the name of the driver. They made no report to the police nor did they try to come back to the place of incident to see to the injured, yet the next morning, they say, they came to the spot to enquire about him and when they heard that he had died, they went to the police station. Incidently, Lahori Gate is a busy locality of Amritsar. It was not clarified from whom they made enquiries on the next morning. At any rate, it indeed they were interested enough to go to the spot at that time, why they had not done so soon, after the accident There was also no plausible explanation put-forth by them for their being in the bus at that time as both of them belonged to Ludhiana and not Amritsar. The Tribunal therefore rightly did not believe these two witnesses
7. The flaws and infirmities pointed out in the case of the claimants, however, pale into insignificance in the face of the testimony of the bus-driver. AW 12 Avtar Singh, who admitted that the accident occurred while he was driving the bus PUA-5051. He attributed it to the failure of the brakes of the bus. He also deposed that a case had been registered against him with regard to this accident, in respect of which he was convicted but released on probation. Counsel for the Transport Company sought to suggest that the confession of guilt by Avtar Singh in the case relating to this incident was procured by the undue influence and pressure brought to bear upon him by Darshan Singh, Deputy Superintendent of police the brother of the claimant Dalbir Singh Kaur. Great stress was laid upon the statement of this witness that D.S.P. Darshan Singh was presenting court when he confessed his guilt and also when he appeared in the witness box in this case. The mere presence of D.S.P. Darshan Singh cannot, however, lead to this inference. There was no statement by AW 12 Avtar Singh to the effect that he had confessed his guilt due to any such pressure and admittedly there has been no challenge to this conviction by the criminal court. In this behalf it is pertinent to note that he had engaged Mr. Kashmira Singh, Advocate, as his counsel in that case and had also paid him Rs. 200/- as his fees. In this situation, there is clearly no warrant to doubt or question, the confession of guilt by Avtar Singh, the bus-driver. In the face of this confession, there can be no manner of doubt that the Tribunal rightly held that the accident had been caused due to the rash and negligent driving of the bus PUA-5021 by its driver Avtar Singh.
8. Turning now to the quantum of compensation, payable to the claimants, the evidence on record shows that Bakhsish Singh deceased was employed as Inspector Vaccination in the office of the Zila Parishad, Amritsar and his emoluments were around Rs. 575/- per month. He was 40 years old at the time of his death and he died leaving behind his widow-Dalbir Kaur who was then 38 years old and their two children, who were 11 and 5 years old, respectively. All the claimants were wholly dependent upon the deceased. Considering the circumstances of the claimant and the deceased in the context of the principles laid dawn by the Full Bench in Lachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur 1979 PLR-1, Rs. 5,000/- per annum deserves to be taken to be the dependency of the claimants with '16' as the appropriate multiplier to be applied. So, computed, the compensation payable would work out Rs. 80,000/-. The compensation payable to the claimants is accordingly hereby enhanced 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. A sum of Rs. 20,000/-each, shall be paid to the two children of the deceased 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.
9. M/s. New Majha Transport Co-operative Society; the bus-driver Avtar Singh as also the United India Fire and General Insurance Company, shall be jointly and severally liable for the compensation awarded.
10. Mr. Munishwar Puri counsel for the Insurance Company had sought to have the liability of the Insurance Company limited to Rs. 50,000/-on the ground that this was the limit prescribed in the Insurance Policy on record, in the absence of any plea to this effect, no limitation on the liability of the Insurance Company can be accepted. It must accordingly be held that the Insurance Company would be jointly and severally liable for the entire amount awarded.
11. In the s result, the appeal filed by the claimants is hereby accepted while that of the New Majha Transport Co-operative Society Limited and the United India Fire and General Insurance Company Limited, are hereby dismissed with costs. Counsel fee Rs. 300/-.