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Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation Vs. Patel Naraangbhai Ramjibhai and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectInsurance;Motor Vehicles
CourtGujarat High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1(1984)ACC386
AppellantGujarat State Road Transport Corporation
RespondentPatel Naraangbhai Ramjibhai and ors.
Excerpt:
- - 4 had failed to prove that there was any contributory negligence on the part of the deceased. 7. besides the version of the driver which is not reliable, there is no eye witness to the accident. this would clearly indicate the speed at which the bus was being driven. this clearly belies the version given in the written statement that the scooterist had hit on the left side of the bus. this clearly indicates that the scooter had dashed on the driver's side of the bus. this would clearly show that the bus had gone over to the wrong side of the road......before he stopped it. it was further alleged that the deceased did not possess valid licence to driver the scooter and he did not know how to drive it. in substance the defence was that the accident occurred on account of rash and negligent driving on the part of the deceased. it was also contended that claim of rs. 2 lacs was highly exaggerated.4. the tribunal held that the accident occurred on account of rash and negligent driving of the bus on the part of the respondent no. 4. it further held that the appellant and respondent no. 4 had failed to prove that there was any contributory negligence on the part of the deceased. the tribunal estimated the income of the deceased at rs. 750/- per month and deducted there from rs. 250/- for personal expenses of the deceased. it thus worked.....
Judgment:

R.C. Mankad, J.

1. Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation, appellant herein has filed this appeal challenging the judgment and award passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (Main), Banaskantha District at Palanpur.

2. This appeal arises out of the claim petition filed by respondents Nos. 1 to 3 (hereinafter referred to as the 'claimants') claiming compensation for the death of one Manjibhai Narsangbhai (hereinafter referred to as the 'deceased') son of respondents Nos. 1 & 2 and husband of respondent No. 3 who died as a result of fatal injuries received by him in a vehicular accident which took place at about 4.00 P.M. on August 20, 1979 on State High Way between Palanpur and Balaram in Banaskantha District. At the time when the accident occurred, the deceased was riding a scooter and he was going from Palanpur to Balaram. A bus of the appellant driven by respondent No. 4 who was employee of the appellant came from the opposite direction that is from Balaram side and collision between the bus and the scooter took place near a mile stone on which figure 31 was written at the place where the accident occurred, the road goes in a curve. The deceased who was proceeding from south to north was towards the inner curvature of the curve while the bus which was coming from northern direction was on the outer curvature of the curve. In other words, the bus had to take a wider turn to negotiate the curve. It appears that collision took place before the curve began. There is dispute as to where the collision took place whether it took place on the correct side of the bus or on the correct side of the scooter. There is however, no dispute that there were brake marks made by the bus which covered a distance of about 130 feet and that the bus swerved on the wrong side and went in the open land or field after crossing the western edge of the road and breaking a hedge. The deceased who hit the bus on its right side was dragged along with his scooter with the bus and he died on the spot. The scooter was broken into pieces and parts of the scooter were found under the bus. The claimants alleged that the accident took place as a result of the rash and negligent driving of the bus on the part of respondent No. 4 driver of the bus. They, therefore, filed application being MAC Petition No. 98 of 1979 before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (Main) Banaskantha District at Palanpur (hereinafter referred to as the 'Tribunal) claiming compensation of Rs. 2 lacs for the death of the deceased.

3. The defence of the appellant and respondent No. 4 was that the accident took place on account of rash and negligent driving on the part of the deceased. According to them the deceased was driving his scooter in a zig zag manner and took a wrong turn. Respondent No. 4 therefore took his bus to the right to save the deceased. However, the scooter dashed against the left front side of the bus. According to the appellant and respondent No. 4 there was heavy traffic on the road on account of fair balaram and there was a jeep car in front of the bus. It was, therefore, to avoid a major accident that respondent No. 4 took the bus across the road to the western side before he stopped it. It was further alleged that the deceased did not possess valid licence to driver the scooter and he did not know how to drive it. In substance the defence was that the accident occurred on account of rash and negligent driving on the part of the deceased. It was also contended that claim of Rs. 2 lacs was highly exaggerated.

4. The Tribunal held that the accident occurred on account of rash and negligent driving of the bus on the part of the respondent No. 4. It further held that the appellant and respondent No. 4 had failed to prove that there was any contributory negligence on the part of the deceased. The tribunal estimated the income of the deceased at Rs. 750/- per month and deducted there from Rs. 250/- for personal expenses of the deceased. It thus worked out the datum figure at Rs. 500/- per month or Rs. 6000/- per year for estimating the compensation payable to the claimants. The deceased who was engaged in diamond business was 26 years old when he receives the fatal injuries The Tribunal having regard to the age and other factors applied the multiplier of 15 to the datum figure of Rs. 6000/- and worked out compensation payable to the claimants at Rs. 90,000/- in addition the claimants were awarded conventional amount of Rs. 5,000/- for loss of expectation of life and loss to the estate. Thus the total compensation worked out by the Tribunal came to Rs. 95,000/-. The appellant feeling aggrieved by the award passed by the Tribunal has preferred this appeal.

5. Three contentions are raised on behalf of the appellant in this appeal, namely (i) the Tribunal has erred in recording finding that the accident occurred on account of rash and negligent driving of the bus on the part of resp. No. 4 (ii) there was contributory negligence on the part of the deceased and (iii) there was no basis for awarding compensation of Rs. 95,000/.

6. Besides the driver respondent No. 4 there is no eye witness to the accident. So far as respondent No. 4 is concerned, he has given different versions of the accident at different times. In his complaint Ex. 25 lodgod by him at Palanpur Police Station, respondent No. 4 stated that while- he was returning from Balaram in his tenth trip and while he was negotiating a curve, the scooterist the deceased who was proceeding towards Balaram suddenly came out of the curve. The scooter skidded and dashed against the front wheel of the bus according to respondent No. 4, the scooter went under the bus and he applied brakes. As a result of the brakes applied by him, the bus swerved towards the wrong side of the road and stopped after crossing the road. It is stated in the complaint that there was a jeep car and a scooter in front of the bus. However, it is not stated as to what part these two vehicles in the front played or whether they had anything to do with the accident we have already adverted to above to the second version of the accident given by respondent No. 4 in the written statement filed in answer to the claim made by the claimants. It may however be recalled that according to that version, the deceased drove his scooter in a zig zag manner, went to the wrong side and dashed against the left side of the bus while respondent No. 4 was trying to save by him swerving the bus to the right. In his deposition before the Court, respondent No. 4 stated that there was heavy traffic on the road when the accident occurred. The scooterist was driving the scooter in a zig zag manner at a fast speed. On seeing the scooterist he slowed down the bus applied brakes. The scooter skidded and dashed against the right side of the bus. The bus was at the curve and he turned the bus and took it down the road (that is in the field or land beyond the road), it would thus appear that the driver of the bus has given three different versions of the accident. We are, therefore, not inclined to place any reliance on his evidence. However, one fact which is admitted in the written statement of the appellant and respondent No. 4 is that before the collision occurred, respondent No. 4 had swerved the bus to the right.

7. Besides the version of the driver which is not reliable, there is no eye witness to the accident. Under the circumstances, how the accident occurred will have to be judged from the physical facts as they were found after the accident.

8. The physical facts as they were found after the accident are recorded in a panchnama Exh. 38 of the scene of the accident Photographs Exh. 43 to 51 which were taken after the accident also throw light on the question as to how the accident occurred. As pointed out above, broadly speaking the bus was going from north to south while the scooter driven by the deceased was going from south to north. Therefore, so far as the bus in concerned eastern side of the road would be its correct side while so far as the scooter is concerned, western side would be its correct side. It is not disputed that the bus was found beyond the road in a field in the western side. In other words, it is not disputed that in any case after the collision, the bus crossed over to the wrong side, left the road and went into the field. It appears that at the place where the accident occurred asphalt part of the road was 23 feet wide with Katcha or metal road of about 12 feet to either side. The place of the impact as shown in the panchnama was at a distance of 8 feet 7 inches from the western edge of the road. If that were so, it is obvious that where the collision occured the bus was on its wrong side. It is important to note that there were brake marks covering a distance of 130 feet. This would clearly indicate the speed at which the bus was being driven. The bus was lying in the field or the land beyond the western edge of the road. The governor and other parts of the scooter were found lying under the bus. It would, therefore, appear that the scooter was dragged along with the bus right upto the field. It further appears that the bus was damaged on its right side. The glass of the head light on the driver side of the bus was broken. The right side of the front bumper was also bent. The foot rest on the drivers side was also broken and bent. The damage to the bus would indicate that the scooter had dashed against the right front side of the bus. This clearly belies the version given in the written statement that the scooterist had hit on the left side of the bus.

9. The photographs also shown the brake marks which are on the eastern side of the road and upto the right western edge of the road. There is no photograph which shows from which place the brake mark began. It appears that the driver applied brakes only after the collision. This is the version given by the driver in this complaint Exh. 25 and deposition. It is likely that after the impact the driver swerved the bus to his left to save the scooterist. This would be a most natural thing for him to do since the scooter had dashed on the right side of the bus. It may be recalled that the foot rest near the driver's doors was broken and bent. This clearly indicates that the scooter had dashed on the driver's side of the bus. It would be but natural for the driver to swerve the bus to his right. The explains the brake marks on the eastern half of the asphalt road. This brake mark is within eastern half near the white dividing line. Thereafter it appears that the driver lost control over the bus perhaps because the scooterist got entangled with the bus and the driver did not know what to do. The bus ultimately crossed over to the right side of the road and went into the field beyond the western edge of the road. This would clearly show that the bus had gone over to the wrong side of the road. There was no question of going over to the wrong side to save the scooterist. The scooterist had hit the bus on the right side and therefore, he could not have saved by taking the bus on the same side. It, therefore, appears that while negotating the curve, the driver took the bus on its wrong side to go straight and avoid taking the bus in a wider turn to remain on the outer edge of the curve which it was his duty to do. While going straight the bus crossed over to the wrong side and dashed against the scooter which was coming from the opposite direction on the inner side of the curve. Thus as pointed out above, the driver tried to take the bus on the left or correct side to save the scooterist but could not save him as the scooter was entangled with the bus. He lost control over the bus and took it beyond the western edge of the road. In our opinion considering the facts discussed above, there is no doubt whatsoever that the accident occured on account of the rash and negligent driving of the bus on the part of the driver of the bus that is respondent no 4. There is absolutely no evidence or material on record to indicate that the deceased was in any way responsible for the accident. In other words, there is no satisfactory and convincing evidence to prove that there was any contributory negligence on his part. As already observed above, we are not inclined to place any reliance on the version of respondent No. 4 that the scooter was being driven in zig-zag manner. Therefore, for the reasons stated above, we agree with the conclusion reached by the Tribunal that the accident occured on account of rash and negligent driving on the part of respondent No. 4.

10. Next question is with regard to the quantum of compensation. The deceased was engaged in a business of diamonds. It appear that he was having a factory for cutting diamonds. There is, however, no documentary evidence to show as to what was his income from the said business. No books of accounts are produced nor is any income-tax assessment order produced to show what his income was. It however, does appears from the evidence that the deceased had engaged labourers to work in the factory. Therefore, considering the evidence on record as a whole, estimate of income of Rs. 750/- per month made by the Tribunal does not seem to be unreasonable or excessive. On the contrary it appears to us that if at all the Tribunal has erred, it has erred in estimating the income of the deceased on the lower side. In other words, the income of the deceased could have been estimated on the higher side. However, it is not necessary for us to examine the question whether the income of the deceased could have been assessed at a higher figure since there is no appeal filed on behalf of the claimants. The datum figure of Rs. 500/- per month or Rs. 6000/- per year worked out by the Tribunal also does not call for any interference by the Court. The deceased was a young man of 26 years and, therefore, the multiplier of 15 applied by the Tribunal also appears to be proper. This multiplier of 15 takes care of factors such as accelleration of inheritence of the factory and other properties of the claimants pointed out on behalf of the appellant. We may however mention that there is no evidence regarding properties inherited by the claimants; but even assuming that they had inherited some properties and that extent acquisition of interest in the estate of the deceased is accelerated, this factor is taken care of while selecting multiplier of 15 by the Tribunal. It is not disputed that the claimants are entitled to conventional amount of Rs. 5000/- for loss of expectation of life and loss to the estate. In our opinion, therefore, the compensation of Rs. 95,000/- awarded by the Tribunal is reasonable and we do not see any reason to reduce it as urged on behalf of the appellant.

11. In the result, this appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.

12. Before parting with appeal we are constrained to observe that the Tribunal has not taken care to protect the interest of the claimants. The Tribunal should have considered that even if respondents Nos. 1 and 2 who were parents of the deceased did not require any protection, respondent No. 3 was a young widow of 21 years who required the protection. The Tribunal ought to have passed order for investment of the amount awarded to her to prevent squandering away of the money and/or it being taken away by the relatives or other persons. We may also observe that apportionment of the amount made by the Tribunal is also not justified. However, since there is no appeal filed on behalf of the claimants, we do not see any reason to revise the apportionment made by it.


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