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Smt. Sudershan Puri and ors. Vs. R.S.R.T.C. and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtRajasthan High Court
Decided On
Case NumberS.B. Civil Misc. Appeal No. 30/1980
Judge
Reported in1982WLN765
AppellantSmt. Sudershan Puri and ors.
RespondentR.S.R.T.C. and anr.
Cases ReferredIn Nirmla Sharma and Ors. v. Raja Ram and Anr.
Excerpt:
motor vehicles act, 1939 - section 110a--rash & 'negligent driving--evidence of 2 witnesses--speed not slow when crossing intersection--driver running away after accident--held, bus was driven recklessly and negligently;in the face of evidence of these two witnesses and the circumstances that the driver of the vehicle did not slow down the bus while crossing the intersection and further that he drove away the vehicle even after knocking down shri puri at the intersection, there can be no other conclusion except that he was driving the bus recklessly and negligently.;(b) motor vehicles act, 1939 - section 110a--contributory negligence--bus collided at right side of scooter--bus driven at high speed and scooter driven slowly--held, there in no contributory negligence;while puri was.....dwarka prasad gupta, j.1. this appeal has been filed against the order passed by the motor accidents claims tribunal, bikaner dated december 27, 1979, dismissing the claim petition filed by smt. sudershan puri and her five sons and a daughter.2. it is not in dispute that om prakash puri deceased was employed in the central warehouse corporation as junior storage and inspection officer at its warehouse at sri ganganagar in june, 1976 & he was drawing rs. 880/- as salary in the scale of rs. 650 30-740-35-880-eb-40 960 besides rs. 337.60 as dearness allowance. on june 9, 1976, at about 4.30 p.m., while shri om prakasi puri was coming on his scooter no. r.s.k. 1506 from towards nehru park to padampur chungi road, he met an accident at the crossing of chungi road near the house of dr......
Judgment:

Dwarka Prasad Gupta, J.

1. This appeal has been filed against the order passed by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Bikaner dated December 27, 1979, dismissing the claim petition filed by Smt. Sudershan Puri and her five sons and a daughter.

2. It is not in dispute that Om Prakash Puri deceased was employed in the Central Warehouse Corporation as Junior Storage and Inspection Officer at its Warehouse at Sri Ganganagar in June, 1976 & he was drawing Rs. 880/- as salary in the scale of Rs. 650 30-740-35-880-EB-40 960 besides Rs. 337.60 as dearness allowance. On June 9, 1976, at about 4.30 P.M., while Shri Om Prakasi Puri was coming on his scooter No. R.S.K. 1506 from towards Nehru Park to Padampur Chungi Road, he met an accident at the crossing of Chungi Road near the house of Dr. Gianchand Gurhaui with bus No. R S.G. 2157, which was owned by the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation (hereinafter referred to as 'the Corporation'). It is alleged by by the petitioner, who are the appellants before me, that the bus was driven by Amar Singh driver rashly and negligently, at an excessive speed and as a result of the collusion of the bus with the scooter of Shri Omprakash Puri, the later fell down on the spot and became unconscious. He was taken to the Civil Hospital, Ganganagar, but he died on June 26, 1975 as a result of the injuries sustained by him during the accident.

3. The widow of Shri Omprakash Puri, Smt. Sudershan Puri, acting for herself and her four minor sons and another major son filed a claim petition before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Bikaner, claiming a sum of Rs. 3,85,475.04 as compensation for the loss suffered by them as also in respect of the expenses incurred by them on medicines etc. The learned Member of the Tribunal held that although a collusion had taken place between bus No. R S.G. 2157 and the scooter, which Shri Omprakash Puri was driving yet the claimants have failed to prove that the driver of the bus was driving the vehicle rashly and negligently. The Tribunal also came to the conclusion that if the claim petition would have succeeded, the petitioner would have been entitled to Rs, 46,000/- as compensation. However, in view of the finding that the claimants have failed to prove that the driver was either rash or negligent while driving the claim petition was dismissed by the Tribunal, by its order dated December 27, 1979.

4. In this appeal, learned Counsel for the appellants vehemently argued that there was no reason for the learned Member of the Tribunal to disbelieve the testimony of A.W. 2 Gianchand Gurhani and A.W. 3 Lalchand @ Lal Singh, who were the eye-witnesses of the occurrence, on the question that the driver was driving the bus at the time of the accident rashly and negligently. It was further submitted by the learned Counsel for the appellants that the Tribunal not only erred in dismissing the claim petition but it also erred in determining the amount of compensation which should have been awarded to the petitioner-appellants.

5. On the other hand, Shri Raj Narain Munshi, appearing for the Corporation, argued that neither Gianchand Gurhani nor Lalchand were present at the time of the occurrence, but they came after the accident had taken place and as such their testimony was righly disbelieved by the Tribunal. It was also argued by learned Counsel that at best it could be considered that there was negligence of both the parties and if it was a case of contributory negligence, then also the claim petition was rightly dismissed. On the question of quantum of damages, learned Counsel appearing for the Corporation, submitted that the Tribunal erred in granting Rs. 5,000/- on account of mental suffering and that the amount of compensation determined by the Tribunal was excessive.

6. It is beyond any dispute that the accident had taken place at the crossing where the shop of Dr. Gianchind Gurhani A.W. 2 is situated. There are several commercial premises situated in the area and Lalchand @ Lalsingh A.W. 3 also had his hair cutting saloon in a nearby shop Both, Gianchand Gurhani A W. 2 and Lalchand A.W. 3 have stated that Bus No. R.S.G. 2157, belonging to the Corporation, came from Padampur Chungi side and was going at a fast spied towards Gaushala Road on June 9, 1976 at about 4.45 or 5 P.M. Lalchand has stated that he was standing in the outer portion of his shop when he saw the aforesaid bus striking against the scooter on which Omprakash Puri was coming from the north side at a slow speed. Shri Puri fell down immeditately as the collusion took place and Dr. Gianchand Gurhani took him to the Hospital. Lalchand also lodged a first information report (Ex. 4) with the police on that very day at 5.30 P.M A.W. 2 Gianchand Gurhani has corroborated the testimony of Lalchand and stated, that the bus did not stop even after the collusion and proceeded further after striking the scooter of Shri Puri. Then a crowd collected and an ambulance was called and Shri Puri was taken to the hospital. According to him, Shri Puri was in a state of coma and he could not talk to any body. Both these witnesses have stated that the bus was being driven by the driver of that vehicle at an exessive speed. As it was coming very fast it collided against the scooter and Shri Puri received a head injury and he died as a result thereof on 26th June, 1976. The postmortem report shows that Shri Puri remained in a deep coma during his stay at the hospital from 9.6.76 and he was also operated upon on 9.6 76 and suffered injuries in the frontal, partial and occipital regions. The head injury which was suffered by him at the time of the accident, was the cause of death of Shri Puri.

7. Learned Member of the Tribunal has considered the fact that there was not much traffic at the place where the accident had taken place and that the road was 25'-26' wide and that the bus was being driven towards the left side of the road by the driver, as the circumstances which led him to the conclusion that the driver of the bus was neither rash nor negligent, even inspite of the facts that the bus was being driven at a high speed. It may be pointed out that while Shri Puri was going from north to south, the bus was coming from west to east from Padampur Chungi Road to Gaushala Road. It is settled law that at inter sections, where two roads crossed each other, it is the duty of a fast moving vehicle to slow down and if the driver of the bus R.S.G. 2157 did not slow down at the inter-section, but continued to proceed at a high speed without caring to notice that Shri Puri crossing the inter-section on a a scooter, then the conduct of the driver necessarily leads to the conclusion that the bus was being driven by him rashly as well as negligently. The evidence on record shows that Shri Puri was coming on a scooter at a very slow speed. and while he was crossing the inter-section, he was hit by the bus which was also crossing the inter-section at the same time at an excessive speed. The Tribunal had taken a very erroneous view of the matter in observing that as the road over which the bus was being driven was wider than the the road over which Shri Puri was coming, as such the driver of the bus was not duty bound to slow down the speed of the vehicle at the intersection It is significant to point out that the tenth schedule appended to the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 contain statutory regulations that for driving of motor vehicles, which also form part of every driving licence. Clause 6 of such regulations clearly direct the driver of every motor vehicle to slow down his vehicle at every inter section or junction of roads or at a turning of the road. It is further provided therein that the driver of the vehicle should not enter the inter-section or junction of roads unless he makes sure that he would not thereby endanger any other person. Clause 6 of the Driving Regulations contained in the Tenth Schedule to the aforesaid Act runs as under:

6. The driver of a motor vehicle shall slow down when approaching a road intersection, a road junction or a road corner, and shall not enter any such intersection or junction until he has become aware that he may do so without endangering the safety of persons thereon.

In case the argument which prevailed with the Tribunal may be accepted, then the fast moving vehicles crossing the intersection may be driven at a very high speed without caring to take any notice of the other slow moving vehicles coming from side road and crossing the intersection at the relevant time; and if the view of the Tribunal may be accepted, then it would always be the fault of the persons corning on foot or in a slow moving vehicle if they are hit by fast moving vehicles, while crossing an intersection. In Jaswant Kaur and Ors. v. Ratti Ram and Ors. 1971 ACJ 31 it was held that an extra caution was called for on the part of a driver of a vehicle when entering am intersection of the road and the driver of the vehicle should have easily seen the motor cyclist and he was in fact duty bound to have slowed down his vehicle near the crossing, lest some other vehicle coming from the right hand road jumped into it. Merely because the driver of the bus was driving the vehicle on the left side of the road did not absolve him from his responsibility to slow down the vehicle as he approached the intersection of roads, particularly, when he could have easily seen that the scooter over which Shri Puri was riding, was approaching the intersection. The driver of the bus should have been careful enough to see as to whether any other vehicle was coming on the cross road and should have normally slowed down so as to avoid any collusion. The fact that there was not much traffic on the road did not in any manner reduce the responsibility of the driver of the bus to slow down his vehicle while crossing the intersection and it hardly stands to reason that because there was not much traffic on the road, the driver of the bus was allowed to drive the vehicle through a commercial area situated at an intersection of the road in a big town, at excessive speed. It is not the case of the respondents that no vehicle was at all coming on the cross road and Shri Puri, who was coming on his scooter over the cross road, should have been noticed by the driver of the bus even before he entered the intersection. One more significant fact in this connection is that the driver of the bus did not stop even after the accident had taken place and his bus had knocked down Shri Puri on the spot, but he drove away the vehicle even thereafter at a considerable speed, although Shri Puri lay on the ground as a result of the accident. In Joginder Singh v. Himachal Government Transport 1966 ACJ 191, it was held that negligence can easily be presumed from the fact that after knocking down the cyclist, the driver of the vehicle ran away from the spot. It was observed that this did not only show negligence but also showed inhuman behaviour.

8. Their Lordships of the Supreme Court in N. K. V. Bros, (P) Ltd. v. M. Karumal Ammal and Ors. : [1980]3SCR101 , observed as under:

Road accidents are one of the top killers in our country, specially when truck and bus drivers operate normally. This proverbial recklessness often persuades the courts, as has been observed by us earlier in other cases, to draw an initial presumption in several cases based on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. Accident Tribunals must take special care to see that innocent victims do not suffer & drivers & owners do not escape liability merely because of some doubt here or some obscurity there. Save in plain cases, culpability must be inferred from the circumstances where it is fairly reasonable. The court should not succumb to niceties, technicalities and mystic movbes. We are distressed by transport operators getting away with it, thanks to judicial laxity, despite the fact that they do not exercise sufficient disciplinary control over the drivers in the matter of careful driving. The heavy economic impact of culpable driving of public transport must bring owner and driver to their responsibility to their 'neighbour'.

(emphasis added)

9. In my view, the order passed by the Tribunal in the present case is a glaring example of 'judicial laxity', which their Lordships of the Supreme Court referred to in the above mentioned case. The decision of the Tribunal is based merely on niceties and technicalities rather than on a fairly reasonable consideration of the circumstances and a proper appreciation of the evidence on record. Lalchand @ Lalsingh A W. 3 has been cross-examined at considerable length and there is no reason to presume that he did not see the accident occurring or that he came afterwards. It was quite natural for Lalchand to have seen the occurrence, while he was present in the outer part of his shop which was situated near the crossing. From the site-plan Ex. 3 it appears the accident could easily be visible from the shop of Lalchand @ Lalsingh A. W. 3. It is Lalchand who soon after the accident went to the police station and filed a F.I.R., hardly within half an hour of the accident. In the F.I.R. (Ex. 4) also it was dearly stated by him that the bus was being driven rashly and negligently. A. W. 2 Gianchard Gurhani whose shop is situated just at the intersection of the roads where the accident occurred & was a natural witness has also stated that the vehicle was being driven at an excessive speed. In the face of the evidence of these two witnesses and the circumstances that the driver of the vehicle did not slow down the bus while crossing the intersection and further that he drove away the vehicle even after knocking down Shri Puri at the intersection, there can be no other conclusion except that he was driving the bus recklessly and negligently. Lalchand @ Lalsingh A.W.3 also stated that the bus had struck the front part of the scooter of Shri Puri, which was badly damaged. This fact also goes to show that the driver of the vehicle was at fault as he did not care to slow down the bus and struck the scooter on the front.' He did not care to stop the vehicle even after hitting Shri Puri The driver of the vehicle has not been produced by the Corporation nor he has appeared himself in the witness box. If the driver would have been produced in the witness-box he would have been cross-examined on the question as to why he did not slow down his vehicle at the intersection and why he failed to stop the vehicle even after knocking down Shri Puri at the intersection and as to how the accident bad taken place. In view of what has been said above, the finding of the Tribunal that the bus was not being driven rashly or negligently deserves to be set aside. On the other hand, it is amply proved by the circumstances appearing on the record and the evidence of the two witnesses A.W.2 Gianchand Gurhani and A.W.3 Lalchand @ Lalsingh that the bus was being driven at an excessive speed and with recklessness and negligence.

10 It is not in dispute between the parties that the bus which had caused the accident, at which Shri Puri was injured & as a result of which he expired, belonged to the Corporation. Although there is no positive evidence as to whether respondent No. 2 Amarsingh was driving the bus at the relevant time. The statement of Depot Manager of the Rajasthan State Road Trans-port Corporation, Bikaner was recorded by the trial court under Order 10 Rule 1 C.P.C on March 30, 1978, before he proceeded to frame the issues. In that statement, Surendra Kumar Goyal, Depot Manager of the Corporation admitted that a new Bus No. R.S.G. 2157, belonging to the Corporation had come from Jaipur on 9. 6.1976 for Ganganagar depot but he did not know as to who was the driver who brought the newly allotted bus from Jaipur to Ganganagar. There is no evidence on behalf of the claimants to the effect that Amarsingh respondent No. 2 was driving the bus in question at the time when the accident took place. As such, in the absence of any cogent evidence to connect Amarsingh with the occurrence, no award could be passed against him, as it cannot be said with certainty that he was driving the vehicle in question at the time when the accident had taken place But I cannot help observing that the Corporation, which is a State owned organisation, has failed to perform its duty towards the society at large by withholding requisite information as to its employee who was driving bus No. R.S.G. 2157 at Ganganagar on the fateful day and on its failure to produce the driver of the said vehicle in the witness-box.

11. Considerable argument was advanced by the learned Counsel for the Corporation on the question as to whether the bus struck the scooter of Shri Puri on the left side or the right side, he was coming from Nehru Park side and was going towards south. Learned Counsel for the Corporation tried to discredit the witness produced by the claimants on the ground that the bus had struck on the left side of the scooter and it was argued that it was not possible when the bus was going from west to east, while Shri Puri was going from north to south that the collusion could have taken place while they were crossing the intersection. In my view, the discrepancy, if any, as to whether the bus had struck the scooter on the right side or the left side is not of much avail,, as some times the witnesses who had themselves seen the occurrence erroneously describe right as left and vice-versa. In Messrs. Bhag Chand Panju Ram and Anr. v. Smt. Snehlata and Ors. 1974 WLN 36 the testimony of eye-witnesses was sought to be discredited on similar ground that there was a discrepancy as to whether the bus had collided on the right or the left side of the rickshaw in which the injured was travelling. The Division Bench of this Court observed that the discrepancy between left and right in the statements of eye-witnesses in the case appeared to have caused owing to the 'not unusual confusion' between right & left & it was held that this discrepancy did not in any manner detract the veracity of the statement of the eye-witnesses I have no doubt that while Shri Puri was passing from north to south the bus going from west to east must have collided at the right side of the scooter and the discrepancy between right and left which had occurred in the statement of Dr. Gianchand Gurhani A.W. 2 was merely caused on account of the 'not unusual confusion' between right and left and it cannot be inferred from this discrepancy of left and right that Shri Gianchand Gurhani had not seen the occurrence. There is no discrepancy worth the name in the statement of Lalchand @ Lal Singh AW, 3, who undoubtedly appears to have seen the occurrence.

12. So far as the question of contributory negligence is concerned, learned Counsel for the respondent Corporation has not been able to point out any material on the record to show that Shri Puri was going at a fast speed or was also negligent. It is in evidence that Shri Puri was passing the intersection and Lalsingh has stated that Shri Puri was driving his scooter at a at a slow speed, while the bus came at a very fast speed and collided with the scooter on which Shri Puri was riding. Thus, the argument of contributory negligence is without any force, as there is no material on record to support such a submission.

13. The last question relates to the quantum of damages which should be awarded to the claimants. It appears from the evidence of A.W. 1 Dashrath Singh that Shri Puri was drawing a sum of Rs. 1283.60 as salary, including dearness allowance and house rent allowance etc. Shri Puri was working as a Junior Storage and Inspection Officer in Central Warehousing Corporation at the time when the accident took place, in the scale of Rs. 650-30-740 35-880 EB-40-960 and his substantive pay at that time was Rs. 880/- per month. Shri Puri was about 48 years of age. As he was to retire on 31st August, 1986, he had good chances of being promoted to the next higher grade of 650-30-1250 and he could have expected a further promotion as Deputy Manager in the grade of 1200-50-1600 1200-50-1600 before his retirement. Shri Puri left behind 6 children besides his widow-five sons and a daughter. out of whom four sons & daughter were minors & the only major son was 19 years of age & he was also studying at Amritsar along with his other brothers and sister at the time of Shri Puri's death, as stated by Smt. Sudershan Puri, widow of Shri Om Prakash Puri, who was examined as A.W. 4. Shri Raj Narain drew may attention to the fact that after the death of Shri Puru his widow was employed by the Central Ware hosing Corporation at Amrit-sar as an L.D.C. and she was drawing Rs. 450/- per month in aft, by way of wages and according to the learned Counsel for the Corporation the facts of employment of the widow of Shri Puri after his death, should also be taken into consideration while deciding the question of the amount of damages to be awarded to the claimants.

14. In Bhag Chand Panjuram's case 1974 WLN 36 this Court laid down the basis on which compensation should normally be awarded in such cases. Applying the principles laid down in that case, Shri Puri, who was earning Rs. 1283.60 per month, was expected to spend at least half of his salary ore maintenance of his wife and six children. Thus, the value of the annual dependency should be considered as 640/- x 12:7680/- Considering the fact that Shri Puri would have served' for 10 years more before attaining the age of super-annuation, it would be proper to apply 10 as the multiplier to the annual dependency. Thus, the proper measure of compensation to be awarded should be obtained by capitalising the amount of the annual dependency with the proper multiplier. It should, not be lost sight of that Shri Puri had at the relevant time reasonable prospects of promotion and increased earning in the years to come, as he was employed in a Central Government Undertaking with a well defined ladder of promotion.

15. In Smt. Manjushri Raha and Ors. etc. v. B.L. Gupta and Ors. etc. : [1977]2SCR944 , their Lordships of the Supreme Court took into consideration the the chances of increased earning until the deceased, would have attained the the age of superannuation and also chance of his earning the pensionary benefit, at least for a period of 10 years after his retirement. Thus, the capitalised value of the dependency may be considered as Rs. 76,800/- to which a further sum of Rs. 8200/- may be added on account of pensionary benefits which the deceased might have earned if he would have lived after after superannuation. In any view of the matter, therefore, the claimants are entitled to a sum of Rs. 85,000/- by way of compensation. This figure need not be discounted on account of lump sum payment, looking to the promotion and considerably increased future earnings referred to above and the general depreciation in the purchasing power of money. The meagre amount which the widow, Smt. Sudershan Puri has been able to obtain as wages for the services rendered by her as a clerk can hardly be taken into consideration, while deciding the question of loss caused to the dependents of Shri Puri on account of his untimely death resulting from the accident. Merely because Smt. Sudershan Puri could get a paltry job as a L D.C. is little compensation and could hardly be a considered as a solace to the family which consisted of five sons and a daughter besides Smt. Puri and her earnings in return for work done her cannot be adjusted against the value of the dependency, which amount she and her children would have obtained out of the earnings of Shri Puri, in case the accident would not have taken place.

16. The Tribunal held that a sum of Rs. 36,000/- could be awarded as compensation on the ground that at the most the deceased would have spent Rs. 300/- per month on the maintenance of his wife and children. There is no plausible basis for arrving at such an imaginary figure and it does not stand to reason that a person who was getting Rs. 1280.60 per month by way of emoluments would have only 300/- per month on the maintenance of his wife and six children, who were receiving their education.

17. In Nirmla Sharma and Ors. v. Raja Ram and Anr. 1982 ACJ 143, a learned Judge of the Delhi High Court held that 75% of the yearly earning of an employee should be considered to be the proper value of the dependency. In that case, the deceased was earning Rs. 900/-per month and the learned Judge held that the deceased, after spending 25% of the income on himself might has pending the balance on his family consisting of his wife, three children and a mother and thus, the learned Judge considered 75% of the total yearly earnings of the deceased as the value of the dependency, to which the claimants were entitled on account of the pecuniary loss caused to them, as a result of the bread earner in the unfortunate accident.

18. I would, however, like to point out that a person who was employed in a Central Government Organisation and was earning a sum of Rs. 1280 60 per month, as total emoluments, was expected to save something and he must be either contributing to the Provident Fund or Life Insurance Premium or contributing in the Public Provident Fund or making a saving in any other manner, because as a prudent man he is expected to save something out of his monthly income. It is not expected that a person with such a good earning would have spent all his income every month on the maintenance of himself and his family without making any savings Thus, considering that ?5% might have been spent by Shri Puri on himself and 25% might be considered as representing the amount paid by him on account of income tax etc and also partly representing his savings. Thus, in my view, the value of the dependency could not normally be taken in such cases as exceeding 50% 6f the income of the deceased, as he was expected to spend 50% of his income on the maintenance of his family, consisting of his wife and 6 children.

19. As no bills or accounts have been produced regarding repair of the scooter, the Tribunal was right in not awarding any amount to the claimants on that score. But the Tribunal was in error in awarding Rs. 5,000/- on account of mental distress. I do not think that any amount is payable on that ground. Rs. 5000/- has been awarded by the Tribunal on account of the 1ess of companionship to the family caused by the death of Shri Puri. In view of the facts that a reasonable amount has been awarded on account of the loss to the dependents caused by the death of Shri Puri, a separate amount need not be awarded on account of the loss of companionship.

20. Thus, the claimants who were the dependents of Shri Puri, are entitled to obtain a sum of Rs.85,000/- by way of compensation. The appellants are also entitled to get interest under Section 10 CC, which provides that the Tribunal while allowing a claim petition for compensation may direct that in addition to the amount of compensation, simple interest be paid at such rate and from such date not earlier than the date of making the claim, as it may specify in this behalf. In my view, interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the date when the claim petition was filed i e November 25, 1976 until realisation would meet the ends of justice in this respect.

21. In the result, the award passed by the learned Tribunal dated December 27, 1979 is set aside & an award in the sum of Rs. 85,000/-, together with interest thereon at the rate of 6/- per annum from the date of presentation of the claim petition i e. November 25, 1976 upto the date of realization, is passed in favour of the appellant-claimants against the respondent No. 1 Rajasthan Rajya Path Parivahan Nigam i.e. Rajasthan Stale Road Transport Corporation. The claim against respondent No. 2 Amarsingh is dismissed. The claimant-appellants shall also get their costs of the claim petition as well as of this appeal from the respondent No. 1.


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