While observing that just raising the finger of suspicion would not be enough to dislodge the claimants who have lost their only son in the accident, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed an appeal filed by the Insurance Company for setting aside the award passed by the Rupnagar Motor Accident Claims Tribunal whereby the claimants were awarded a compensation of Rs 15.27 lakh on account of the death of a man in a motor vehicular accident.

A Single Judge Bench of Justice Sukhvinder Kaur therefore observed that “If there was some delay by PW2-Kulwant Singh in disclosing the particulars of the offending vehicle to the police, such factor may be relevant during the criminal trial but it cannot be given much weightage in proceedings for determining compensation payable in a petition under Section 166 of the M.V. Act”.

Advocate Vishal Aggarwal appeared for the Appellant, whereas Advocate Jaideep Verma appeared for the Respondent.

In a nutshell, the claimants filed petitions under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 claiming compensation with the averments that in the year 2016, when Rajwinder Singh (since deceased) was coming from his village on his motorcycle, a car being driven by second Respondent in a rash and negligent manner hit the motorcycle. Due to the collision, the claimant sustained multiple grievous head injuries, compound fractures on his body and he died on the way to PGI, Chandigarh. Thereafter, an FIR was registered under Sections 279, 304-A and 427 IPC against the said driver. The Tribunal partly allowed the claim petition and awarded a sum of Rs 15,27,000 as compensation along with interest and the Respondents were held jointly and severally liable to pay the compensation. Hence the present appeal by the Insurance Company.

After considering the evidence, the Bench observed that the income of the deceased which had been assessed as Rs 10,000 per month by the Tribunal was just and reasonable and did not warrant any interference.

As per the Bench, the Tribunal had rightly made a deduction of 50% of his income towards living and personal expenses as it was an admitted fact that the deceased was unmarried.

Besides that, Tribunal has awarded Rs.15,000/- as funeral expenses. But in view of ratio of Pranay Sethi (supra) claimants are also entitled to Rs.15,000/- on account of loss of estate. So the total compensation that is to be granted to the claimants qua death of deceased Rajwinder Singh comes to Rs.15,42,000/- (15,12,000 + 15000 + 15000)”, added the Bench.

Thus, the High Court held that the claimants were entitled to compensation of Rs 15,42,000 along with interest.

The High Court went on to observe that it was only during the police investigation that the identity/ particulars of the offending vehicle were traced by the police and then the charge sheet was filed, and the time and place of the accident have been clearly given in the FIR, as well as in deposition of a prosecution witness.

FIR can be got registered even by a person who may not be an eyewitness of the occurrence and it is only during the investigation of the case that the police traces the culprit/criminal who had committed the crime”, added the Court.

The High Court also observed that conducting an investigation and collecting evidence is not the job of an informant or an eye-witness, and if the investigating agency during the investigation succeeded in tracing the offending vehicle and also its driver, then the investigating agency is not be castigated for the same.

The Bench also noted that there were no detailed pleadings that who were the parties to the collusion and how and in what manner the police was also involved in the connivance.

Thus, concluding that the Tribunal was fully justified in concluding that the offending car was involved in the accident and the accident took place as the offending vehicle was being driven in a rash and negligent manner, the Bench dismissed the present appeal.

Cause Title: IFFCO TOKIO General Insurance Company Ltd v. Ram Singh and Ors. [Neutral Citation No. 2023: PHHC: 078265]

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