New India Assurance
Co. Ltd. Vs. Yogesh Devi & Ors.
[Civil Appeal No.
1987 of 2012 arising out of SLP (Civil) No.17186 of 2009]
J U D G M E N T
Vijender Singh along with two others Bhagwan Das and Manish, was travelling by
a motor cycle on 10-12-2002. The said motor cycle was hit by a truck bearing registration
No. RJ-14G- 1556, resulting in the death of both Vijender Singh and Bhagwan Das.
Respondent No.1 is the wife, Respondents 2 to 5 are the children, Respondent
No.6, we are informed, is the mother of the deceased Vijender Singh. Respondents
1 to 6 herein filed an application against the appellant herein and others for compensation.
The appellant, admittedly, is the insurer of the abovementioned truck. A huge claim
of Rs.1,86,30,000/-, was made towards compensation on the ground that the deceased
Vijender Singh was earning more than Rs.35,000/- per month. The Tribunal, by
its Judgment dated 06-02-2006, awarded an amount of Rs.10,00,000-00 and provided
for appropriate deductions for the amounts, which had already been paid and also
gave necessary directions for safeguarding the interest of the minor children.
the Judgment of the Tribunal it appears that the claimants based their claim on
the facts that the deceased Virender Singh was the owner of three vehicles
(mini buses) and also certain agricultural land. It appears from the record that
no evidence regarding the amount of income derived from the above mentioned properties
is adduced. The only evidence available is the statement of the 1st respondent
that the deceased used to give her an amount of Rs.35,000/- per month. She also
admitted in her cross examination that the deceased was not filing any income tax
returns. Therefore, the Tribunal reached a conclusion that the
The petitioners are
not entitled to any other compensation and they are held entitled to receive
the following amount of compensation:
a/c of loss of dependency from income
loss of consortium to Petitioner No.1
loss of love and affection to petitioner No.2 to 6 @ 5000/- each
Statement of the 1st respondent,
that the deceased was earning more than Rs.35,000/-, cannot be believed. However,
the Tribunal opined as under: "Thus keeping in view the fact of ownership
of two buses and one bus given on contract and the agriculture land it can be said
that the deceased was earning Rs.3900/-per month in the capacity of the driver
of a bus. Keeping in view the remaining buses and agriculture land it will be appropriate
to hold the income of the deceased at Rs.7380/- because in case he would have
earned more than the said amount, he must have filed the income tax return. If
the deceased would remain alive he must have spent 1/3rd upon himself, therefore
it would be appropriate to hold the monthly dependency at Rs.5000/-."
by the said determination of the compensation made by the Tribunal, the
claimants as well as the appellant herein carried the matter in Appeal to the High
Court of Rajasthan. Admittedly, the Appeal preferred by the appellant herein was
dismissed, whereas the Appeal preferred by the claimants (S.B. Civil Misc.
Appeal No.1222 of 2006) was partially allowed modifying the Award of the
Tribunal. The High Court by its Judgment dated 30-01-2009 opined that the deceased
Vijender Singh's income should be taken at Rs.24,000/- per month of which 1/3rd
is treated to be an amount, which the deceased would have spent on himself and the
balance on the claimants. Therefore, the High Court concluded that the claimants
are entitled for a compensation of Rs.30,72,000/-, and directed: "However,
the rest of the award is confirmed. The Insurance Company is directed to pay
the enhanced amount along with an interest @ 6% per annum from the date of the
filing of the claim petition i.e. 24.3.03 till the realization to the claimants
within a period of two months. The learned Tribunal is directed to insure that the
enhanced amount of compensation is paid to the claimants within a period of two
months from the date of receipt of the certified copy of this judgment." Hence,
the present Appeal.
learned counsel for the appellant Sri M.K. Dua argued that the High Court
grossly erred in coming to a conclusion that the income of the deceased should be
determined at Rs.24,000/- per month. Such a determination is without any factual
basis or evidence on record and therefore, contrary to the principle of law laid
down by this Court in a catena of decisions, more particularly, in State of Haryana
& Anr. Vs. Jasbir Kaur & Ors., (2003) 7 SCC 484, and, therefore, the Judgment
under appeal cannot be sustained.
the other hand, it is very strenuously argued by Sri Ashwani Garg, learned
counsel for the claimants, that in view of the fact that there are six
dependents on the deceased, of whom, four are school-going children, who are
required to be educated by the 1st respondent widow, the High Court rightly enhanced
the compensation and the Judgment under Appeal does not call for any interference
by this Court.
Court in Jasbir Kaur case (supra) held that the Tribunal is required to make a just
and reasonable Award determining the compensation to be paid to the dependents
of the victim of a fatal motor vehicle accident. Explaining the concept of just
and 5 reasonable Award in the context of a motor vehicle accident claim, this
Court held as follows: "It has to be kept in view that the Tribunal constituted
under the Act as provided in Section 168 is required to make an award determining
the amount of compensation which is to be in the real sense "damages"
which in turn appears to it to be 'just and reasonable'.
It has to be borne in
mind that compensation for loss of limbs or life can hardly be weighed in
golden scales. But at the same time it has be to be borne in mind that the
compensation is not expected to be a windfall for the victim. Statutory
provisions clearly indicate the compensation must be "just" and it
cannot be a bonanza: not a source of profit; but the same should not be a
pittance. The Courts and Tribunals have a duty to weigh the various factors and
quantify the amount of compensation, which should be just. What would be
"just" compensation is a vexed question.
There can be no golden
rule applicable to all cases for measuring the value of human life or a limb. Measure
of damages cannot be arrived at by precise mathematical calculations. It would depend
upon the particular facts and circumstances, and attending peculiar or special
features, if any. Every method or mode adopted for assessing compensation has to
be considered in the background of "just" compensation which is the pivotal
consideration. Though by use of the expression "which appears to it to be
just" a wide discretion is vested on the Tribunal, the determination has to
be rational, to be done by a judicious approach and not the outcome of whims, wild
guesses and arbitrariness. The expression "just" denotes equitability,
fairness and reasonableness, and non-arbitrary. If it is not so it cannot be just.
(See Helen C. Rebello Vs. Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation,
the above principle in view, we must now examine the correctness of the
conclusion arrived at by the Judgment under Appeal that the income of the deceased
Virender Singh is to be taken at Rs.24,000/- per month. The reasoning of the
High Court in that regard is as follows: " While trying to assess his
income, the learned Tribunal has conclused that as a driver he must have been earning
Rs.3900/- per month and his total income would have been 7500/- per month. However,
considering the fact that Vijendra Singh would have earned Rs.3900/- per month
as a driver, it is difficult to believe that he would have earned merely
Rs.3600/- from the two buses owned by him.
There is no evidence produced
by the respondent No.3 to show that the buses were not being plied. Considering
the lack of transportation buses are plied. Thus, it is difficult to believe that
in the transportation business, owner of two buses would have earned merely
Rs.3600/- per month from two buses. Therefore, the logic of the learned Tribunal
is highly questionable. If the figure of Rs.3900/- has a reasonable assessment of
the salary of a driver, obviously the owner of two buses would have earned more
than Rs.3900/- to the driver of his own bus. Thus, a reasonable assessment would
be that the owner of bus would be earning atleast Rs.10,000/- from each bus. Therefore,
Vijendra Singh's income should be taken as Rs.23,900/- per month or Rs.24,000/-
in the round.
"In other words,
in view of the Tribunal's conclusion that Vijender Singh was earning an amount of
Rs.3900/- in his capacity as the driver of the bus per month, the High Court
reached the conclusion that in his capacity as the owner of three buses, he must
be deriving a much higher income from the buses. We agree with the logic of the
High Court. However, the quantum of such income would depend upon various
factors, such as; whether it is a stage carriage or a contract carriage, the
condition of the bus, its seating capacity, the route on which it is plying,
the cost of maintenance, the taxes to be paid on such business etc. But, the question
is whether the income (either gross or net) derived by the owner of a bus could
legally form the basis for determining the amount of compensation payable to
his dependents, if he happens to die in a motor vehicle accident.
our opinion, such an income cannot form the legal basis for determining the
Jasbir Kaur case (supra), the claim was based on an assertion that the deceased
was an agriculturist earning an amount of Rs.10,000/- per month by cultivating
his land. Dealing with the question, this Court held: "8. xxxxxxxxx. The
land possessed by the deceased still remains with the claimants as his legal heirs.
There is however a possibility that the claimants may be required to engage persons
to look after agriculture. Therefore, the normal rule about the deprivation of
income is not strictly applicable to cases where agricultural income is the
source. Attendant circumstances have to be considered."
to the case on hand, the claim is based on the assertion that the deceased
owned agricultural land apart from the abovementioned three mini-buses. The High
Court rejected the claim insofar as it is based on the income from the land, on
the ground that the income would still continue to accrue to the benefit of the
family. Unfortunately, the High Court failed to see that the same logic would be
applicable even to the income from the abovementioned three buses. The asset
(three mini-buses) would still continue with the family and fetch income.
The only difference, perhaps,
would be that during his life time the deceased was managing the buses, but now,
the claimants may have to engage some competent person to manage the asset,
which, in turn, would require some payment to be made to such a manager. To the
extent of such payment, there would be a depletion in the net income accruing
to the claimants out of the asset.
Therefore, the amount
required for engaging the service of a manager and the salary payable to a driver
- as it is asserted that the deceased himself used to drive one of the three
buses - would be the loss to the claimants. In the normal course the claimants
are expected to adduce evidence as to what would be the quantum of depletion in
the income from the abovementioned asset on account of the abovementioned
factors. Unfortunately, no such evidence was led by the claimants.
the circumstances, the Judgment under Appeal cannot be sustained as the finding
of the High Court that the claimants lost an amount of Rs.16,000/- per month due
to the death of Vijender Singh is neither based on any evidence nor the logic
adopted by the High Court for arriving at such a conclusion is right. In the
normal course, the matter should have been remitted to the Tribunal for further
evidence for ascertaining of the basis upon which the compensation is to be determined.
But having regard to the fact that the accident occurred a decade ago, we do not
propose to remit the matter for further evidence.
High Court opined that the deceased would have contributed an amount of Rs.16,000/-
per month to the dependents, whereas the Tribunal opined that the deceased
would have contributed an amount of Rs.5,000/-. Both the Courts below proceeded
to arrive at the abovementioned amounts on the basis that as a driver of one of
the buses, he was getting a salary of Rs.3,900/- per month. In the
circumstances, making a reasonable conjecture that somebody to be employed for the
purpose of managing the business of the three mini-buses, would certainly demand
a higher salary than a driver, we think it reasonable to notionally fix the
salary of such manager at Rs.10,000/- per month.
The said amount coupled
with the salary of one driver, i.e., Rs.3,900/- would be the loss sustained by the
family from the income arising out of the asset. Computed on the basis of the
said figure and applying the same multiplier of 16 which was applied by both
the courts below, the amount of compensation payable to the claimants would be:
13,900 x 12 x 16 = Rs.26,68,800/-
Judgment under Appeal shall stand modified accordingly and remain unaltered in
all other respects. Appeal stands disposed of.