Supreme Court: Reminding the Courts that the Motor Vehicles Act is in the nature of social welfare legislation and its provisions make it clear that the compensation should be justly determined, the bench of R. Subhash Reddy and Hrishikesh Roy*, JJ has held that a realistic recompense having regard to the realities of life, both in terms of assessment of the extent of disabilities and its impact including the income generating capacity of the claimant.

Brief Facts

On 13.4.2001, appellant suffered serious injuries when the motorcycle, where the appellant was riding pillion, was hit by a car. Both riders were impacted, resulting in severe head injuries to the appellant. He was bedridden, totally immobilized and initially, remained admitted in the hospital for 191 days. The appellant has also suffered severe impairment of cognitive power with hemiparesis and total aphasia and the prognosis for him is 69% permanent disability.

The claimant was 21 years old and was earning around Rs.4,500/- per month from jewellery work when he suffered the accident.

Compensation awarded by Tribunal: Rs.5,74,320/-

Compensation Awarded by Kerala High Court: 14,31,752/


On facts

“The 21 year old’s youthful dreams and future hopes were snuffedout by the serious accident. The young man’s impaired condition has certainly impacted his family members. Their resources and strength are bound to be stressed by the need to provide full time care to the claimant. For the appellant to constantly rely on them for stimulation and support is destined to cause emotional, physical and financial fatigue for all stakeholders.”

The Court noticed that while the permanent disability as certified by the doctors stands at 69%,the same by no means, adequately reflects the travails the impaired claimant will have to face all his life. A person therefore is not only to be compensated for the injury suffered due to the accident but also for the loss suffered on account of the injury and his inability to lead the life he led, prior to the life altering event.

The Court held that in cases wherein the claimant is suffering severe cognitive dysfunction and restricted mobility, the Courts should be mindful of the fact that even though the physical disability is assessed at 69%, the functional disability is 100% in so far as claimant’s loss of earning capacity is concerned.

It hence held,

“… the impact on the earning capacity for the claimant by virtue of his 69% disability must not be measured as a proportionate loss of his earning capacity. The earning life for the appellant is over and as such his income loss has to be quantified as 100%. There is no other way to assess the earning loss since the appellant is incapacitated for life and is confined to home.”

The Court, hence, enhanced the compensation to Rs. 27,67,800 to be paid within six weeks. Any amount paid earlier under these heads, may be adjusted during payment to the appellant.

On ‘just compensation’

The Court emphasized that, in cases like the one at hand, the Tribunal and the Courts must be conscious of the fact that the permanent disability suffered by the individual not only impairs his cognitive abilities and his physical facilities but there are multiple other non-quantifiable implications for the victim.

“The very fact that a healthy person turns into an invalid, being deprived of normal companionship, and incapable of leading a productive life, makes one suffer the loss of self-dignity. Such a Claimant must not be viewed as a modern day Oliver Twist, having to make entreaties as the boy in the orphanage in Charles Dickens’s classic, “Please Sir, I want some more”. The efforts must be to substantially ameliorate the misery of the claimant and recognize his actual needs by accounting for the ground realities. The measures should however be in correct proportion.”

It further noted that the plea of the victim suffering from a cruel twist of fate, when asking for some more, is not extravagant but is for seeking appropriate recompense to negotiate with the unforeseeable and the fortuitous twists is his impaired life.

“Therefore, while the money awarded by Courts can hardly redress the actual sufferings of the injured victim (who is deprived of the normal amenities of life and suffers the unease of being a burden on others), the courts can make a genuine attempt to help restore the self-dignity of such claimant, by awarding ‘just compensation’.”

[Jithendran v. The New India Assurance Co., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 983, decided on 27.10.2021]


For Claimant: Advocate A. Karthik,

For Insurance Company: Advocate JPN Shahi

*Judgment by: Justice Hrishikesh Roy

Know Thy Judge | Justice Hrishikesh Roy

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