Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: By way of an appeal, the appellants had sought an enhancement of the compensation awarded by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Dwarka Courts, New Delhi (‘MAC Tribunal’). The petitioner challenged the order passed by the MAC Tribunal whereby they were awarded compensation amounting to INR 17,49,491/- with an interest of 7.5% per annum, from the date of filing the petition, till realization was made by the Insurance Company (respondent 3). Further a deduction of 20% was also made towards contributory negligence in the awarded amount. The Single Judge Bench of Gaurang Kanth, J. held that failing to take due care while driving and overtaking would amount to rash and negligent driving. Therefore, while agreeing with the MAC Tribunal’s finding, the Court went on to increase the compensation on the ground of future prospects and loss of dependency among others. The total amount payable in terms of compensation was finally set at INR 33 lakhs.

It was the contention of the appellants that the offending vehicle was being driven by respondent 1 which was parked in the middle of the road without any signal or light indicator. The same was vehemently opposed by respondent 3 stating that the accident of the deceased was caused due to the negligence of the deceased as he himself hit the stationary bus from back.

With respect to the income of the deceased, it was the contention of the appellant that the MAC Tribunal had erred in taking the income of the deceased as Rs.1,59,630/- as against the proven Income Tax Return before the MAC Tribunal. He also contended that the MAC Tribunal had wrongly deducted the permissible savings of Rs. 1,00,000/- allowed under Chapter VI A (Section 80 to 80 U) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

The Court perused the evidence of eyewitness/ prosecution witness 2 wherein he had stated that the accident of the deceased was caused due to the rash and negligent parking of respondent 1. Looking at the DTC bus, which was right in the middle of the road, he stated that it was difficult to figure out whether it was moving or stationary. There was no indication or road lighting of any kind on the bus.

The Court was of the view that even though it was to be stated that the accident had occurred due to the irresponsible and negligent parking of the offending vehicle by respondent 1, however, the accident could have been avoided if the deceased would have driven his motorcycle with all due care while crossing the stationary bus.

The Bench while agreeing with the order passed by the MAC Tribunal placing 20% guilt of contributory negligence on the deceased opined that rash and negligent driving does not in every case necessarily mean the excessive speed. Not taking due care while driving the vehicle and in particular overtaking, either stationary or moving vehicle also would amount to rash and negligent driving.

The Court was of the view that the MAC Tribunal had not considered the revised return filed by the advocate appearing on behalf of the deceased which was proven on record and the same ought to have been taken as per the revised return for the assessment year 2012-2013.

The Bench moving forward with the issue of future prospects, relied on National Insurance Company Ltd. v. Pranay Sethi, (2017) 16 SCC 680 which had held that the future prospects were to be awarded on the basis of:

1. nature of the deceased’s employment;

2. age of the deceased.

The Court noted that the age of the deceased was 54 years and was working as a Government Contractor within Delhi and National Capital Region. Relying on Pranay Sethi (supra), the Court stated that while determining the income, an addition of 10% of actual salary to the income of the deceased towards future prospects should be made, where the deceased was self-employed and was between the age of 50 and 60 years.

The Bench noted that the deceased was survived by 7 dependents, however, during the pendency of the proceedings before the MAC Tribunal, the mother of the deceased expired. Hence while calculating the deductions towards the personal expenses, the number of dependents at the time of the death of the deceased was to be considered. Therefore, since the number of dependents were 7, the deductions towards the personal expenses would be 1/5.

The Court further stated that the appellants were entitled to INR 40,575/- against the proven medical bills form Mata Channan Devi Hospital, Janakpuri, New Delhi incurred for the treatment of the deceased.

With the above observation, the Court stated that the compensation was to be increased from INR 17,49,491/- to INR 42,16,747.88/-. However, INR 8,43,349.57/- (20% of the total awarded compensation) was to be deducted towards the contributory negligence. Hence the compensation, after the deduction of contributory negligence would be INR 33,73,398.31/-. Further, it was also made clear that the rate of interest as fixed by the MAC Tribunal, i.e., 7.5% was maintained.

Accordingly, respondent 3 was directed to deposit the enhanced amount with 7.5% interest from the date of filing of the present appeal till the date of deposit within 4 weeks from the date of the Order. Upon deposit of the said amount, the Registry was directed to release the said amount to the appellants in terms of the Award passed by the MAC Tribunal. The statutory deposit with interest accrued thereon, if any, shall be released to the appellants.

[Sushila Devi v Sandeep Kumar (United India Insurance Co. Ltd.), 2023 SCC OnLine Del 1896, decided on 29-03-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case:

For the appellant- Advocate S.N. Parashar;

For the respondent- Advocate Ravi Sabharwal.

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