Kerala High Court: In an appeal filed by the claimant as well as Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. (Insurer) against award passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (‘MACT’) on 22-11-2012, C. Jayachandran, J. held that the multiplier method for calculating compensation in cases of motor vehicle accidents was not restricted to accidental deaths but also applicable to serious injuries and modified the amount of compensation.
An accident happened on 27-04-2007 after a scooter being driven by the claimant got rammed by a bus driven by one respondent, owned by another respondent and insured by the Insurer company. MACT found the accident to have occurred due to negligent driving and granted compensation of Rs 5,45,548 along with interest of Rs 8% p.a. and the Insurer company was directed to make payment on behalf of the other respondents.
Grounds for Challenge
The Insurer contended through the evidence adduced, the claimant did not suffer any loss of income due to disability caused, and that the MACT erred in granting Rs 1,622,000 as compensation for permanent earning disability, reckoning Rs.1,500/- per month as the diminished salary for a future period of 9 years. The Insurer also challenged the earning disability of 15%, specifically for reckoning the same for a period of 5 years post-retirement. On the other hand, the claimant contended against MACT having seriously erred in applying the split multiplier method, and the percentage of disability was also assailed for not being properly addressed.
Since the instant matter particularly targeted the split multiplier method, the Court referred to National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Pranay Sethi, (2017) 16 SCC 680 which discussed in detail the decisions in Sarla Verma v. DTC, (2009) 6 SCC 121 and Reshma Kumari v. Madan Mohan, (2013) 9 SCC 65. The Court pointed towards Kerala, SRTC v. Susamma Thomas, (1994) 2 SCC 176 and U.P. SRTC v. Trilok Chandra, (1996) 4 SCC 362 considered in Sarla Verma v. DTC, (2009) 6 SCC 121 when the Court observed that “lack of uniformity and consistency in awarding compensation has been a matter of serious concern.” It hinted at the common man’s confusion, perplexity and bewilderment due to different Tribunals calculating compensation differently on same facts.
The Court in Sarla Verma v. DTC, (2009) 6 SCC 121 observed that “Though the evidence may indicate a different percentage of increase, it is necessary to standardize the addition to avoid different yardsticks being applied or different methods of calculation being adopted.”
The Court expressed that “It is true that Sarla Verma (supra), Reshma Kumari (supra) and Pranay Sethi (supra), they are all dealing with death cases. The moot question is whether the dictum as regards the multiplier method laid down in Sarla Verma (supra), approved in Reshma Kumari (supra) and reiterated by the Constitution bench in Pranay Sethi (supra), would undergo any change, if the result of the accident is an injury, instead of a death.”
The Court opined negatively in a definite manner with the words that “The very purpose of adopting the multiplier method in Sarla Verma (supra) is to do away with the considerable variation and inconsistency in assessing compensation and also to bring uniformity and consistency.” The Court further followed the Supreme Court in Sarla Verma (supra) that even if the evidence indicated a different percentage of increase, it was necessary to standardize to avoid applicability of different yardsticks or methods for calculation.
The Court further cites Pranay Sethi (supra) when the Court specifically opined that “following the multiplier method will subserve the cause of justice, avoiding unnecessary contentions before the Tribunals and Courts.”
The Court put forward a question that “If this be the logic for adopting the multiplier method, can any change in the legal position be conceded for the reason that the result of the accident is an injury – especially in cases of serious injuries as available in the present case – instead of a death?” and answered the same negatively with regard to logic and purpose for adopting the multiplier method.
Therefore, the Court said that the Tribunal went wrong in applying the split multiplier method following the decisions in N. Jayasree v. Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Company Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 967 and Usha Kumari and Others v. Reliance General Insurance Company [Civil Appeal No. 3649/2022] wherein, the Court frowned on split multiplier method and reiterated the multiplier method.
The Court rejected the application of multiplier of ‘9’ and ‘5’ to the pre-retirement and post-retirement and held that standard multiplier of ‘14’ was better applicable. The Court further referred to the neurological disability assessed by the Medical Board indicating total permanent neurological disability of 44%, Hemiplegia with 12% disability with disability in walking and climbing heights, visual deficit to an extent of 15% with injury on one of the eyelids, which the Court noticed as a suffering of visual disability.
The Court was cautious of finding anomaly with Tribunal’s finding of 15% functional disability and opined that the Tribunal lost sight of the impact of disability on the claimant’s personal life, specifically for ‘loss of amenities and conveniences in life’. The Court relied on Raj Kumar v. Ajay Kumar, (2011) 1 SCC 343 wherein, the Supreme Court discussed the general principles of compensation in injury cases with categorization of heads under which compensation has to be awarded.
The Court found ‘loss of amenities’ reckoned at Rs 10,000 by the Tribunal to be grossly inadequate noting that neurological disability certified at 45% is permanent disability and Hemiplegia implies paralysis of one side of the body, besides other injuries. The Court modified the sum for ‘loss of amenities’ to Rs 1,00,000 for the loss which the claimant may bear for the rest of his life from the age of 40 and excluded the further compensation of Rs 25,000 for continuing and permanent disability. For compensation of Rs 30,000 under ‘pain and suffering’, the Court pointed towards four fractures and spinal cord contusion besides other injuries on head and eyelid, the Court modified the said amount to Rs 50,000.
For 64 days of hospitalization compensated at Rs 4,000 with a calculation of Rs 200 per day, the Court held the claimant entitled to Rs 12,800 towards ‘extra nourishment’. The Court kept the interest rate as it is and keeping up with the delay of 684 days, restricted interest for enhanced quantum for the given period.
[Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. V. Abdul Khader, 2023 SCC OnLine Ker 5686, decided on 27-07-2023]
Judgment/Order by: Justice C. Jayachandran
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Appellant: Advocate V.P.K. Panicker, Advocate Lal George, Adbocate Preethy R. Nair;
For Respondents: T.R. Sugunan.