Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the 2012 incident wherein two fishermen were killed while fishing off the coast of Kerala after allegedly two Italian Military Naval officials fired at them from a passing ship, the bench of Indira Banerjee and MR Shah*, JJ has closed all the proceedings against the marines in India including criminal proceedings in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.

Criminal proceedings were initiated against the marines after the Kerala police apprehended them and two months after the incident, the Republic of Italy made ex-gratia payment of compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased persons. The vessel, from which the shots were fired, was allowed to sail away, subject to certain terms and conditions along with all 24 crew members, only after the order passed by the Supreme Court in May, 2012. The unfortunate incident had occurred in February, 2012.

Important facts that persuaded the Court to close the proceedings 

  • the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII of UNCLOS has delivered its award dated 21.05.2020 under which the Republic of Italy has agreed to pay the compensation of Rs. Ten crores, over and above the amount of ex-gratia amount already paid
  • the Arbitral Tribunal has also duly recorded Republic of Italy’s commitment that following the award Italy will resume its criminal investigation into the incident of 15.02.2012.

As an aftermath of the Arbitral Tribunal’s award, the Republic of Italy deposited the said amount of Rs. Ten Crores and the State of Kerala as well as the heirs of the deceased fishermen and even the owner of the boat which was damaged agreed to accept the award.

The Court was, hence, of the opinion that

“…the amount of compensation of Rs. Ten Crores over and above the ex-gratia amount of compensation already paid to the heirs of the deceased fishermen offered and deposited by the Republic of Italy, deposited pursuant to award dated 21.05.2020 passed by the Arbitral Tribunal can be said to be a reasonable amount of compensation and can be said to be in the interest of heirs of the deceased, we are of the view that this is a fit case to close all the proceedings in India including criminal proceedings in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.”

It was hence, directed that Rs. Ten Crores now lying with the Supreme Court Registry be transferred to the High Court of Kerala, out of which Rupees Four Crores be paid to the heirs of each deceased and Rs. Two crores be paid to the owner of the boat – St. Antony.

However, the Court clarified that while disbursing the amount of compensation to the heirs of the deceased fishermen, i.e, Rs. Four Crores to the dependents/heirs of each deceased, their interest is also required to be protected so that the amount of compensation paid to them is not frittered away, by investing the amount in the name of the dependents/heirs of each deceased in a Fixed Deposit in a nationalised bank for some time and they will be paid the periodical interest accrued thereon.

The Court, hence, asked the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court to nominate a Judge to pass appropriate order of disbursement/investment of the amount to be paid to the heirs of each deceased (Rupees Four Crores each) so as to protect the interest of the heirs and ensure that the compensation is duly received by the heirs and not diverted/misappropriated. The order of disbursement/investment is to be passed after hearing the heirs of each deceased and appropriate order be passed, protecting the best interest of the heirs of each deceased.

[Massimilano Latorre v. Union of India, SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 20370 OF 2012, decided on 15.06.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice MR Shah

Know Thy Judge | Justice M. R. Shah

For Petitioner(s): Mr. Suhail Dutt, Sr. Adv.

Mr. Diljeet titus, Adv.

Mr. Jagjit Singh Chhabra, AOR

Mr. Ujjwal Sharma, Adv.

Mr. Baljit Singh Kalha, Adv.

Mr. Ninad Laud, Adv.

Mr. Akshat Bhatnagar, Adv.

Ms. Ananyaa Mazumdar, Adv.

Mr. Saksham Maheshwari, Adv.

For Respondent(s): Mr. Tushar Mehta, SG

Mr. Aman Lekhi, ASG

Mr. S.A. Haseeb, Adv.

Mr. Suhashini Sen, Adv.

Mr. Rajat Nair, Adv.

Mr. B. V. Balaram Das, AOR

 Mr. G. Prakash, AOR

Mr. Jishnu M.L., Adv.

Ms. Priyanka Prakash, Adv.

Ms. Beena Prakash, Adv.

 Mr. C. Unnikrishnan, Adv.

Mr. A. Karthik, AOR

Ms. Smrithi Suresh, Adv.

Ms. Sreepriya K., Adv.

Mr. Arsh Khan, Adv.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Dr Kaushal Jayendra Thaker and Ajit Singh, JJ., addressed an interesting question as to whether the tribunal could due to the prolonged litigation re-decide compensation already awarded in an accident claim or it was to confine itself to the objection raised by the owner of the vehicle, which was a liability to pay compensation.

Background

The facts of the instant case were such that the original claimant who was going on his vehicle at 7.45 a.m and was hit by bus bearing No. DL IP 6567 which was being driven by driver rashly and negligently. The injured was rushed to the hospital where he was treated for injuries received due to an accident. On petition being filed for the claim of compensation, summons were issued to the owner of the bus (owner), namely, Manoj Kumar. The insurance company was permitted to contest the petition under Section 170 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. However, due to the non-appearance of the owner, the matter proceeded ex parte and since the insurance of the vehicle was not proved, an award was passed in the favour of the injured on 27-09-2010.

Subsequent Award granted by the Tribunal

Subsequently, during the execution petition, the owner claimed that his vehicle was insured and the insurer would be liable to satisfy the decree. It was further contended by the owner that the summons never reached him, therefore, ex-parte order against him was liable to be set aside in per Order 9, Rule 13 of CPC. Meanwhile, the injured died out of the injuries sustained due to the accident and medical evidence was also filed by his legal representatives (claimant).

The Tribunal permitted owner to produce documents so as to prove that the vehicle was insured and went to decided the matter afresh. The Tribunal on re-appreciation of evidence opined that the deceased died due to kidney failure and disallowed majority of the claim amount under the head of medical expenses on the ground that the documents were not proved and granted paltry sum of Rs. 1,19,000/- as medical expenses as against more than twenty lacs spent by the claimant by the time award dated 27-09-2010 was pronounced. However, regarding the question of liability to pay compensation, the Tribunal had fastened the insurer with the liability.

Earlier, the Tribunal while deciding the claim petition on 27-09-2010, granted medical expenses which came to Rs. 20,84,750, which was rounded up to Rs. 20,16,500/- and loss of five months’ salary for(163 days), which came to Rs. 63,250/- and Rs. 5,000/- for pain shocks and sufferings.

Whether the tribunal was justified in re-deciding the compensation already awarded?

The Tribunal, in subsequent proceedings, went on to hold that the death was due to dialysis which did not had any causal connection with the accident and reduced the compensation on that ground. This finding could not withstand the judicial scrutiny as it was not within the purview of the tribunal to decide how the claimant died while deciding issue relating to negligence and was beyond the purview of the said issue.

It is settled position of law that the award of the Claims Tribunal shall be paid by owner or driver of the vehicle in the accident and they would be indemnified by insurer. The Tribunal committed a mistake rather irregularity by setting aside the award. The Tribunal further committed an error by re-deciding the compensation. The decree could have been set aside in part namely qua issue of liability as it was a award which could be set aside in part there was definitely severable decree. The Bench opined that, one way for the Tribunal to resolve the controversy and avoid prolonged litigation was to direct the owner to pay the compensation and later on have it indemnified by the insurer, or what could have been done was the Tribunal to decide the matter of liability alone rather that re-fixing the compensation as the Tribunal was not even asked to reconsider the question of quantum and interest.

Do personal right of action abate with the death of the person?

Citing the decision in Madhuben Maheshbhai Patel v. Joseph Francis Mewan, 2014 LawSuit (Guj) 2214, the Bench dealt with the issue of applicability of the maxim “actio personalis moritur cum persona”  which translates to on the death of original claimant, personal right of action abates”, The Bench opined that the said maxim could not be imported to defeat the purpose and object of a social welfare legislation like Motor Vehicles Act.

“Once the status of claimants as legal heirs or legal representatives is conceded and acknowledged, to deny benefit of compensation to them on the ground that injury was personal to the claimant, it will be giving a premium to the wrong doer and it would defeat the very purpose and object of beneficial piece legislation.”

Hence, even after death of injured, claim petition does not abate and the right to sue survives to his heirs and legal representatives.

Verdict of the Court

In case of motor accidents, the endeavour is to put the dependents/ claimants in the pre-accidental position. Considering that the injured which was 38 years at the time of the accident,  suffered 40% permanent disability and was in permanent government service earning a sum of Rs. 11500/- per month and that 15 years had already elapsed and 9 years had elapsed after the death of the claimant, the Bench held his medical expenses as granted by the Tribunal in its order dated 27-09-2010 should be maintained entirely. The additional amount of five months’ salary as actual loss to the estate granted by the Tribunal was also maintained.

Further, an award of a lump-sum amount of two lacs of rupees in addition to the compensation as loss to estate and mental harassment to the legal heirs for protracted litigation was also awarded. Since, the injured had passed away, his family was awarded a further sum of two lacs and fifty thousand for loss to estate and additional sum of Rs 50000 for mental trauma and incidental expenses for looking after the deceased after he suffered the injuries. Conclusively, total compensation for a sum of Rs.24,00,000 was granted to the claimant which was to be paid by the insured. As far as issue of rate of interest was concerned, it was held to be 7.5% in view of the latest decision of the Supreme Court in National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Mannat Johat, 2019 (2) T.A.C.705 (S.C.) from the date of the filing of the claim petition till the date of actual deposit.[Satish Chand Sharma v. Manoj Kumar, FAFO No. 3160 of 2018, decided on 26-03-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported the brief.


Appearance before the Court by:

Counsel for Appellant: Abhishek, Umesh Kumar Singh
Counsel for Respondent: Nishant Mehrotra

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Dr Kaushal Jayendra Thaker and Ajit Singh, JJ., allowed the appeal of the claimants in a motor vehicle accident claim while dismissing the appeal of the insurance company.

Claimants and Insurance Company on being aggrieved by the award and decree passed by Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, filed the present appeal.

Claimants were the legal heirs namely widow and parents of the deceased who died in the vehicular accident.

Deceased was earning Rs 25,00,000 and claimants claimed a sum of Rs 3,40,50,000.

Respondent’s truck was being driven by Afzal Sekh and was insured with National Insurance Company Limited who had been saddled with the liability to make good the amount of compensation.

Due to the truck rash and negligent driving the motorcycle of the deceased was dashed by the truck.

Insurance Company challenged the award on the grounds that the deceased was a contributor to the accident having taken place, that income considered by the Tribunal was on the higher side and the same would not have been made the basis of compensation.

Claimants felt aggrieved as the tribunal did not consider the amount for future loss of income and did not even grant proper interest. Tribunal also erred in directing 2/3rd of the compensation to be paid to the parents and 1/3rd to the widow.

What is Negligence?

Negligence means failure to exercise care towards others which a reasonable and prudent person would in a circumstance or taking action which such a reasonable person would not. Negligence can be both intentional or accidental which is normally accidental.

More particularly, it connotes reckless driving and the injured must always prove that the either side is negligent. If the injury rather death is caused by something owned or controlled by the negligent party then he is directly liable otherwise the principle of “res ipsa loquitur” meaning thereby “the things speak for itself” would apply.

Contributory Negligence

It means that a person who either contributes or author of the accident would be liable for his contribution to the accident having taken place.

In the present set of facts and circumstances, Bench while referring to the recent decision of the Supreme Court in Md. Siddiqui v. National Insurance Co. Ltd (2020) 3 SCC 57 would come to the aid of the claimants as there was no colossal connection of the deceased having contributed to the accident.

What is Liability?

Liability of the Insurance Company.

While considering the issue of breach of policy condition under Section 149 of the Act Bench relied to elaborately sift the documentary evidence on record and whether the owner had taken proper care and caution to see that the driver was authorised to drive the vehicle or not.

High Court opined that the Insurance Company’s contention that the driver was not holding valid and effective driving licence could not be accepted.

While considering the case of the Insurance Company, can it be said that the driver did not have valid driving licence? This question has to be answered in favour of the claimants and owner.

Owner of the vehicle was satisfied, and it was proved that he had taken all care and caution that vehicle was being driven by a person who was authorised to drive the same which was even apparent from the fact that the owner had gone to the extent of producing evidence so as to bring home the fact that there was no breach of policy condition.

Hence, it was held that no breach of policy conditions was committed.

Compensation

It was submitted that the tribunal did not grant the proper amount under the head of non-pecuniary damages to the widow who became a widow at the age of 24 and who was not re-married.

Even the Insurance Company felt aggrieved and challenged the compensation.

Supreme Court held that in the case of motor accident compensation, guess work is inevitable.

Compensation payable to the appellants in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in National Insurance Company Ltd. v. Pranay Sethi, (2017) 16 SCC 680

With respect to the issue of rate of interest, it should be 7.5% in view of the Supreme Court decision in National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Mannat Johat, 2019 (2) T.A.C 705 (S.C.)

Disbursement and Tax at Source

Claimants Counsel Ram Singh submitted that several years elapsed, parents are at the fag end of their lives, therefore, on additional deposit being made, this Court may not direct deposit of said amounts in fixed deposits and though this Court had time and gain directed the Insurance Companies not to deduct TDS, the same was being deducted.

Bench relied on the Supreme Court decision in A.V. Padma v. R. Venugopal, (2012) 3 SCC 378.

Further, Court stated that people even rustic villagers’ have bank account which had to be compulsorily linked with Aadhar, therefore, what is the purpose of keeping money in fixed deposits in banks where a person, who suffered injuries or lost his kith and kin, was not able to see the colour of compensation.

“..time is now ripe for setting fresh guidelines as far as the disbursements are concerned.”

Court expressed that the guidelines in General Manager, Kerala, SRTC, Trivandrum v. Susamma Thomas, (1994) 2 SCC 176, are being blindly followed causing more trouble these days to the claimants as the Tribunals are overburdened with the matters for each time if they require some money, they have to move the tribunal where matters would remain pending and the tribunal on its free will, as if money belonged to them, would reject the applications for disbursements, which is happening in most of the cases.

The parties for their money have to come to court more particularly up to High Court, which is a reason for our pain.

In High Court’s opinion, Tribunal may release the money with certain stipulations and that guidelines have to be followed but not rigidly followed as precedents.

Further, it was added that while sitting in Single Bench of this Court, Dr Justice Kaushal Jayendra Thaker held that the Insurance Company should not deduct any amount under T.D.S in the case of Sudesna v. Hari Singh, F.A.F.O. No.23 of 2001, decided on 26.11.2020, which should be strictly adhered to.

Hence, appeals by claimants were partly allowed and the appeal preferred by the Insurance Company was dismissed.

Respondents shall jointly and severally liable to pay the additional amount with an interest at the rate of 7.5%

Court directed that on deposit of amount, Tribunal shall disburse the entire amount by way of account payee cheque or by way of RTGS to the account of the claimants. [National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Anuradha Kejriwal, 2021 SCC OnLine All 269, decided on 13-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Counsel for Appellant: Kuldip Shanker Amist, Manoj Nigam

Counsel for Respondent: Manoj Nigam, Amit Kumar Sinha, Deepali Srivastava Sinha, Mata Pher, Ram Singh

Hot Off The PressNews

The persistence of the National Human Rights Commission, India in a case of food poisoning of 15 children in a government school in Maliguda, Odisha, resulted in the payment of Rs. 8 lakh. Out of which Rs. 50,000 each has been paid to the 14 students who fell sick and Rs. 1 lakh to the mother of boy who succumbed to his illness.

For negligence, 2 teachers were put under suspension and departmental proceedings initiated against them. The complaint was received about the incident on 20th January 2018.

Notice by NHRC 

Earlier, in response to the notices of the Commission, the reports from the State Govt. revealed that an ex-gratia of Rs.2 Lakhs was already sanctioned by the Collector for the payment to the NoK of the victim. Punitive action was initiated against the 2 teachers for negligence.

Show Cause Notice

Subsequently, the Commission issued a show-cause notice to the Chief Secretary, Govt. of Odisha why a sum of Rs.1 Lakh be not recommended to be paid u/s 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act to the Next of kin of the deceased student in addition to the ex-gratia of Rs.2 Lakhs already sanctioned by the Collector.

Compensation

Pursuant to the directions of the Commission, the Govt. of Odisha submitted the compliance report along with proof of payment, wherein it has been stated that Rs. 1 lakh has been paid to the mother of the deceased boy and Rs. 50,000/- each to other 14 students.


National Human Rights Commission

[Dt. 09-04-2021]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Coram of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson and Justice Sudhir Agarwal, Justice Brijesh Sethi, Judicial Members and Dr Nagin Nanda, Expert Member, addressed an application with regard to illegal mechanical sand mining.

Question for consideration

Remedial action against illegal mechanical sand mining on the river bed of River Yamuna and construction of a temporary bridge with hume pipes at Shamli, Uttar Pradesh.

Earlier, Tribunal in light of the Joint Committee’s report had considered the above-stated issue and had directed remedial action against which the entity carrying on mining approached the Supreme Court by way of appeal. Though Supreme Court had dismissed the said appeal.

Vide an Order dated 28-11-2019, Tribunal noted the remedial action taken by way of levy of compensation and revocation of Environmental Clearance was inadequate.

Vide an Order dated 29-10-2020, compensation for damage to the environment had to be in the light of the cost of restoration with deterrent element and having regard to the financial capacity of the violator. This aspect does not seem to have been considered.

Further, the Bench stated that State PCB and District Magistrate may take further appropriate action. Compensation was recovered for only 48 days, though illegal mining was found for about 5 years, as per the report.

Tribunal noted the legal position with regard to the payment of compensation on polluter pays principle. Compensation is equal to loss caused or suffered.

In Supreme Court’s decision of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (1987) 1 SCC 395 it was laid down that the person undertaking hazardous activity was liable for damage caused irrespective of negligence. Compensation has to have relation with the financial worth of the violator so as to be a deterrent.

With regard to compensation for illegal mining, Tribunal dealt with the matter in a recent order dated 26-02-2021 in NGT Bar Association v. Virender Singh (State of Gujarat), OA No. 360 of 2015.

Moving forward, Bench in view of the facts and circumstances of the case expressed that the issue of compensation may be revisited by the joint committee of State PCB and District Magistrate.

Application was disposed of in view of the above-stated reasons. [Sandeep Kharb v. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change; OA No. 150 of 2019, decided on 07-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Applicant: Mr. Pradeep Dahiya, Advocate for Applicant

Respondent(s): Mr. Amit Tiwari, Advocate for State of UP

Mr. Pradeep Misra, Advocate for UPPCB

Mr. Sanjeev Ralli, Senior Advocate with Mr. Saurabh Rajpal, Advocate. For M/s M.M Traders

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: The Division Bench of Sanjib Banerjee, CJ and Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, J., addressed an issue wherein the association of fishermen sought compensation and jobs for the family of deceased fishermen who were recently killed by an attack apparently at the hands of the Sri Lankan navy. 

“There should be no duplication of job opportunities, but the appropriate departments of the State and the Centre may coordinate and provide adequate compensation in the wake of the untimely deaths of the four fishermen.”

Background

The association of fishermen sought to espouse the cause of the four local fishermen who were recently killed by an attack at the hand of the Sri Lankan Navy for allegedly straying beyond the territorial waters of India.

The two aspects involved in the present matter are as follows:

  • Compensation and Jobs for the family of the deceased fishermen
  • Appropriate Police Station to conduct the investigation into the deaths of the four fishermen.

With regard to the jobs to legal heirs and compensation demanded, the petitioner shall approach the Department of Fisheries of the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and Department of the Animal Husbandry and Fisheries under the State Government.

Bench stated that the State and Central Government may coordinate and provide adequate compensation in the wake of the untimely deaths of the 4 fishermen.

Investigation

The Centre and the State should coordinate to specify a particular authority, in accordance with law, that would head the investigation and bring the matter to a logical end by giving a due closure so that the families of the deceased fishermen are aware of the circumstances in which the four died.

High Court in view of the above disposed of the present petition.[Fisherman Care v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 1291, decided on 22-03-2021]


For Petitioner: Mr L.P.Maurya

For Respondents: Mr S.Janarthanam CGSC for respondent Nos. 1 to 4

: Mr V.Jayaprakash Narayanan State Government Pleader for respondent No.5

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of Alok Aradhe and Nataraj Rangaswamy, JJ., disposed of the appeal after modifying the compensation.

The facts of the case are such that the deceased Sanjeev M Patil was crossing the road as a pedestrian at 6:00 am in morning when a bus being driven in a rash and negligent manner by its driver dashed against the deceased as a result the deceased received grievous injuries and succumbed to the same. The claimants filed a petition seeking compensation which was thereby granted keeping in mind his young age and monthly income. Aggrieved by the same, the present appeal was filed.

Counsel for appellants submitted that the Tribunal has erred in its judgment and the accident took place 75 meters from the toll booth and that the deceased suddenly tried to cross the road without observing the vehicles approaching the toll counter. It was also submitted that there is a gross error in assessing the monthly income and compensation is excessive.

Counsel for the respondents submitted that as per an independent eye witness it is clear that the accident happened due to the rash and negligent driving of the bus by the driver and the monthly income calculated is correct as the deceased was a permanent employee and infact sums awarded under the heads “loss of consortium” and “loss of love and affection” are on the lower side and deserves to be enhanced suitably.

The Court relied on judgment Mangala Ram v. Oriental Insurance Co., (2018) 5 SCC 656 and observed that the proceeding under the Act has to be decided on the basis of preponderance of probabilities and the claimant is not required to prove the accident beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court thus held that “he Tribunal on meticulous appreciation of the evidence on record as well as on the basis of preponderance of probabilities has rightly held that the accident occurred on account of the negligence of the driver of the KSRTC bus.”

On the question of amount of compensation the Court held that after perusing the salary slip and income tax return statements and keeping in mind the future aspects the compensation was modified.

In view of the above, appeal was disposed off.[Gowri S. Patil v. Divisional Controller, 2021 SCC OnLine Kar 447, decided on 04-02-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Taking note of an important legal question raised by the High Court of Kerala while hearing a Motor Vehicle Accident claim case, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has agreed to decide the following question:

“Whether in the matter of awarding costs, the procedure and rules framed under the Constitution, CPC and the Rules made thereunder, for `Courts’, could be resorted to by the Claims Tribunal which is apparently, not a `Court.”

The petitioner in the Special Leave petition, challenged the Kerala High Court’s judgment whereby the High Court upheld the compensation granted by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Kottayam in favour of the injured respondent. It was argued that

“the Tribunal does not possess any authority to award any costs as incidental to its power over the parties or the subject matter of the litigation, and the Tribunal being constituted under a special enactment is to be governed solely by the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.”

The Court, hence, allowed the special leave petition to the limited extent of examining the legal issue raised by the petitioner.

Advocate N.Vijayaraghavan will be assisting the Court as  amicus curiae.

[ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company v. MD Davasia,  2021 SCC OnLine SC 79, order dated 11.02.2021]


Appearance before the Court by

For Petitioner:  Rana Mukherjee, Sr.Adv., Nagesh, Adv., Daisy Hannah, Adv. and Shekhar Kumar, AOR.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of S. Sujatha and Sachin Shankar Magadum JJ., allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned judgment.

The facts of the case are such that the deceased, Chandrashekhar along with Kumar and other inmates were proceeding in a Maruthi Van from Kanipakam to Thimmasanapalli during which the deceased who was driving the vehicle lost control over the vehicle and met with an accident due to which Chandrashekhar and the inmate both died on the spot. The claimants filed a claim petition contending that the deceased was 27 years old and drawing salary as a Supervisor of around Rs 2,00,000 per annum. The Tribunal restricted the income of the deceased at Rs 40,000 and dismissed the claim petition as Chandrashekhar was a tort-feasor and hence the claimants are not entitled to compensation. Being aggrieved by the same, the claimants have preferred the instant appeal.

Counsel for the appellants submitted that the Tribunal has erred in observing that the deceased was a tort feasor and the accident is due to his negligence and rash driving. It was further submitted that there is no limit that the income should not exceed more than Rs 40,000 per year and the schedule is only a guidance to arrive at a multiplier as per Section 163-A of Motor Vehicle Act. It was also submitted that the Tribunal has inherent power to grant compensation by applying current provision of law and also that under Section 163-A the claimants need not prove the rash and negligent act of the driver.

The Court relied on judgment Ningamma v. United India Insurance Company, (2009) 13 SCC 710 and observed that absence of any specific claim under Section 166 MV Act in pleadings would not be an impediment for the Tribunal to examine the claimant’s rights under Section 166 MV Act. The claimants could not be deprived of getting just compensation in the cases where the claimants can make out a case under Section 166 MV Act.

The Court thus held that the claimants in the instant case have filed a claim petition contending that the deceased gad an annual income of Rs 2,10,000 per annum. Since the income of the deceased per annum exceeds the prescribed slab under Section 163 A of MV Act hence the matter was directed to be remanded back to the Tribunal for fresh consideration.

In view of the above, appeal was allowed.[Narayamaswamy v. Venkatesh. B, 2021 SCC OnLine Kar 202, decided on 01-02-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of C. T. Ravikumar and K. Haripal, JJ., partly allowed the instant petition filed under Section 37 of Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.

The grievances of the appellant were that, 0.0336 hectares of land owned and possessed by him was acquired by the Nation Highway Authority (NHA) for the purpose of developing National Highway-47. The Special Land Acquisition Officer had fixed the compensation at the rate of Rs 2,14,000 per Are, thereby the appellant was awarded total compensation of Rs 7,19,040. Aggrieved by the same, the appellant filed an arbitration petition under Section 3(c) (5) of the National Highways Act seeking enhancement of compensation.

The District Collector being the Arbitrator, enhanced the land value to Rs 5,88,000 per Are, i.e. at Rs 2,38,057 per cent. The Arbitrator, after considering the report of the District level Arbitral Committee appointed under Section 27(1)(a) of the Act, enhanced the compensation and fixed it at Rs 12,56,640.

The appellant again challenged the award before the District Court. The Court, while observing the constraints under Section 34 of the Act, stated that,

An award of the Arbitrator could be challenged only on the grounds enumerated in Section 34 of the Act and it could not be set aside merely on the ground that compensation awarded was insufficient.

The Bench though concurred with the findings of lower Court, observed that in arbitral award no amount was paid towards solatium or interest thereon. Reliance was placed by the Court on the judgment of Supreme Court in Union of India v. Tarsem Singh, (2019) 9 SCC 304, wherein, the Court had declared that the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act relating to solatium and interest contained in Section 23(1A) and (2) and interest payable in terms of proviso to Section 28 would apply to acquisitions made under the National Highways Act and had held Section 3J of the National Highways Act violative of Article 14 of the Constitution and declared it unconstitutional.

Thus, the Court while relying on Tarsem Singh case said that the verdict of Supreme Court in the said case had become the law of the land under Article 141 of the Constitution. Therefore, even in the absence of specific plea or proof, the appellant would be entitled to get solatium and interest on solatium as provided in Section 23(1A) and (2) and interest in terms of proviso to Section 28 of the Land Acquisition Act. [V.M. Mathew v. National Highway Authority of India,  2021 SCC OnLine Ker 387, decided on 25-01-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: J.R. Midha, J., while addressing a motor accidents claim application decided on the issue whether it would be fair to deny compensation for loss of dependency to a parent, who may not be dependent on his/her child at the time of accident per se but would become dependent at his/her later age?

In the instant application, the appellants challenged the award of the Claims Tribunal and sought enhancement of the award amount.

The deceased was aged 23 years at the time of the accident and was survived by his parents who claimed compensation. Deceased was self-employed as a Contractor earning Rs 55,000 to Rs 60,000 per month.

Claims Tribunal held that since the deceased’s father was working with the Delhi Police as Sub-Inspector, hence was not dependent upon the deceased. Also, the deceased’s mother could not be said to be dependent upon the deceased as her husband was employed with the Delhi Police.

Therefore the Claim Tribunal had concluded that the deceased’s parents were not entitled to compensation for loss of dependency but only to compensation for loss of the estate in terms of the principles laid down in Keith Rowe v. Prashant Sagar, 2011 ACJ 1734.

Analysis, Decision and Law

  • Whether the mother of the deceased is entitled to compensation for the death of her son?

Court opined that the parents of the deceased were considered in law as dependent on their children, considering that the children are bound to support their parents in their old age, when the parents would be unable to maintain themselves and the law imposes a responsibility on the children to maintain their parents.

Further, the Bench added that

Even if the parents are not dependent on their children at the time of the accident, they will certainly be dependent, both financially and emotionally, upon their children at the later stage of their life, as the children were dependent upon their parents in their initial years.

With regard to loss of dependency, the Court held that it would be unfair as well as inequitable to deny compensation for loss of dependency to a parent, who may not be dependent on his/her child at the time of accident per se but would become dependent at his/her later age.

Following are legislations that recognize the legal rights of parents to be maintained by their children:

♦ Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

♦ Section 20 of Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, and Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007

Bench referred to the following decisions:

Vijaya Manohar Arbat v. Kashirao Rajaram Sawai, (1987) 2 SCC 278.

In Magma General Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Nanu Ram, (2018) 18 SCC 130 Supreme Court had reaffirmed the with respect to the rights of parents to compensation in case of accidental death of a child.

Mahendrakumar Ramrao Gaikwad v. Gulabbai Ramrao Gaikwad, 2001 CriLJ 2111

In Sarla Verma v. D.T.C., (2009) 6 SCC 121, the Supreme Court held that the mother of the deceased bachelor is entitled to compensation by taking 50% of his income as loss of dependency on the premise that the deceased would not contribute more than 50% to his mother after marriage. The Supreme Court further observed that the mother would be considered as a dependent even if the father was employed and earning.

In light of the above decisions, the High Court held that the parents of the deceased child are considered as dependents for computation of compensation. Further, the Bench also highlighted that the principles relating to the loss to the estate shall apply only to claimants other than parents, children and spouse.

Hence, the deceased’s mother in the instant case is entitled to compensation for loss of dependency.

Compensation

Taking the income of the deceased as Rs 4,131 per month, adding 40% towards future prospects, deducting 50% towards personal expenses and applying the multiplier of 18, the loss of dependency is computed as Rs 6,24,607.20.

Court directed the appellant 1 to remain present in Court before the next date of hearing along with the passbook of her savings bank account near the place of her residence as well as PAN card and Aadhaar card.

Appellant 1 shall produce the original passbook of her individual savings bank account with the necessary endorsement on the next date of hearing. However, the bank concerned shall permit appellant 1 to withdraw money from her savings bank account by means of a withdrawal form.

While concluding in light of the above-stated, Court asked for the copy of this Judgment to be sent to Delhi Judicial Academy to sensitize the Claims Tribunals about the principles laid down by this Court in the present Judgment. [Indrawati v. Ranbir Singh, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 114, decided on 08-01-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

For the Appellants: Santosh Kumar Chauriha, Advocate

For the Respondents: Atul Nigam, Advocate along with Anubhav Tyagi and Randhir Kumar, Advocates for R-3

Case BriefsDistrict Court

State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, Odisha (SCDRC): Dr D.P. Choudhury (President) modified the compensation amount awarded to a Law Student in light of being subjected to ‘Deficiency of Service’ and ‘Unfair Trade by ‘Amazon’.

The instant appeal was filed under Section 15 of the erstwhile Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Factual Matrix

While the appellant was in his first year of law school, the OP had floated an offer for sale of a Laptop without Laptop Bag for Rs 190 against the price of Rs 23,499.

OP had confirmed for placing of the order and two hours after receiving the confirmation, the appellant received a phone call from the OP’s Customer Care Service Department stating that the subject order stood cancelled due to the price recession issue.

Since the complainant was in need of a laptop to prepare his project, he raised an objection for such cancellation.

On not receiving any response from the OP, complainant issued a legal notice.

Deficiency in Service

Appellant had to purchase another laptop but suffered from mental agony for such cancellation, hence filed a complaint alleging the deficiency in service and unfair trade practice.

Complainant claimed compensation of Rs 50,000 and Rs. 10,000 towards litigation cost.

District Forum had allowed the complaint partly by directing the OP to pay compensation of Rs 10,000 for mental agony and to pay Rs 2,000 towards the cost of litigation.

Hence, the aforesaid impugned order was challenged by the complainant/appellant stating that the District Forum committed error in law by not deciding to direct to pay Rs 50,000 as compensation.

Analysis, Decision and Law

Bench observed that “When there is an advertisement made for offer placed by the OP and made the offer as per the material available on record and complainant placed the order and same got confirmed, the agreement is complete.”

Another aspect to be noted was that, when the OP had allowed Rockery Marketing at his platform as per written version, the responsibility of the OP could not be lost sight of.

Since there was a breach of contract by OP, OP is held to be liable to pay the damages.

Commission agreed with District Forum’s observation that OP not only negligent in providing service but was also involved in unfair trade practice.

Taking all the factors discussed above for consideration, Bench concluded that compensation awarded should be of Rs 30,000 for unfair trade practice and punitive damages of Rs 10,000. Further, with regard to the cost of litigation Rs 5000 needs to be awarded.

On failing to make the above payments to the complainant within 30 days, the said amounts will carry interest at the rate of 12% per annum.

In view of the above, the appeal was disposed of. [Supriyo Ranjan Mahapatra v. Amazon Development Centre India (P) Ltd., First Appeal No. 492 of 2018, decided on 11-01-2021]


Read More:

District Consumer Forum directs ‘Amazon’ to pay compensation for “deficiency in services”

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: Ashok S. Kinagi J., allowed the appeal and applied the pay and recover principle fastening the liability on the owner to pay the compensation.

The facts of the case are such that the claimant was sitting in the backside of the auto-rickshaw, the driver was driving rashly and negligently without following traffic rules and regulations and dashed the same to a motorcycle which was going in front of auto-rickshaw because of which the auto turned turtle and the claimant sustained grievous injuries in the said accident. Thus, a claim petition was filed before the Tribunal for compensation which was thereby granted by holding that the respondents are jointly and severally liable to pay it. Being aggrieved by the same, the present appeal was filed.

Counsel for the appellants submitted that the tribunal has committed an error in fastening the liability on the insurer as the vehicle was plying outside the permitted limit and hence the insurance is not liable to pay compensation.

Counsel for the respondents supported the impugned judgment and award.

The Court relied on judgment Shamanna and Divisional Manager, Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., 2018 ACJ 2163 and observed that when there is a breach of policy conditions and the policy is in force as on the date of the accident, it is for the insurance company to pay the compensation amount and recover the same from the owner.

The Court thus held that the permit disclosed that offending vehicle was permitted to ply within 16 km from Savdatti but in fact, the accident has occurred outside the limit of Savadatti i.e., outside of 16 km from the permit limit. It was further observed that on the date of the accident the insurance policy was in force but at the time of the accident, the vehicle did not have permit at the accident spot. Thus there is a clear violation of policy conditions.

In view of the above, the appeal was allowed in part directing the insurer to pay the compensation amount and recover the same from the owner.[Divisional Manager v. Riyaz Ahmed, M.F.A. No. 100275/2015 (MV), decided on 06-02-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of C.T. Ravikumar and K. Haripal, JJ., partially allowed the instant appeal challenging the correctness of the orders of the District Judge whereby the District Judge had declined to interfere with the arbitral award.

Properties of the appellants were acquired by the National Highway Authority for the purpose of widening the Valayar-Vadakkanchery sector of NH 47 under a common notification and compensation was awarded by the Special Land Acquisition Officer. Special Land Acquisition Officer had granted a total compensation of Rs 2,65,252 to appellant 1 on the basis of comparable sales method while compensation of Rs 3,37,337 was awarded to the appellant 2. Being dissatisfied with quantum of compensation, the appellants invoked the arbitration clause. The arbitrator granted an additional compensation of Rs 1,04,449 as an enhancement, besides 9% interest on the enhanced amount from the date of dispossession to appellant 1 and an enhancement of Rs 1,67,215 and 9% interest on the additional compensation was granted to appellant 2. On being aggrieved by the order of the arbitrator, the appellants moved the District Court under Section 34 of the Arbitration Act. Later on, the instant appeal was filed against the order of District Judge.

The appellants contended that, the claims made were not properly considered by the Special Land Acquisition Officer and the Arbitrator, therefore, in order to prove the prevailing market value of the land and for quantifying the other damage suffered by them, they might be afforded one more opportunity and the matters might be remanded, enabling them to adduce further evidence.  The appellants argued that they had not been granted solatium and interest on solatium, which they were entitled to as per the decision in Paul Mani v. Special Deputy Collector and Competent Authority, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 2700.

The Court observed, the argument of appellants that the claims were not considered by the authorities properly was factually incorrect as it was obvious from the orders passed by the Arbitrator, that even in the absence of the appellants producing supporting documents or proof, the Arbitrator had taken into consideration post-notification developments while granting enhancement in land value as well as the value of structures. As mentioned earlier, the Arbitrator had granted enhancement in compensation under all possible heads, making good the loss sustained by the appellants. The Court said, “It is the settled proposition of law that matters cannot be remanded back to the authority below in order to decide any question of fact which was not properly pleaded and no evidence was let in by the parties in support of the claim.” While reiterating settled proposition of law the Court said, having regard to the scope and ambit of Section 34 of the Arbitration Act that Court’s power is merely supervisory in nature and the Court cannot act as though exercising the appellate jurisdiction. The Court also expressed that, no power had been invested by the Parliament in the Court to remand the matter to the arbitral tribunal. Therefore, the demand for remitting the case back to the arbitrator was denied. On the contention of non-payment of solatium, the court relied on Union of India and Another v. Tarsem Singh, (2019) 9 SCC 304, wherein the Supreme Court had held, the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act 1894, relating to solatium and interest contained in Section 23(1A) and (2) and interest payable in terms of the proviso to Section 28 will apply to acquisitions made under the National Highways Act.

In view of the above, it was held that even in the absence of specific plea or proof, the appellants were entitled to claim solatium and interest on solatium under Section 23(1A) and (2) and interest in terms of the proviso to Section 28 of the Land Acquisition Act and the respondents were directed to quantify the amounts of solatium accordingly. [Eliyamma v. Deputy Collector, 2021 SCC OnLine Ker 80, decided on 07-01-2021]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana*, SA Nazeer and Surya Kant*, JJ increased the total motor accident compensation of Rs 22 lakhs awarded by the Delhi High Court to Rs 33.20 lakhs after a motor vehicle accident claimed the lives of a man and his pregnant wife, leaving behind his parents and 2 children aged merely 3 and 4, Justice NV Ramana took the liberty to write a concurring opinion with respect to the issue of calculation of notional income for homemakers and the grant of future prospect with respect to them, for the purposes of grant of compensation.

Below are certain facts and figures highlighted by Justice Ramana in his judgment:

 In India, according to the 2011 Census, nearly 159.85 million women stated that “household work” was their main occupation, as compared to only 5.79 million men.

As per the Report of the National Statistical Office of the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, Government of India called “Time Use in India 2019”, reflects that, on an average, women spend nearly 299 minutes a day on unpaid domestic services for household members versus 97 minutes spent by men on average.

In a day, women on average spend 134 minutes on unpaid caregiving services for household members as compared to the 76 minutes spent by men on average.

The total time spent on these activities per day makes the picture in India even more clear-

“ women on average spent 16.9 and 2.6 percent of their day on unpaid domestic services and unpaid caregiving services for household members respectively, while men spent 1.7 and 0.8 percent.”

Need for fixing notional income for a homemaker

Ramana, J noticed that the sheer amount of time and effort that is dedicated to household work by individuals, who are more likely to be women than men, is not surprising when one considers the plethora of activities a housemaker undertakes. However, the conception that housemakers do not “work” or that they do not add economic value to the household is a problematic idea that has persisted for many years and must be overcome.

Therefore, the issue of fixing notional income for a homemaker, therefore, serves extremely important functions.

“It is a recognition of the multitude of women who are engaged in this activity, whether by choice or as a result of social/cultural norms. It signals to society at large that the law and the Courts of the land believe in the value of the labour, services and sacrifices of homemakers. It is an acceptance of the idea that these activities contribute in a very real way to the economic condition of the family, and the economy of the nation, regardless of the fact that it may have been traditionally excluded from economic analyses. It is a reflection of changing attitudes and mindsets and of our international law obligations. And, most importantly, it is a step towards the constitutional vision of social equality and ensuring dignity of life to all individuals.”

Rationale behind the awarding of future prospects

It was noticed by Ramana, J that the rationale behind the awarding of future prospects is no longer merely about the type of profession, whether permanent or otherwise, although the percentage awarded is still dependent on the same. The awarding of future prospects is now a part of the duty of the Court to grant just compensation, taking into account the realities of life, particularly of inflation, the quest of individuals to better their circumstances and those of their loved ones, rising wage rates and the impact of experience on the quality of work.

Notional income for earning victims i.e. where the victim is proved to be employed but claimants are unable to prove the income before the Court

Once the victim has been proved to be employed at some venture, the necessary corollary is that they would be earning an income. No rational distinction can be drawn with respect to the granting of future prospects merely on the basis that their income was not proved, particularly when the Court has determined their notional income.

Notional income for non-earning victims

The principle of awarding of future prospects must apply with equal vigor, particularly with respect to homemakers. Once notional income is determined, the effects of inflation would equally apply.

“No one would ever say that the improvements in skills that come with experience do not take place in the domain of work within the household.”

Summary of observations

  1. Grant of compensation, on a pecuniary basis, with respect to a homemaker, is a settled proposition of law.
  2. Taking into account the gendered nature of housework, with an overwhelming percentage of women being engaged in the same as compared to men, the fixing of notional income of a homemaker attains special significance. It becomes a recognition of the work, labour and sacrifices of homemakers and a reflection of changing attitudes. It is also in furtherance of our nation’s international law obligations and our constitutional vision of social equality and ensuring dignity to all.
  3. Various methods can be employed by the Court to fix the notional income of a homemaker, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.
  4. The Court should ensure while choosing the method, and fixing the notional income, that the same is just in the facts and circumstances of the particular case, neither assessing the compensation too conservatively, nor too liberally.
  5. The granting of future prospects, on the notional income calculated in such cases, is a component of just compensation.

[Kirti v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 3, decided on 05.01.2020]


** Justice Surya Kant has penned the judgment

*Justice NV Ramana has penned a concurrent opinion.

Know Thy Judge| Justice N.V. Ramana

ALSO READ

Can subsequent death of a dependent be a reason for reduction of motor accident compensation? Supreme Court answers

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case dealing with motor vehicle accident that claimed the lives of a man and his pregnant wife, leaving behind his parents and 2 children aged merely 3 and 4, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana*, SA Nazeer and Surya Kant*, JJ has increased the total motor accident compensation of Rs 22 lakhs awarded by the Delhi High Court to Rs 33.20 lakhs.

The Court took note of the following facts for arriving to said conclusion:

At the time of death, there in fact were four dependents of the deceased and not three. The subsequent death of the deceased’s dependent mother ought not to be a reason for reduction of motor accident compensation.

“Claims and legal liabilities crystallise at the time of the accident itself, and changes post thereto ought not to ordinarily affect pending proceedings.”

The claimants have been unable to produce any document evidencing the deceased’s income, nor have they established his employment as a teacher; but that doesn’t justify adoption of the lowest-tier of minimum wage while computing his income. From the statement of witnesses, documentary evidence-on-record and circumstances of the accident, it is apparent that he was comparatively more educationally qualified and skilled and maintained a reasonable standard of living for his   family.

“Preserving the existing standard of living of a deceased’s family is a fundamental endeavour of motor accident compensation law.”

Given how both deceased were below 40 years and how they have not been established to be permanent employees, future prospects to the tune of 40% must be paid.

Justice NV Ramana took the liberty to write a concurring opinion with respect to the issue of calculation of notional income for homemakers and the grant of future prospect with respect to them, for the purposes of grant of compensation. He said,

“… the conception that housemakers do not “work” or that they do not add economic value to the household is a problematic idea that has persisted for many years and must be overcome.”

Conception that housemakers do not add economic value to the household is “a problematic idea”; Future prospect must be granted in case of motor accident of a non-earning victim: SC

[Kirti v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 3, decided on 05.01.2020]


** Justice Surya Kant has penned the judgment

*Justice NV Ramana has penned a concurring opinion. Read his opinion here

Know Thy Judge| Justice N.V. Ramana

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Gurvinder Singh Gill, J., observed that,

Right to appeal against conviction is an invaluable statutory right vested upon a convict by Criminal Procedure Code which cannot be allowed to be defeated by imposing any condition for availing such right.

“..depriving a convict of his right to appeal by imposing any pre-requisite for availing his statutory right to challenge conviction in a higher Court would amount to depriving his liberty without adhering to the established procedure of law.”

Petitioners were arrayed as accused in the complaint filed by the respondent under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

It was alleged that the cheques drawn by the accused upon their presentation in the bank by the complainant for their encashment were dishonoured.

In light of the above background, accused were tried by the Judicial Magistrate and directed to pay compensation.

Accused, on being aggrieved by the above decision preferred appeals before the Sessions Court, wherein at the time of admission of appeals, impugned orders dated 28-2-2020 were passed, wherein following was stated:

“Criminal Appeal received by entrustment. As there are fairly arguable points involved in the adjudication of the present appeal, hence, the present appeal is admitted for hearing, subject to just exceptions and to deposit of 20% of the compensation amount in view of latest amendment in Section 148 of Negotiable Instruments Act (applicable w.e.f. 01.09.2018), within one month from today. It is registered as Criminal Appeal. Now notice of this appeal be issued to the respondent through ordinary process as well as speed post on furnishing of speed post charges and copies of grounds of appeal within a week for 02-07-2020. Trial Court Record be also called for that date.”

Counsel representing the complainant argued that the lower Appellate Court having passed the orders in question in exercise of jurisdiction under statutory provisions of Section 148 of the Act, the same cannot be called to question.

Analysis, Law and Decision

The language of Section 148 of the NI Act would show that the amended provisions vest the Appellate Court with a discretion to direct deposit of an amount not less than 20% of the compensation amount as awarded by the trial Court. Although the word ‘may’ has been used in the Section but the Supreme Court in Surinder Singh Deswal v. Virender Gandhi, (2019) 11 SCC 341 has interpreted the said provisions to mean that issuance of such a direction is more in the nature of a mandate.

In view of the above-stated Supreme Court decision, power of Appellate Court, though discretionary is supposed to be a ‘rule’ and said discretion should be exercised in all the cases unless there are some exceptional circumstances

In the instant case, there were no exceptional circumstances before the lower Appellate Court so as to justify non-deposit of an amount as provided under Section 148 of the Act.

Section 148(2) of the Act would show that it is provided in unambiguous terms that the amount is required to be deposited within a period of 60 days which may further be extended by another 30 days.

In the instant case, lower Appellate Court having granted only 1 month’s period for depositing the amount, the same is contrary to the above-stated provisions.

Right of Appeal

Section 374 CrPC does not prescribe any condition for admission of an appeal.

Provisions of the statute which vests a convict with a valuable right to challenge his conviction are not circumscribed by any conditions.

Nor does any provision of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 refer to any pre-condition for availing a valuable right of the first appeal.

Further, the Bench expressed that Section 148 of the Act just vests the Appellate Court with the power to direct the appellant to deposit an amount not less than 20% of the compensation amount but under no circumstances the same can be interpreted to be a condition pre-requisite for availing the right of appeal.

Imposition of any condition at the time of suspending of sentence may be a different matter and the trial Court may in its wisdom, impose such a condition failing which the order suspending sentence may be vacated.

Supreme Court in Babu Rajirao Shinde v. State of Maharashtra, (1971) 3 SCC 337, observed that a convicted person must be held to be at least entitled to one appeal as a substantial right.

High Court also made another significant observation:

Even though the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 is a special Act and could override provisions of Cr.P.C., but there is no such specific provision in the Act which could be interpreted to mean that availing of right to appeal by a person convicted for an offence under the Act, has been made subject to some conditions.

While parting with the decision, Court held that:

(i) The condition made in the impugned orders wherein the admission of appeal has been made subject to deposit of 20% of the compensation amount is set aside and it is ordered that the appeals shall stand admitted before the lower Appellate Court. The petitioners are, however, directed to deposit an amount equivalent to 20% of the amount of compensation awarded by the trial Court within 60 days from today.

(ii)  In case the aforesaid amount is deposited within 60 days from today, the bail already granted vide order dated 28.2.2020 by lower Appellate Court shall continue subject to any such fresh conditions as may be imposed by lower Appellate Court.

(iii)  In case bail of any of the petitioner has been cancelled on account of non-deposit of the amount or has already been taken into custody, he shall be released forthwith on bail subject to any such conditions as may be imposed by the lower Appellate Court. He shall, however, deposit the amount of 20% within 60 days from today.

(iv) In case of failure to deposit the amount in question within a period of 60 days from today, it shall be open to the lower Appellate Court to cancel bail and to hear the appeal on merits, provided, however, subject to any such general directions issued by the High Court in the matter of hearing of cases, having regard to the present circumstances of spread of pandemic COVID-19.[Sudarshan Kumar v. Manish Manchanda, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 2321, decided on 15-12-2020]


Advocates who appeared before the matter:

Vaibhav Sehgal, Advocate, counsel for the petitioner(s).

Nitin Thatai, Advocate for the respondent (s)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: T.V. Anilkumar, J., allowed the instant appeal against the impugned order of Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation, Thiruvananthapuram.

The brief facts of the case are; an application for compensation was filed by mother of the deceased, who was working as a lorry driver. The lorry had a national permit, was driven by the deceased from Thiruvananthapuram to Baroda. The contention of the applicant before the Commissioner was that when the lorry reached Surat on 23-02-1999, the deceased felt severe stomach pain and he was rushed to the hospital for treatment, where he died on the same day. The claim for compensation was made after seven years and a separate delay petition was also filed along with claim petition. The cause pleaded in the delay petition was that the applicant and her husband being illiterate and poor had to depend on intermediaries, who did not give proper advice. Further, her husband was on bed rest due to rheumatic fever and she was with him as bystander looking after his affairs.

The Commissioner, while condoning the delay held that the applicant had a legal claim for compensation and accordingly, impugned order for compensation of Rs 4,11,900 was passed with interest against the appellant, Kerala State Insurance Department.

The appellant-insurer and the employer filed objections to the delay petition as well as claim. It was submitted that according to Section 10 of the Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923(“the Act”) the claim for compensation ought to be filed within two years of the cause of action. The contention of the appellant was that there was no evidence on record establishing the sufficient cause pleaded and the order condoning delay was passed without evidence, thus, such a decision could not be legally sustainable.

The Court observed that, delay petition was not independently considered before entertaining the claim for compensation. In the absence of evidence in support of alleged sufficient cause, the Commissioner was not justified in condoning of delay, that too, without assigning reasons. Further, on the question of cause of death, the court noticed that in the post-mortem report, the final cause of death was shown as poisoning. Hence, considering the evidence on record, it was held that the death was on account of food poisoning and it could not be said to be causally connected with the work in which the deceased was engaged. The Court stated that, unless stomach pain had causal connection or association with the work in which the deceased was employed, it cannot be reckoned to be an accident to fasten liability on the employer for payment of compensation.

It was held that, a grave error was committed by the Commissioner in upholding the claim of the applicant for compensation. The impugned order passed was not legally sustainable, hence, it was ordered to be set aside. [Kerala State Insurance Department v. Radha,  2020 SCC OnLine Ker 7729, decided on 22-12-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: Anil K, Narendran, J., allowed this Motor Accident Claim Appeal filed against the order of Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal.

In the instant appeal, a claim petition filed under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 was challenged for being inadequate. The appellant sustained injuries in a motor accident, which occurred on 27-04-2014, while he was riding a motorcycle. At the place of accident, the motorcycle was hit by a car. The counsel for the motorcyclist K.A. Hassan alleged that the accident occurred due to the rash and negligent driving of the car by the respondent 1. A claim petition was filed before the Tribunal claiming a total compensation of 4,50,000 rupees.

The car driver, while admitting the occurrence of accident contended through his counsel, A.A. Ziyad Rahman that the accident happened due to the rash and negligent riding of the motorcycle by the motorcyclist. It was contended by the Insurance Company that the compensation claimed is highly excessive.

The Tribunal arrived at a conclusion that the accident occurred due to the rash and negligent driving of the car by its driver. The Tribunal awarded a total compensation of 99,500 rupees together with interest at the rate of 9% per annum from the date of petition till realisation.

The Court relied on National Insurance Company Ltd. v. Pranay Sethi, (2017) 16 SCC 680, wherein a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held that, Section 168 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 deals with the concept of ‘just compensation’ and the same has to be determined on the foundation of fairness, reasonableness and equitability on an acceptable legal standard. The aim is to achieve an acceptable degree of proximity to arithmetical precision on the basis of materials brought on record in an individual case.

 In the view of the above considerations, the Court granted an additional compensation of 15,750 rupees with interest at the rate of 8% per annum from the date of petition till realisation. Since insurance coverage of the said vehicle was not in dispute, the insurer was held liable to indemnify additional compensation granted in this appeal, together with interest to the insured within a period of two months. [Asharaf K.A v. Easow T.T., 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 7968, decided on 20-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: S.M. Modak, J., dealt with some significant issues in a claim petition wherein a widow is earning and has prospects of remarriage.

The present matter dealt with a very interesting issue involving an appeal about the entitlement of widow to the compensation who got remarried during the pendency of petition before Motor Accident Claims Tribunal.

What is the effect of a marriage of widow on her right to claim compensation on account of the death of her husband in a vehicular accident?

Whether due to marriage, her right vanishes?

Further, the issue is whether an earning wife can be said to be dependent of her husband?

MACT did not reject the widow’s claim but allotted less share to her. Insurance company on being aggrieved with the same, came in appeal, wherein the submissions were as follows:

  • the widow was working since the beginning and she was earning separately and as such, she is not depending on the income of her deceased husband and
  • she lost her right to compensation on account of remarriage during the pendency of the petition.

Decision, Law and Analysis

Bench laid down the focus on the following issues:

a] Whether separate earnings of the widow has got any bearing on her right to claim compensation?

b] Whether remarriage of widow dis-entitles her from claiming compensation?

ISSUE OF DEPENDENCY & REMARRIAGE

Bench observed that though the tribunal had outrightly rejected the ground of remarriage, but it apportioned the amount of compensation lesser in comparison to the 2 children and mother.

While analyzing the issue, it was also stated that

The widow is certainly one of the heirs on which property of a Hindu devolves as per intestate succession. Now, it is interesting to see how the word ‘dependent’ has evolved. It has been judicially recognized that –

a] age of the deceased,

b] income of the deceased and

c] number of dependents

are 3 factors to be considered while fixing the quantum of compensation. From his earning the deceased will spend on himself and on his near relatives/dependents. So when a person dies in a vehicular accident, dependents/near relatives losses the amount contributed by the deceased towards them.

Supreme Court has laid down guidelines on how to calculate contribution to personal expenses and contribution towards dependents. It depends upon the status of the deceased (married/unmarried) and on the number of dependents.

More the number of dependents, lesser will be the contribution towards personal expenses.

Bench in view of the above discussion noted the fact that the eligibility of dependency does not come first, it comes later while arriving at the quantum of compensation. Issue of ‘legal representative’ will come first while entertaining the claim petitions.

Supreme Court in the decision of Manjuri Bera v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., (2007) 10 SCC 643, held that even married daughter residing with husband (though not dependent on the income of the father) being legal representative is entitled to claim compensation under Section 140 (no faulty liability) of the Motor Vehicle Act.

Punjab and Haryana High Court in Kartar Kaur. v. Manoj Kumar, 2014 SCC OnLine P&H 25130 held that

“Dis-entitling a woman on account of remarriage would go against the proposal of remarriage of widow after the death of the husband. Taking such drastic view would discourage the remarriage after the death of the husband.”

Similarly in National Insurance Company Ltd. v. Nidhi Goel, 2018 SCC OnLine P&H 6920, it is observed that –

“accepting the proposition of Insurance Company would militate against the right of widow to remarry and it would not be in public interest or in the interest of the Society at large.”

In view of the above decisions it can be found that a consistent view has been taken by all the Courts, that remarriage does not disqualify the widow from claiming compensation.

Continuing with the above analysis, Bench added that

the tribunal should consider the situation prevailing when the cause of action arises. At the time when the accident took place, the widow is the legal representative of the deceased, certainly, she is entitled to claim compensation. What we do is to determine the amount of compensation and its apportionment amongst the eligible persons. So when a widow approaches the Tribunal, she wants to exercise her right which has become part of her estate.

Hence, the Court agreed with the consistent view taken by the Courts.

APPLICATION OF MEASURES

In accordance with Supreme Court guidelines to have uniformity in arriving at the income, it can be stated that if the deceased is having 2-3 dependents, it is presumed that he spends 1/3rd on his personal expenses. If the deceased is having 4-6 dependents, it is presumed that he spends 1⁄4th of his income on his personal expenses.

CRUCIAL ISSUE

When she is having a separate income, whether the widow can be said to be depending on the income of the deceased?

There are two aspects with respect to the above issue:

One is deciding the percentage for personal expenses and towards the contribution of dependents.

Second is the apportionment of compensation which comes later.

As per the guidelines of the Supreme Court given in various judgments, if wife is considered as one of the dependents, then there is a tendency to spend more on an individual and percentage of spending on dependents will be less. If number of dependents is more, there is tendency to spend less on an individual and spend more on dependents.

In the instant case, Court observes that both the spouses are earning. Monthly salary available of the deceased is Rs 23, 431. Where salary of widow Pushpa (for the month of January 2014) had come to Rs 40,044.

Bench expressed that, Separate earning of the widow does not relieve the deceased husband from contributing towards the expenses.

To the above observation Court added that if the evidence on the point of spending by every individual spouse could have been available, this Court might have deleted the widow from the list of dependents.

Hence the Court affirmed the percentage of distribution arrived by the tribunal.

Therefore, High Court opined that case for deleting the widow from list of dependents is not made out by the Insurance Company and remarriage will divest the widow from her right to claim compensation.

APPORTIONMENT

Mother of the deceased was also having two earning sons. It is also their responsibility, so why she shall be given 30%? In fact, more attention towards the two children of the deceased should have been paid.

High Court felt that the widow does not deserve to get Rs 4,00,000 as she was already earning and prospects of re-marriage were there. She also had received service benefits of deceased and amount of L.I.C partially.

Amount was apportioned in the following manner:

Widow Rs 2,00,000  

50% of remaining amount of Rs 40,13,000 after deducting Rs 7,00,000

Son Rs 16, 56, 500
Daughter Rs 16,56,500
Mother Rs 5,00,000

[Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company Ltd. v. Pushpa Narayan Khurde, First Appeal No. 1379 of 2018, decided on 18-12-2020]