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

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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

Patna High Court: Ashutosh Kumar, J. dismissed the petition saying that there was no merit in the petition and the case could not be considered afresh.

The petitioner filed a petition to for directions to be made to the respondent authorities to appoint him as a  Class-IV employee on compassionate grounds , as his father had died working as a

Chowkidar, in the year 1995.  After the death of the petitioner’s father, an application was filed for compassionate appointment by his elder brother, which was allowed but later, the petitioner’s brother did not pursue the matter any further. An application was then filed after seven long years by the petitioner’s brother that in his place, his younger brother i.e., the petitioner be considered for appointment.

The counsel for the State contended that considering the condition of the family, help was offered to them in the form of compassionate appointment to one of the dependents of the deceased employee, and the department had recommended the appointment of the elder son of the deceased employee. It was the duty of the elder son to have reported to the authorities he was not capable of discharging the aforesaid responsibility. The act of approaching the authorities in the year 2010 and this Court of law in the year 2019 denotes that the family was not in need of any help in the form of compassionate appointment.

The Court held that grant of compassionate appointment is not a mode of appointment but only a concession to the family of the deceased employee in order to bail it out from the financial distress. Such compassionate appointment was given in terms of the scheme framed in the department for grant of such employment and the department cannot sway from the rules as it was not a regular case of appointment. The dominant purpose behind the grant of such appointment is to alleviate the immediate difficulty of the family of the employee who died in harness, leaving the family on the brink of starvation/destitution.

Since the death took place in the year 1995 and the matter was not pursued despite a recommendation for the petitioner’s brother by the department for being considered, the case of the petitioner cannot now be considered afresh.

In view of the above-noted facts, the instant petition was dismissed. [Ajay Kumar Yadav v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 1434, decided on 19-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Rajesh Kumar, J., modified the order passed by the tribunal to the extent that relief granted by the Tribunal is unauthorized and out of jurisdiction as Tribunal went beyond the terms of reference to pass the Award.

The present writ petition had been filed against the Award dated 18-11-2013 passed in Reference No. 13 of 1991 by the Central Government Industrial Tribunal No. 2, Dhanbad whereby reference was in favour of the workmen. The factual matrix of the present case is that all three concerned workmen were an employee of the company. They were charged for misappropriation and after conducting a departmental enquiry, they were dismissed from service. Against the said order of dismissal, an Industrial Dispute was raised, referred to as Ref. No. 13/91. Since the management failed to justify the dismissal of the workmen, the Tribunal passed an order of reinstatement in favour of the employees, Suresh Ram and Sarda Shovel. As Sukhdeo Bhuian had died during the pendency of the reference case, he had been substituted by his son namely Santosh Kumar. The issue herein is with respect to the appointment of the dependant of the deceased employee.

The Court stated that “It is trite that Tribunal gets jurisdiction to pass the Award in terms of reference. Tribunal cannot go beyond the terms of reference to pass an Award.” Further, the Court observed that reference is only with regard to justification with the order of dismissal of three workmen and issue of appointment was not the subject matter of the reference. Hence, in the absence of such reference, relief granted by the concerned Tribunal is wholly unauthorized and beyond the jurisdiction. Hence, the Court modified the award to the extent that the appointment to the dependent of the deceased employee is quashed.[Employers In re, Management of Sendra Bansjora Colliery v. Workmen, WP (L) No. 4632 of 2014, decided on 22-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Single judge bench comprising of Alexander Thomas, J. dismissed a civil writ petition challenging the validity of Central Swatantrata Sainik Samman (SSS) Pension Scheme, 1980 for conferring eligibility only to dependent unmarried daughter and widow of a deceased freedom fighter, for grant of Freedom Fighters’ Dependent Pension.

The present challenge came to be filed when the petitioner, who is the divorced daughter of a freedom fighter, was denied the grant of Freedom Fighters’ Dependant Pension under the SSS Scheme. The competent authority had based its rejection on the ground that as per clause 5.2.2 of the SSS Scheme, only a dependent widow and dependent unmarried daughter of the deceased freedom fighter are eligible for the grant of dependent pension; and a widowed/divorced daughter is not eligible for such pension.

The court held that it was a settled law that if a Central scheme prescribes that only the dependent widow and dependent unmarried daughter of the freedom fighter, alone are eligible for the grant of dependant pension then no other category of legal representatives of the deceased freedom fighter can avail the benefit of scheme. It was further observed that a question of hostile discrimination does not arise at all since the eligibility is confined specifically to widows and unmarried daughters. As such, there was no illegality or unreasonableness in the rejection order of the competent authority. On the said holding, the present writ petition was dismissed. [Reeja Latha v Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine Ker 3481, decided on 18-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: The Single Judge Bench comprising of Ajit Singh, C.J., decided a petition filed under Section 227 of the Constitution. The petitioners had hired the deceased Sri Dimeswar Hira who died in harness, after his death, they hired his son on compassionate grounds and unfortunately he also died that is when respondent submitted an application to be hired on compassionate grounds to the petitioners for which the petitioners deputed the Welfare Inspector for the actual position of the daughter. After the due verification by the Welfare Inspector, the recommendations made were of appointment of the unmarried and unemployed daughter of the deceased on compassionate grounds.

The petitioners ignored the report of Welfare Inspector by declining the case of respondent for her compassionate appointment. The petitioners stated that respondent had failed to establish the fact that she was dependent on the deceased. The respondent went in appeal to the administrative tribunal against the decision of the petitioner’s which was allowed. Aggrieved by the same, the petitioner’s were before the High Court.

Dismissing the petition, the Court concluded that, the petitioners ignored the facts established by the Welfare Inspector about the respondent being the unmarried and unemployed daughter of the deceased and no proof of her dependency on her late father can be expected and even more so when the petitioners failed to rebut the stated presumption. [Union of India v. Himani Hira, 2018 SCC OnLine Gau 393, order dated 11-05-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: A writ petition was preferred by the petitioners to question the constitutional validity of Rule 2(c) of the Rajasthan Compassionate Appointment of Dependents of Deceased Government Servants Rules, 1996 (the Rules of 1996). As per the petitioner, her father Yagyadutt Sharma died while in service of State of Rajasthan on 05.07.2017 and being his ward, she submitted an application for appointment on compassionate grounds, but that has not been entertained in view of the definition of “dependent” as prescribed under Rule 2(c) of the Rules of 1996. The petitioner happens to be a married daughter of late Shri Yagyadutt.

The Rules of 1996 defines “dependent” as a spouse, son, married or widow daughter, adopted son, adopted married daughter legally adopted by the deceased government servant during his/her lifetime and who was wholly dependent on the deceased government servant at the time of his/her death. According to the petitioner, the rule under challenge is ultra vires Article 14 of the Constitution as it is discriminatory as well as arbitrary. The petitioner submitted that the said rule differentiates among the siblings merely on the count of their marital status and that amounts to a classification unreasonable.

The High Court, after perusal of the definition under challenge, came to the conclusion that the wards claiming appointment must be “wholly dependent” on the deceased government servant. The Court opined that for the sake of argument, even if it is assumed that a married daughter would have been eligible to get appointment on compassionate grounds, even then she is required to establish her whole dependence upon the government servant who died while in service. In the case at hand, there being no material available to establish that the petitioner who was residing with her husband was wholly dependent upon late Mr Yagyadutt, the Court dismissed the writ petition thereby declining to invoke its extraordinary jurisdiction in favour of the petitioner. [Vandana Sharma v. State of Rajasthan,  2017 SCC OnLine Raj 2599, decided on 14.10.2017]