26 May 2020


Judgments

Supreme Court

Kajal Vs. Jagdish Chand and Ors.

MANU/SC/0126/2020

05.02.2020

Motor Vehicles

Compensation or damages assessed for personal injuries should be substantial to compensate injured for deprivation suffered by injured throughout his/her life

In present case, Kajal was a bright young girl. She used to attend school, play with her friends and lead a normal life like any other child. Unfortunately, on 18th October, 2007, while Kajal was travelling on a tractor with her parents, the tractor was hit by a truck which was driven rashly. In the said accident, Kajal suffered serious injuries resulting in damage to her brain. This has had very serious consequences on her. She was examined at the PGI for assessment of her disability and her disability has been assessed as 100%.

Kajal through her father filed a claim petition, under the Motor Vehicle Act. The Motor Accident Claims Tribunal awarded Rs. 11,08,501 and held that since there was violation of the terms of policy the insurance company would pay the amount but would be entitled to recover the same from the owner. The High Court enhanced the award amount to Rs. 25,78,501. Aggrieved by the award the claimant is before this Court.

The principles with regard to determination of just compensation contemplated under the Act are well settled. Injuries cause deprivation to the body which entitles the claimant to claim damages. The damages may vary according to the gravity of the injuries sustained by the claimant in an accident. On account of the injuries, the claimant may suffer consequential losses such as (i) loss of earning; (ii) expenses on treatment which may include medical expenses, transportation, special diet, attendant charges etc., (iii) loss or diminution to the pleasures of life by loss of a particular part of the body, and (iv) loss of future earning capacity. Damages can be pecuniary as well as non-pecuniary, but all have to be assessed in Rupees and Paise.

It is impossible to equate human suffering and personal deprivation with money. The court has to make a judicious attempt to award damages, so as to compensate the claimant for the loss suffered by the victim. On the one hand, the compensation should not be assessed very conservatively, but on the other hand, compensation should also not be assessed in so liberal a fashion so as to make it a bounty to the claimant. The court while assessing the compensation should have regard to the degree of deprivation and the loss caused by such deprivation. Such compensation is what is termed as just compensation. The compensation or damages assessed for personal injuries should be substantial to compensate the injured for the deprivation suffered by the injured throughout his/her life. They should not be just token damages.

The assessment of damages in personal injury cases raises great difficulties. It is not easy to convert the physical and mental loss into monetary terms. There has to be a measure of calculated guess work and conjecture. An assessment, as best as can, in the circumstances, should be made.

The claimant cannot come back to Court for enhancement of award at a later stage praying that, something extra has been spent. The Courts or the tribunals assessing the compensation in a case of 100% disability, especially where there is mental disability also, should take a liberal view of the matter, when awarding compensation.

The tribunal while awarding the compensation had stated that the amount payable to the share of Kajal would be kept in a Fixed Deposit till she attains the age of 18 years. The High Court while enhancing the amount of compensation has directed that the enhanced amount be paid to the Appellant within 45 days. This is totally contrary to the guidelines laid down by this Court in General Manager, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation, Trivandrum v. Susamma Thomas and Ors., wherein it has been held clearly that, the amount payable to the minors should not be normally released. The guidelines in present case protects the rights of the minors, claimants who are under some disability and also widows and illiterate person who may be deprived of the compensation paid to them in lump sum by unscrupulous elements. These victims may not be able to invest their monies properly and in such cases the MACT as well the High courts must ensure that investments are made in nationalised banks to get a high rate of interest.

The High Court was not right in awarding interest on the enhanced amount only from the date of filing of the appeal. Normally, interest should be granted from the date of filing of the petition and if in appeal enhancement is made, the interest should again be from the date of filing of the petition. It is only if the appeal is filed after an inordinate delay by the claimants, or the decision of the case has been delayed on account of negligence of the claimant, in such exceptional cases the interest may be awarded from a later date. However, while doing so, the tribunals/High Courts must give reasons why interest is not being paid from the date of filing of the petition. Therefore, the entire amount of compensation including the amount enhanced by present Court shall carry an interest of 7.5% per annum from the date of filing of the claim petition till payment/deposit of the amount. The appeal is disposed of.

Tags : Compensation Enhancement Eligibility

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