SC awards Rs 10.63 lakh compensation to road mishap claimants
Taking a serious view of a family fighting a 20-year legal battle for compensation on the death of their sole bread winner in a road mishap, the Supreme Court has awarded a compensation of Rs 10.63 lakh to the claimants.
A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhya also directed an additional amount of Rs five lakh as costs to the family as the New India Assurance Company managed to obtain an ex-parte interim order in 2007 from the Supreme Court for paying Rs two lakh to the claimants until final disposal of its appeal.
Referring to the pendency of the case in the Supreme Court for the past five years, the bench said, "It should be a matter of concern for those who are associated with this institution as to why an ex-parte interim order passed by the court should continue to operate for years together without the matter being listed for effective hearing."
Nanag Ram, who was riding a motorcycle, was killed after being hit by a truck in Jaipur on September 3, 1992.
"In the last almost 20 years the claimants - the aged parents, wife and five children of Nanag Ram, who became a victim of road accident in 1992, must have exhausted all their resources in prosecuting and contesting the litigation till the stage of High Court and they must not have been left with money sufficient for engaging an advocate in this court and also because in last almost five years, during which the special leave petition remained pending in this Court, they must have lost all hopes to get justice," the apex court said.
"The claimants could get a paltry sum of Rs 2 lakh and they perhaps thought that it will not be worthwhile to spend money for contesting the special leave petition filed by the appellant," it said in its order.
"This is perhaps the thinking of many thousands of poor litigants, who succeed in the courts below and the high courts but cannot afford the cost and expenses of contesting litigation in the highest court of the country and suffer silently in the name of the almighty God by treating it as their destiny," the court observed.
Earlier the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal had awarded a compensation of Rs 2.55 lakh to the family, but the Rajasthan High Court enhanced the amount to Rs 6,45,300 with 12 per cent interest.
Aggrieved the insurance company appealed in the apex court.
The apex court disagreed with the view that the deceased who was working as a machine operator in National Engineering Company Ltd was earning Rs 3,000 at the time of his death and hence not entitled to higher compensation.
It rejected the argument that since the deceased if alive would have spent one-third on his own expenses, the compensation should be structured on that basis after deducting his personal expenses.
"In any case, where the family of the deceased comprised of 5 persons or more having an income of Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000, it is virtually impossible for him to spend more than 1/10th of the total income upon himself.
"What we have observed herein above may not apply to rich people living in urban areas who can afford to spend a substantial amount of their income in clubs, hotels and on drink parties. In those cases, there may be a semblance of justification in applying the rule of 1/3 deduction towards the personal expenses of the deceased," the apex court said.
The apex court directed the insurer to pay the enhanced compensation within six weeks failing which it asked the Rajasthan High Court to initiate contempt proceedings against the company.