Receipt of family pension cannot be a ground to deny the benefit, says judge

The family of a retired government employee cannot be denied compensation for his death in a road accident either on the ground that they have begun receiving family pension or on the premise that he would not have earned any regular income by taking up other vocations after his retirement, the Madras High Court Bench in Madurai has held.

Justice S. Vimala gave the ruling while partly allowing a civil appeal filed by S. Vijaya and S. Pattammal, wife and mother respectively of a former Postal Assistant Govindarajan who died at the age of 58 after being knocked down from his motorcycle by a van at Thanjavur district on November 4, 2008. He was reportedly involved in real estate business after retirement.

However, the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal at Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district had refused to award any compensation towards loss of dependency. In the tribunal’s opinion, there was no loss of income as the family continued to receive pension even after the death of the accident victim. Further, there was no proof to substantiate the claim that he earned Rs. 30,000 a month through real estate business.

Differing with both the views, Ms. Justice Vimala said that neither the actual pension amount nor the family pension amount (30 per cent less than the actual pension amount) or the difference between the two could be deducted from the monthly income of a person, who had lost his life in a motor accident, in order to arrive at the quantum of amount to be awarded under the head of loss of dependency.

Also accepting the claimant’s contention that the accident victim was active even after his retirement and had been earning a substantial amount through real estate business, the judge determined his earning to be Rs. 3,000 a month and multiplied it for nine years. After adding a sum of Rs. 35,000 under other heads, she directed the insurance company to pay a total of Rs. 2.51 lakh to the claimants within two months.

Substantiating her conclusion that people do and have to work beyond the retirement age, Ms. Justice Vimala quoted Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Republic of Singapore, of having said that despite aches and pains, people get money if they were engaged in some kind of work or employment. On the other hand, their health starts deteriorating if they remain idle.

“Work always makes people happier and healthier and the learning process is also on… The day people stop learning, they start rusting. This advice by an elderly statesman, who is a living proof that life long learning, earning and peaceful living are the hallmarks of longevity, cannot be ignored,” the judge concluded.

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