Be pro-active; compensation should include pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages

The Supreme Court has directed Motor Accident Claims Tribunals to dispose of claims with the utmost urgency and award just and adequate compensation to the victims. They should adopt a pro-active approach in deciding claims, and the compensation should invariably include pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, said a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.S. Nijjar.

Manifold sufferings

Writing the judgment, Justice Singhvi said: “The personal sufferings of the survivors and disabled persons are manifold.” Most of the times it was not possible to measure their privations in terms of money. “If an individual is permanently disabled, the cost of his medical treatment and care is likely to be very high. In cases involving total or partial disablement, the term ‘compensation' used in Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act would include not only the expenses incurred for immediate treatment but also the amount likely to be incurred for future medical treatment/care.”

The Bench said: “A very large number of people involved in motor accidents are pedestrians, children, women and illiterate persons. The majority of them cannot, due to sheer ignorance, poverty and other disabilities, engage competent lawyers for proving negligence on the part of the wrongdoer in adequate measure.”

The Bench said: “Sometimes the delay and litigation expenses make the award passed by the Tribunal and even by the High Court [on appeal] meaningless. It is therefore, imperative that the officers who preside over the Tribunals adopt a proactive approach and ensure that the claims are disposed of with required urgency and compensation is awarded to the victims and/or their legal representatives in adequate measure.”

In the instant case, Govind Yadav, whose leg had to be amputated following an accident in November 2004, was aggrieved over the compensation awarded by the Madhya Pradesh High Court. He claimed Rs. 10, 70,000 with 18 per cent interest. While the claims Tribunal in Jabalpur awarded Rs. 2.56 lakh, the court enhanced it to Rs. 3.06 lakh.

Allowing the appeal, the Bench said admittedly the appellant was a young man of 24 years at the time of the accident and for the rest of his life he would suffer the trauma of not being able to do his normal work. Yadav would be entitled to a total compensation of Rs. 9,53,600 with seven per cent interest per annum for the period from the date of his filing the claim petition till the date of realisation. The Bench directed the respondent — the New India Insurance Company — to pay him the balance amount with interest within three months.

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