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Supreme Court bats for just compensation in accident cases

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

The Supreme Court has held that compensation payable to a road accident victim should not be assessed neither “very conservatively” nor too liberally that it transforms into a bounty for the claimant.

A Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta also reinforced guidelines laid down by the court in 1994 for motor accidents tribunals to intervene and safeguard the “frittering away” of road accident compensation amounts in cases in which the victims are children or illiterate persons or widows or disabled persons.

The judgment came on an appeal filed by the parents of a young girl from Haryana who was left with 100% disability when a rashly driven truck hit the tractor in which she was travelling in 2007. She is bed-ridden.

Ordering compensation of over ₹50 lakh in her case, Justice Gupta acknowledged that it is “impossible to equate human suffering and personal deprivation with money. However, this is what the law enjoins upon courts to do.”

Degree of deprivation

Justice Gupta wrote that 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 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 judgment said.

Directing the motor accident claims tribunal to invest the compensation amount for the victim in a nationalised bank as per its 1994 guidelines in the Susanna Thomas case, Justice Gupta said the guidelines were meant to protect helpless victims from unscrupulous elements. In special cases, for reasons to be given in writing, the tribunal or the trial court may release compensation amount as is required.

“We reiterate these guidelines and direct that they should be followed by all the tribunals and High Courts to ensure that the money of the victims is not frittered away,” the apex court directed.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 8:22:08 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/supreme-court-bats-for-just-compensation-in-accident-cases/article30755373.ece