The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the creation of motor vehicle appeals courts to adjudicate cases relating to the payment of compensation to victims of road accidents. The court said it was doing so due to the large number of pending High Court appeals filed under the Motor Vehicle Act regarding compensation.
The Divisional Chamber of Judges S. Abdul Nazeer and Judge Krishna Murari made this order during the hearing of a civil appeal filed by Rasmita Biswal et al. The appeal is against the order dated March 7, 2018 issued by the High Court of Orissa in Cuttack, by which the High Court reduced the compensation payable to appellants / claimants from Rs 22.60,000 to Rs 17.00, 000.
The plaintiffs as well as the insurer challenged the Tribunal’s decision in the High Court. The High Court overturned the award and returned the case to the Tribunal for a new decision. The Tribunal re-examined the case and awarded a total compensation of Rs 22,60,000. The insurer then challenged the Tribunal’s award in the High Court by appealing.
In this appeal, the High Court amended the Tribunal’s award and awarded compensation of Rs 17.00,000 with interest at the rate of 7.5% per annum from the date of the claim until the date of realization.
Counsel for the appellant argued that the High Court was unfounded in reducing the award without giving a reason. It is claimed that the appellant was earning Rs 15,000 and was approximately 28 years old at the time of his death. The lower courts took his age at 33 and applied a multiplier of 16 instead of 15.
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It is further alleged that the deceased had a permanent job. The courts below did not award any compensation for loss of future prospects. Even the compensation awarded under the treaty heads is inconsistent with the judgment of this Court in National Insurance Company Limited v. Pranay Sethi et al.
The Court said that the conclusion of the Tribunal and that of the High Court regarding the cause of the accident and the liability of the insurer to pay compensation is not in dispute. Therefore, the only question to be considered is whether the compensation awarded by the High Court is adequate.
The Court observed that the deceased worked as a supervisor under a certain Kusha Samal, owner of M / s Divine Construction. The certificate issued by Kusha Samal shows that the deceased was a supervisor in the organization and his salary was Rs 15,000 per month. In his testimony, Kusha Samal also stated that the deceased received a salary of Rs 15,000 per month. The first appellant, the wife of the deceased, was interviewed.
She said the income of the deceased at the time of his death was Rs 15,000 per month. Based on the evidence on the record, the Tribunal estimated her income at 15,000 rupees. We find no error in the Tribunal’s assessment of the salary as such, the Court said.
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The Court noted that the appellants claimed that the deceased was 28 years old at the time of his death, no document was produced to support this allegation. On the contrary, the PAN card of the deceased shows that he was 33 years old at the time of his death. Even the deceased’s post-mortem report suggests the same. Therefore, the Tribunal found that the deceased was 33 years old and multiplier 16 was applied.
After deducting 1/4 of the income for the personal expenses of the deceased, the Court granted a total compensation of Rs 21.60,000 for loss of dependency and a sum of Rs 1,000,000 for other conventional heads. Thus, a total sum of Rs 22.60,000 was allocated by the Tribunal.
The Court ruled,
“Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 provides for an appeal against the award made by the Claims Tribunal. It is established law that an appeal is the continuation of the proceedings of the Court / Tribunal of origin. An appeal is a valuable right of the appellant and at the appeal stage all questions of fact and law decided by the Tribunal may be reconsidered. Consequently, the court of appeal is required to answer all the questions before it and to decide the case with reasons.