In a recent order, the Supreme Court reiterated that the Court can award compensation exceeding the claimed amount in a motor vehicle accident case. As observed in the order,
"This Court in a large number of cases has laid down that it is permissible to grant compensation of any amount in excess to that one which has been claimed. This Court in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution has awarded just and reasonable compensation."
A Bench consisting of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice MR Shah, therefore, enhanced the compensation amount payable to the appellant before the Court to Rs. 5,00,000 as against an amount of Rs. 3,00,000 originally claimed.
The appellant/claimant was a fruit seller whose right hand was amputated after an accident. Due to the same, he had claimed a total amount of Rs. 9,05,000 as compensation.
However, due to financial constraints, he was unable to pay the Court fee to claim an amount of Rs. 9,05,000. For this reason, he restricted his claim to Rs. 3,00,000. The Motor Accident Claims Tribunal eventually awarded him a compensation of Rs. 1,50,000.
Aggrieved by the said order, an appeal was filed in the High Court by the appellant. The High Court enhanced the amount from Rs. 1,50,000 to Rs. 2,50,000, observing that the said amount would be “just and fair compensation” for the injuries succumbed by the appellant. The appellant, however, preferred to file a further appeal before the Supreme Court.
What the Supreme Court held?
The counsel for the appellant argued that the amount of Rs. 2.5 lakhs awarded by the High Court is neither fair nor just compensation. It was pointed out that the mere fact that the appellant had confined his claim to Rs 3 lakhs cannot be a factor to restrict the compensation payable.
The Supreme Court agreed, observing that the award of Rs. 2.5 lakhs cannot be held to be just and reasonable, given the appellant's initial estimation of Rs.8,10,000 as compensation towards the loss of future income. In this backdrop, awarding him a mere Rs. 2.5 lakhs is not justifiable, the Supreme court held.
While this is the case, the Court also took note that there was no bar in directing the payment of a compensation amount exceeding the original claim in motor accident cases. In this regard, the Court relied on the judgment in Ramla & Ors. v. National Insurance Company Limited & Ors, which stated that
“There is no restriction that the Court cannot award compensation exceeding the claimed amount, since the function of the Tribunal or court under Section 168 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 is to award “just compensation”. The Motor Vehicles Act is beneficial and welfare legislation. A “just compensation” is one which is reasonable on the basis of evidence produced on record.”
The Court further took note of the claimant's submission before the High Court that he would deposit the deficit in court fee if he is found entitled to get a compensatory amount exceeding Rs 3 lakhs.
"The appellant has expressly stated that if it is entitled to get more than Rs.3 lacs the claimant is ready to deposit deficient court fee. This clearly means that neither the Tribunal nor the High Court was precluded from awarding higher than Rs.3 lacs."
In view of these observations, the Court finally awarded the appellant an amount of Rs, 5,00,000/- as a “just and reasonable” compensation. It was also directed that the amount would bear a 9% interest per annum from the date of the claim petition.
Tags : #SupremeCourt #MotorVehicles #Compensation #HighCourt #India #Accidents