Sarla Verma & Ors. vs Delhi Transport Corp. – SC on computation of MACT claims

The judgment that rationalised & simplified the computation of MACT claims.

Sarla Verma & Ors. vs Delhi Transport Corp.& Anr. on 15 April, 2009

Bench: R.V. Raveendran, Lokeshwar Singh Panta
HELD:1. Lack of uniformity and consistency in awarding compensation has been a matter of grave concern. Every district has one or more Motor Accident Claims Tribunal/s. If different Tribunals calculate compensation differently on the same facts, the claimant, the litigant, the common man will be confused, perplexed and bewildered. If there is significant divergence among Tribunals in determining the quantum of compensation on similar facts, it will lead to dissatisfaction and distrust in the system. [Para 8] [1113-F-G]

General Manager, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation v. Susamma Thomas 1994 (2) SCC 176 and UP State Road Transport Corporation vs. Trilok Chandra 1996 (4) SCC 362, relied on.

Nance v. British Columbia Electric Rly. Co. Ltd. [1951 AC 601 and Davies v. Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries Ltd., 1942 AC 601, referred to.

2. Just compensation is adequate compensation which is fair and equitable, on the facts and circumstances of the case, to make good the loss suffered as a result of the wrong, as far as money can do so, by applying the well settled principles relating to award of compensation. It is not intended to be a bonanza, largesse or source of profit. Assessment of compensation though involving certain hypothetical considerations, should nevertheless be objective. Justice and justness emanate from equality in treatment, consistency and thoroughness in adjudication, and fairness and uniformity in the decision making process and the decisions. While it may not be possible to have mathematical precision or identical awards, in assessing compensation, same or similar facts should lead to awards in the same range. When the factors/inputs are the same, and the formula/legal principles are the same, consistency and uniformity, and not divergence and freakiness, should be the result of adjudication to arrive at just compensation. [Para 8] [1114-G-H; 1115-A]

3. Basically only three facts need to be established by the claimants for assessing compensation in the case of death : (a) age of the deceased; (b) income of the deceased; and the (c) the number of dependents. The issues to be determined by the Tribunal to arrive at the loss of dependency are (i) additions/deductions to be made for arriving at the income; (ii) the deduction to be made towards the personal living expenses of the deceased; and (iii) the multiplier to be applied with reference of the age of the deceased. If these determinants are standardized, there will be uniformity and consistency in the decisions. There will lesser need for detailed evidence. It will also be easier for the insurance companies to settle accident claims without delay. To have uniformity and consistency, Tribunals should determine compensation in cases of death, by the following well settled steps, viz. Step 1 (Ascertaining the multiplicand); Step 2 (Ascertaining the multiplier) and Step 3 (Actual calculation). [Para 9] [1115-C-F; 1116-C]

4. In view of imponderables and uncertainties, this Court is in favour of adopting as a rule of thumb, an addition of 50% of actual salary to the actual salary income of the deceased towards future prospects, where the deceased had a permanent job and was below 40 years. [Where the annual income is in the taxable range, the words `actual salary’ should be read as `actual salary less tax’]. The addition should be only 30% if the age of the deceased was 40 to 50 years. There should be no addition, where the age of deceased is more than 50 years. Though the evidence may indicate a different percentage of increase, it is necessary to standardize the addition to avoid different yardsticks being applied or different methods of calculations being adopted. Where the deceased was self-employed or was on a fixed salary (without provision for annual increments etc.), the courts will usually take only the actual income at the time of death. A departure therefrom should be made only in rare and exceptional cases involving special circumstances. [Para 11] [1117-F-H; 1118-A-B]

Sarla Dixit v. Balwant Yadav 1996 (3) SCC 179 and Abati Bezbaruah v. Dy. Director General, Geological Survey of India 2003 (3) SCC 148, relied on.

5.1. No evidence need be led to show the actual expenses of the deceased. In fact, any evidence in that behalf will be wholly unverifiable and likely to be unreliable. Claimants will obviously tend to claim that the deceased was very frugal and did not have any expensive habits and was spending virtually the entire income on the family. In some cases, it may be so. No claimant would admit that the deceased was a spendthrift, even if he was one. It is also very difficult for the respondents in a claim petition to produce evidence to show that the deceased was spending a considerable part of the income on himself or that he was contributing only a small part of the income on his family. Therefore, it became necessary to standardize the deductions to be made under the head of personal and living expenses of the deceased. This lead to the practice of deducting towards personal and living expenses of the deceased, one-third of the income if the deceased was married, and one-half (50%) of the income if the deceased was a bachelor. This practice was evolved out of experience, logic and convenience. In fact one-third deduction, got statutory recognition under Second Schedule to the Act, in respect of claims under Section 163A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. But, such percentage of deduction is not an inflexible rule and offers merely a guideline. In view of the special features of the case, this Court however restricted the deduction towards personal and living expenses to one-third of the income. [Para 12 and 13] [1118-D-H; 1119-A; 1120-D]

5.2. Where the deceased was married, the deduction towards personal and living expenses of the deceased, should be one-third (1/3rd) where the number of dependent family members is 2 to 3, one-fourth (1/4th) where the number of dependant family members is 4 to 6, and one-fifth (1/5th) where the number of dependant family members exceed six. [Para 14] [1120-F]

5.3. Where the deceased was a bachelor and the claimants are the parents, the deduction follows a different principle. In regard to bachelors, normally, 50% is deducted as personal and living expenses, because it is assumed that a bachelor would tend to spend more on himself. Even otherwise, there is also the possibility of his getting married in a short time, in which event the contribution to the parent/s and siblings is likely to be cut drastically. Further, subject to evidence to the contrary, the father is likely to have his own income and will not be considered as a dependant and the mother alone will be considered as a dependent. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, brothers and sisters will not be considered as dependents, because they will either be independent and earning, or married, or be dependant on the father. Thus even if the deceased is survived by parents and siblings, only the mother would be considered to be a dependant, and 50% would be treated as the personal and living expenses of the bachelor and 50% as the contribution to the family. However, where family of the bachelor is large and dependant on the income of the deceased, as in a case where he has a widowed mother and large number of younger non-earning sisters or brothers, his personal and living expenses may be restricted to one-third and contribution to the family will be taken as two-third. [Para 15] [1120-G-H; 1121-A-D]

General Manager, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation v. Susamma Thomas 1994 (2) SCC 176; Abati Bezbaruah v. Dy. Director General, Geological Survey of India 2003 (3) SCC 148 and Fakeerappa vs. Karnataka Cement Pipe Factory 2004 (2) SCC 473, referred to.

6. The multiplier to be used should be as mentioned in column (4) of the Table (prepared by applying Susamma Thomas, Trilok Chandra and Charlie), which starts with an operative multiplier of 18 (for the age groups of 15 to 20 and 21 to 25 years), reduced by one unit for every five years, that is M-17 for 26 to 30 years, M-16 for 31 to 35 years, M-15 for 36 to 40 years, M-14 for 41 to 45 years, and M-13 for 46 to 50 years, then reduced by two units for every five years, that is, M-11 for 51 to 55 years, M-9 for 56 to 60 years, M-7 for 61 to 65 years and M-5 for 66 to 70 years. [Para 21] [1126-D-E]

General Manager, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation v. Susamma Thomas 1994 (2) SCC 176; New India Assurance Co. Ltd. vs. Charlie 2005 (10) SCC 720 and UP State Road Transport Corporation vs. Trilok Chandra 1996 (4) SCC 362 – relied on.

Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. vs. Meena Variyal 2007 (5) SCC 428; TN State Road Transport Corporation Ltd. vs. Rajapriya 2005 (6) SCC 236 and UP State Road Transport Corporation vs. Krishna Bala 2006 (6) SCC 249, referred to.

7.1. The assumption of the appellants that the actual future pay revisions should be taken into account for the purpose of calculating the income is not sound. As against the contention of the appellants that if the deceased had been alive, he would have earned the benefit of revised pay scales, it is equally possible that if he had not died in the accident, he might have died on account of ill health or other accident, or lost the employment or met some other calamity or disadvantage. The imponderables in life are too many. Another significant aspect is the non-existence of such evidence at the time of accident. In this case, the accident and death occurred in the year 1988. The award was made by the Tribunal in the year 1993. The High Court decided the appeal in 2007. The pendency of the claim proceedings and appeal for nearly two decades is a fortuitous circumstance and that will not entitle the appellants to rely upon the two pay revisions which took place in the course of the said two decades. If the claim petition filed in 1988 had been disposed of in the year 1988-89 itself and if the appeal had been decided by the High Court in the year 1989-90, then obviously the compensation would have been decided only with reference to the scale of pay applicable at the time of death and not with reference to any future revision in pay scales. If the contention urged by the claimants is accepted, it would lead to the following situation: The claimants could only rely upon the pay scales in force at the time of the accident, if they are prompt in conducting the case. But if they delay the proceedings, they can rely upon the revised higher pay scales that may come into effect during such pendency. Surely, promptness cannot be punished in this manner. [Para 24] [1127-D-H; 1128-A-B]

7.2. The percentage of deduction on account of personal and living expenses can certainly vary with reference to the number of dependant members in the family. But as noticed earlier, the personal living expenses of the deceased need not exactly correspond to the number of dependants. As an earning member, the deceased would have spent more on himself than the other members of the family apart from the fact that he would have incurred expenditure on travelling/transportation and other needs. Therefore, interest of justice would be met if one-fifth is deducted as the personal and living expenses of the deceased. After such deduction, the contribution to the family (dependants) is determined as Rs.57,658/- per annum. The multiplier will be 15 having regard to the age of the deceased at the time of death (38 years). Therefore the total loss of dependency would be Rs.57,658 x 15 = Rs.8,64,870/-. [Para 25] [1128-E-G]

8. In addition, the claimants will be entitled to a sum of Rs.5,000/- under the head of `loss of estate’ and Rs.5000/- towards funeral expenses. The widow will be entitled to Rs.10,000/- as loss of consortium. Thus, the total compensation will be Rs.8,84,870/-. After deducting Rs.7,19,624/- awarded by the High Court, the enhancement would be Rs.1,65,246/-. Thus, the appellants will be entitled to the said sum of Rs.165,246/- in addition to what is already awarded, with interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the date of petition till the date of realization. The increase in compensation awarded by this Court shall be taken by the widow exclusively. [Para 26 and 27] [1128-H; 1129-A-C]

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