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Don't Nitpick, Give Adequate Compensation to Accident Victims, SC Tells Tribunals and Courts

Television journalists are seen outside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, on January 22, 2020. (REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis)

Television journalists are seen outside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, on January 22, 2020. (REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis)

The Supreme Court said a judge must remember the trauma of the victims having to live in a world entirely different from the one they were born into, with degrees of dependence on others, robbed of complete personal choice or autonomy.

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Utkarsh Anand

The Supreme Court has urged motor accident tribunals and high courts to shed their myopic approach in ascertaining compensation claims for the victims who get deprived of the essence of a wholesome life after suffering disabilities in the mishaps.

A bench, led by Justice L Nageswara Rao, disapproved of the stereotype approach in awarding monetary relief to the accident victims and their families, but said that instead, these cases should be viewed taking into account the realities of life, both in the assessment of the extent of disabilities and compensation under various heads.

“It needs to be underlined that courts should be mindful that a serious injury not only permanently imposes physical limitations and disabilities, but too often inflicts deep mental and emotional scars upon the victim,” said the judgment, authored by Justice S Ravindra Bhat.

It emphasised that a judge must remember the trauma of the victims having to live in a world entirely different from the one she or he is born into, as an invalid, and with degrees of dependence on others, robbed of complete personal choice or autonomy.

“Severe limitations inflicted due to such injuries undermine dignity. From the world of the able-bodied, the victim is thrust into the world of the disabled, itself most discomfiting and unsettling. If courts nit-pick and award niggardly amounts oblivious of these circumstances, there is resultant affront to the injured victim,” said the bench.

The apex court cited these principles while enhancing the compensation awarded to a 20-year-old data entry operator, who lost one arm in an accident in New Delhi.

The Delhi High Court had allowed a sum of Rs 7.7 lakh towards loss of future earnings, but refused to give anything on account of loss of future prospects on the ground that this was allowed only in cases of deaths due to accidents and not for permanent disability.

The bench overruled this proposition, saying the High Court was wrong in interpreting the Supreme Court’s judgments in this regard. Such a reading, the bench said, would deny altogether the possibility of the living victim progressing further in life in accident cases while admitting such possibility of future prospects, in case of the victim’s death.

“This court has emphasized time and again that ‘just compensation’ should include all elements that would go to place the victim in as near a position as she or he was in, before the occurrence of the accident. Whilst no amount of money or other material compensation can erase the trauma, pain and suffering that a victim undergoes after a serious accident, (or replace the loss of a loved one), monetary compensation is the manner known to law, whereby society assures some measure of restitution to those who survive, and the victims who have to face their lives,” highlighted the top court.

It then allowed the compensation also under the head of loss of future prospects, and directed the insurer to pay a total of Rs 19.65 lakh in place of Rs 7.7 lakh to the victim.


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