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Assam State Road Transport Corporation Vs. Jyotirmoyee Das - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Subject;Insurance;Motor Vehicles
CourtGuwahati High Court
Decided On
Judge
AppellantAssam State Road Transport Corporation
RespondentJyotirmoyee Das
Prior history
K.N. Saikia, J.
1. This appeal is from the award of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Darrang at Tezpur dated 31-5-74 in M.A.C. Case No. 10/72.
2. Mr. Subodh Chandra Das, Sub-Deputy Magistrate, Mangaldoi, aged 34 years, died of multiple injuries sustained in the accident met with by the Assam State Road Transport Corporation's (appellant's) passenger bus No. ASX 1900 on N.T. Road, 8 k.m. west of Mangaldoi Police Station on 6-4-1969. His widow Jyotirmoyee Das in M.A.C. Case No. 10/72 claimed
Excerpt:
- - class ii the commission recommended the revised scale of pay of rs......subject to a maximum of 15 times the emoluments which would come to about rs. 12,000/-. by the accident death of her husband the claimant, mrs. jyotirmoyee das, has lost consortium for the rest of her life and for this loss of consortium she would be entitled to a reasonable sum which we estimate at rs. 30,000/-.14. thus the total compensation on the above heads would come to about rs. 1,92,000/-. this does not take into consideration the selection grade pay, the chance of promotion to a.c.s. class i and the future pay revisions. in fact since his death two pay revisions have already been made. as against this we have to deduct a percentage for uncertainties of life, lumpsum payments etc. if the above are taken to have been mutually balanced, even then the total amount of.....
Judgment:

K.N. Saikia, J.

1. This appeal is from the award of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Darrang at Tezpur dated 31-5-74 in M.A.C. Case No. 10/72.

2. Mr. Subodh Chandra Das, Sub-Deputy Magistrate, Mangaldoi, aged 34 years, died of multiple injuries sustained in the accident met with by the Assam State Road Transport Corporation's (appellant's) passenger bus No. ASX 1900 on N.T. Road, 8 k.m. west of Mangaldoi Police Station on 6-4-1969. His widow Jyotirmoyee Das in M.A.C. Case No. 10/72 claimed compensation of Rs. 2,50,000/- alleging that the accident was caused by rash and negligent driving of the said passenger bus and it caused her husband's death. The Assam State Road Transport Corporation (hereinafter called 'the Corporation') in its written statement pleaded, inter alia, that the accident took place on account of the high banded action of late Subodh Chandra Das himself; that there was no negligence on the part of the driver; and that claim was highly excessive. Before the Tribunal the claimant examined six witnesses including the two doctors who examined the injured at the Mangaldoi Civil Hospital. The Tribunal having held that the incident took place due to rash and negligent driving and that Mr. Das died as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident, and it having awarded Rs. 1,50,000/- as compensation, the Corporation appeals.

3. Mr. B. Sarma, the learned Counsel for the appellant-Corporation does not question the findings as to the rash and negligent driving and cause of death, but questions the quantum of compensation as, according to him it was fixed arbitrarily and not on accepted principles.

4. Mr. C.R. De, the learned Counsel appearing for the claimant-respondent, answers submitting that the Tribunal took into consideration the relevant points and, as such, according to him, the award is just and proper, and deserves no interference.

5. The only question to be adjudicated, therefore, is that of just compensation. The admitted facts are that Mr. Das was a Sub-Deputy Collector (A.C.S. Class-II) aged 34 years; he used to draw a salary of Rs. 410/- per month; and was survived by his wife, the claimant, and the minor son Shomu Das, aged 4 years. The learned Tribunal considered that he was drawing basic pay of Rs. 410/- per month; he had 20 years service at his credit; sure possibility of promotion to A.C.S.-I; was sure to get 21 increments and he had the possibility of getting the benefit of revision of pay scales at different periods.

6. Referring us to a Bench decision of this Court in State of Assam v. Bonti Barua 1978 A.C.J. 412 (Gauhati) Mr. Sarma submits the most of the relevant data which were available in that case are not available for the purpose of assessment of compensation in the instant case and therefore it would be difficult to correctly assess the compensation. It is true that some of the relevant data are not available from the evidence of the case. However, considering the fact that this accident took place as far back as on 6-4-1969 and the widow and the minor son have been so long in expectation of a just compensation, we consider it just and expedient to decide the appeal on the basis of whatever data are available. It is settled law that the compensation is often required to be ascertained on basis of ponderable and imponderable factors and in appropriate cases even on legitimate conjecture and prophecy. In Gobald Motor Service Ltd. v. R.M.K. Veluswami 1958-65 A.C.J. 179 (S.C.) which was a case under the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855, it has been laid down that in calculating the pecuniary loss to defendants many imponderables enter into the calculation and the extent of loss depend on data which cannot be ascertained accurately, but must necessarily be an estimate or even partly a conjecture. As was stated in Nance, v. British Columbia Electric Railway Co. Ltd. 1951 A.C. 601, the claim for damages falls under two separate heads. 'First, if the deceased had not been killed, but had eked out the full span of life to which in the absence of the accident he could reasonably have looked forward, what sums during that period would he probably have applied but of his income to the maintenance of his wife and family.?' For estimating it first the deceased man's expectation of life has to be estimated. Secondly, the amount required for the future provision of his wife shall be estimated; thirdly, the estimated annual sum is multiplied by the number of years of the man's estimated span of life, and the said amount must be discounted so as to arrive at the equivalent in the form of a lump sum payable on his death; fourthly, further deduction must be made for benefit accruing to the widow from the accleration of interest in his estate and for her possibility of premature death. It was held in Sheikhupura Transport Co. v. N.I.T. Insurance Co. 1971 A.C.J. 206 (S.C.), that under Section 110-B of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, the Tribunal is required to fix such compensation which appears to it to be just. The power given to the Tribunal in the matter of fixing compensation under that provision is wide. Even if it is assumed that compensation under the section is to be fixed on the same basis as is required to be done under the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855, the pecuniary loss to the aggrieved party would depend upon data which cannot be ascertained accurately but must necessarily be an estimate or even partly a conjecture. However, just compensation means what is fair, moderate, reasonable and awardable under the circumstances of the case and what is arbitrarily fixed.

7. The minimum data available in this case are that Mr. Das was an officer of A.C.S. Class II, aged 34 years and was drawing basic pay of Rs. 400/-per month. Witness No. 1, Mrs. Jyotirmoyee Das, the claimant, deposed that Mr. Das was drawing Rs. 400/- as salary per month though in the claim application it was shown as Rs. 410/-. The learned Tribunal accepted that figure as basic pay per month. There is, however, no further data as to this scale of pay, possible amount of pension, amounts of provident fund, gratuity etc.. In such a case it may be permissible to ponder what those could have been. -The accident took place on 6-4-69 and the injured died on 7-4-69. He having been a member of A.C.S. Class II it may be permissible to take judicial notice of the scale attached to that service at the relevant time. In the Assam Services (Revision of Pay) Rules, 1964 we find the scale of Rs. 300-20-400-EB-25-550-EB-25-800 for the A.C.S. Class II with house rent allowance of Rs. 30/- per month. There is also a selection grade of Rs. 800-30-860-35-1000 at ten per cent of the cadre post qualifying length of service being 15 years. The Pay Committee's Report was submitted to the Government on 29th February, 1964 and after careful consideration the Government have accepted the recommendations: The revised scales of pay was to be effective from the 1st April, 1964. There can, therefore, be no doubt that this scale was applicable to Mr. Das. We find in the scale a slab at Rs. 400/- which one would ordinarily reach after 5 years. It may not of course be reasonable to apply the selection grade which was available at 10% of the cadre post only. According to the Schedule he would reach the maximum of Rs. 800/- after 21 years. According to the report of the Assam Pay Commission, 1973 for A.C.S. Class II the Commission recommended the revised scale of pay of Rs. 475-1125 with house rent allowance of Rs. 50/- per month. We find this scale in the Schedule to the Assam Services (Revision of Pay) Rules, 1975, namely, 475-30-625-EB-30-775-EB-35-1125. This revised scale would have surely been available to the deceased.

8. In Bonti Barua's case 1978 A.C.J. 412 (Gauhati) the deceased was an Assistant Planning and Development officer and was drawing Rs. 540/- per month. There also it was urged that the scale of pay of the post which the deceased held was revised in 1975 as published in the Gazette of Assam Extraordinary, dated 15th July, 1975 with restrospective effect from 1st January, 1973 and the same should be taken note of in assessing compensation; and the contention was accepted. In Manjushri Raha v. B.L. Gupta 1977 A.C.J. 134 (S.C.), the Tribunal and the High Court awarded compensation only on the basis of the total salary which the deceased would have got upto the age of 55 years. It was observed by the Supreme Court that the Tribunal and the High Court overlooked two important and vital considerations. In the first place, while the admitted position was that the deceased was working in the grade of Rs. 590-30-830-35-900 and was getting a salary of Rs. 620/- per month at the time of his death, the Courts below did not take into account the salary which he would have earned while reaching the maximum of his grade long before his retirement. It was admitted that the deceased was 37 years of age at the time of the accident and at this rate he could have reached the maximum at the age of 46 years, i.e., full 9 years before his superannuation. The increments that were to be earned and the maximum in the grade were reckoned. The value of the estate and loss to the dependents was, in that case taken to be half the amount. It was also held that this did not account for the economic value of the deprivation to the wife of her husband's company for ever and shock felt by the children. It was further held that the deceased would have lived at least upto the age of 65 years and would have earned pensionary benefits for 10 years after retirement and he would be entitled to monthly pension at the prescribed rate and would have got death-cum-retirement gratuity calculated on the basis of the presumptive average emoluments and presumptive last emoluments. Their Lordships also observed that where a passenger travelling by a plane died in an accident, he would get a compensation of Rs. 1,00,000/-, and the life of a passenger in a bus could not be taken to be less valuable.

9. In Assam State Transport Corporation v. Mahadevi Nayak 1982 A.C.J. 83 (Gauhati), this Court referred to Gobald Motor Service Ltd. v. R.M.K. Veluswami 1958-65 A.C.J. 179 (S.C.), Davies v. Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries Ltd. (1942) I All E.R. 657 and Nance v. British Columbia Electric Rly. Co. Ltd. (1951) A.C. 601. In Gobald Motor 1958-65 A.C.J. 179 (S.C.) it has been observed:

Shortly stated, the general principle is that the pecuniary loss can be ascertained only by balancing on the one hand the loss to the claimants of the future pecuniary benefit and on the other any pecuniary advantage which from whatever source comes to them by reason of the death, that is, the balance of loss and gain to a dependent by the death must be ascertained.

10. As has been elaborated by Lord Wright in Davies v. Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries Ltd. (1942) 1 All E.R. 657.:

The damages are to be based on the reasonable expectation of pecuniary benefit or benefit reducible to money value. In assessing the damages all circumstances which may be legitimately pleaded in diminution of the damages must be considered...The actual pecuniary loss of each individual entitled to sue can only be ascertained by balancing, on the one hand, the loss to him of the future pecuniary benefit, and, on the other any pecuniary advantage which from whatever source comes to him by reason of the death.

11. Applying the above principles to the facts of this case we may estimate that in the above scale of Rs, 300-25-800 the deceased would have reached the maximum after 16 more years and would have drawn a total salary of Rs, 1,22,400/- approximately. He would have been in service for five more years during which he would have drawn at the rate of maximum of Rs. 800/- per month a total sum of Rs. 28,000/-. Thus till his retirement at the age of 55 years he would have drawn approximately a salary of Rs. 1,60,400/- which may be rounded up at Rs. 1,60,000/-. If one-third of this sum would have been spent on himself his family would have received about Rs. 1,06,000/-. In 1973 while in the old scale he would have drawn Rs. 500/- p.m., in the new scale he would have started drawing at least Rs. 535/- p.m. and would have drawn Rs. 1,125/- p.m. at the maximum. This would bring him an additional amount of Rs. 15,000/- in the new scale of which Rs. 10,000/- would have gone to the benefit of the family. Thus the total loss to the family comes to Rs. 1,16,000/-.

12. Normally the deceased would have received a superannuation pension under the Assam Services (Pension) Rules, 1969. After service of not less than ten years the rate of superannuation pension would vary according to the completed six-monthly periods of qualifying service between one-sixth to one-third of the average emolument subject to a maximum limit of pension. If forty six-monthly periods of qualifying since he would draw one third of average emolument subject to a maximum of Rs. 290/- p.m. If the life span is taken at 65 years he would draw such pension of Rs. 34,800/- which may be rounded up at Rs. 34,800/-.

13. The deceased would also have got death-cum retirement gratuity at the rate of one-fourth of his emolument for each completed six-monthly period of qualifying service subject to a maximum of 15 times the emoluments which would come to about Rs. 12,000/-. By the accident death of her husband the claimant, Mrs. Jyotirmoyee Das, has lost consortium for the rest of her life and for this loss of consortium she would be entitled to a reasonable sum which we estimate at Rs. 30,000/-.

14. Thus the total compensation on the above heads would come to about Rs. 1,92,000/-. This does not take into consideration the selection grade pay, the chance of promotion to A.C.S. Class I and the future pay revisions. In fact since his death two pay revisions have already been made. As against this we have to deduct a percentage for uncertainties of life, lumpsum payments etc. If the above are taken to have been mutually balanced, even then the total amount of compensation would be more than Rs. 1,50,000/- as has been given in the impugned award.

15. In the Rajasthan State Transport Corporation v. Narain Shanker 1980 A.C.J. 411 (S.C.), it has been expressed:

The State Corporation has contested even the quantum of the claim. Indian life and limb cannot be treated as cheap at least by State instrumentalities. The heads of claim have been correctly appreciated by the Tribunal and the awards have been moderate. Here again, the State Corporation should have sympathised with the victims of the tragic accident and generously adjusted the claims within a short period. What is needed is not callous litigation but greater attention to the efficiency of service, including insistence on competent, cautious and responsible driving.

16. The loss of a human life cannot strictly be compensated in terms of money. In these days of soaring prices and declining money value, an award of Rs. 1,50,000/- for the death of a young A.C.S. Class II Officer at the age of 34 and the consequential deprivation of consortium and protective services to his wife and minor son cannot be discounted.

17. The impugned award is silent about interest. We consider it reasonable to order that interest at the rate of 6 (six) per cent per annum on the unpaid amount shall be paid from the date of the award till the date of its payment.

18. For the reasons discussed above this appeal is dismissed. As we have ordered payment of interest, we pass no order as to costs.

19. D. Pathak, C.J.--I agree.


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