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Hindustan General Insurance Co. (Now National Insurance Co. Ltd.) Vs. Sushila Gupta and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberFirst Appeal from Order No. 90 of 1978
Judge
Reported inI(1985)ACC392; [1987]61CompCas3(All)
ActsMotor Vehicles Act, 1939 - Sections 110D
AppellantHindustan General Insurance Co. (Now National Insurance Co. Ltd.)
RespondentSushila Gupta and ors.
Appellant AdvocatePrakash Gupta, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateA.K. Yog, Adv. for respondent No. 1
DispositionAppeal partly allowed
Excerpt:
.....by any rash or negligent act on the part of the driver of the truck. 32,134 was awarded against the appellant as well as the owner as compensation payable to the claimant. it was urged, relying on several decisions of this court, the supreme court as well as other high courts that in cases of fatal accidents, the claimants are not entitled to any compensation on such considerations as love, affection, mental agony or similar considerations. (1) the compensation to be assessed is the pecuniary loss caused to the dependants by the death of the person concerned, and no compensation is to be assessed on any extraneous considerations like love, affection, mental agony or any such similar consideration......vehicle, the tribunal held in favour of the claimant. on issue no. 4, the tribunal held that the claimant was entitled to a sum of rs. 1,000 by way of medical expenses for the treatment of the deceased and another sum of rs. 1,134 as the pecuniary loss which was caused to the claimant as a result of the death of her husband by reason of having been deprived of the contribution which the deceased would have made towards the maintenance of his wife. the tribunal found that the deceased was, at the time of his death, drawing a pension of rs. 276 per month out of which rs. 150 might be set apart for the personal expenses of the deceased had he been alive. that left a balance of rs. 126 per month which would have been available to the claimant had the accident not taken place. on a further.....
Judgment:

A.N. Verma, J.

1. This appeal has been filed by the insurer under Sections 110D of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, against an award given by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Meerut, whereby a sum of Rs. 32,134 has been awarded as compensation to the claimant-respondent who is the widow of one Sri S. P. Gupta who admittedly died in the accident giving rise to this appeal.

2. The assertions made by the claimant were that her husband, S.P. Gupta, was coming on a scooter from Ghaziabad near Dasna town when he was struck by a truck owned by respondents Nos. 2 and 3 and insured with the appellant as a result of which the deceased fell down and eventually succumbed to the injuries. The accident, according to the claimant, occurred on account of rash and negligent driving of the truck. A sum of Rs. 50,000 was claimed by the respondent as compensation against the appellant as well as the owner of the truck.

3. The claim was contested by the appellant as well as the owner and driver of the truck who denied that the accident was caused by any rash or negligent act on the part of the driver of the truck. They also disputed the quantum of compensation claimed by the respondent,

4. On the pleadings of the parties relevant issues were framed. On the issue whether the deceased died in the aforesaid accident as a result of rash and negligent driving by the driver of the vehicle, the Tribunal held in favour of the claimant. On issue No. 4, the Tribunal held that the claimant was entitled to a sum of Rs. 1,000 by way of medical expenses for the treatment of the deceased and another sum of Rs. 1,134 as the pecuniary loss which was caused to the claimant as a result of the death of her husband by reason of having been deprived of the contribution which the deceased would have made towards the maintenance of his wife. The Tribunal found that the deceased was, at the time of his death, drawing a pension of Rs. 276 per month out of which Rs. 150 might be set apart for the personal expenses of the deceased had he been alive. That left a balance of Rs. 126 per month which would have been available to the claimant had the accident not taken place. On a further finding that the deceased was 59 years and three months old at the time of his death and, on the assumption that in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, his life expectancy could be put at 60 years, the Tribunal calculated the loss of pecuniary benefit to the claimant at Rs. 1,134, multiplying Rs. 126 by 9.

5. The Tribunal also awarded a sum of Rs. 30,000 to the claimant under item No. 3 which reads as follows:

' Compensation for pain and suffering undergone by the widow due to the death of the husband.'

6. Thus, a total sum of Rs. 32,134 was awarded against the appellant as well as the owner as compensation payable to the claimant.

7. The insurance company has filed this appeal for the appellant and the findings of the Tribunal on issues other than award of compensation under item No. 3 quoted above were not seriously challenged. I have examined these findings and, in my opinion, the Tribunal has rightly concluded that the claimant was entitled to Rs. 1,000 as compensation on account of medical expenses and a sum of Rs. 1,134 as loss of pecuniary benefit to the claimant caused as a result of the death of her husband. These findings of the Tribunal are supported by evidence and may be accepted as correct.

8. The main contention of learned counsel for the appellant, however, was that the Tribunal fell into a serious error of law in awarding compensation to the respondent on account of pain and suffering. It was urged, relying on several decisions of this court, the Supreme Court as well as other High Courts that in cases of fatal accidents, the claimants are not entitled to any compensation on such considerations as love, affection, mental agony or similar considerations. It was argued that in so far as cases where the accident has resulted in death are concerned, the claimants are entitled only to claim loss of pecuniary benefit to which they would have been entitled had the accident not resulted in the death of the person through whom the claim i-s pressed.

9. Learned counsel for the respondent, on the other hand, submitted that there is nothing in the Motor Vehicles Act or any other provisions or principles which may indicate that in cases of fatal accidents the claimants are not entitled to damages on account of non-physical injuries or what has been described as non-pecuniary damages in various decisions.

10. Having heard learned counsel for the parties I find that the contention of learned counsel for the appellant is supported by considerable weight of authorities. The earliest case cited by learned counsel for the appellant is that of Gobald Motor Service Ltd. v. R.M.K. Veluswami [1961-62] 20 FJR 503; AIR 1962 SC 1, in which their Lordships of the Supreme Court observed that in assessing damages in cases of fatal accidents, a number of imponderables enter but, shortly stated, the general principle is that in such cases, damages are ascertained only by balancing on 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, i.e., the balance of loss and gain to a dependant by the death. This principle wasapplied by the Supreme Court in a case covered by the Motor Vehicles Act! Sheikhupura Transport Co. Ltd, v. Northern India Transporters' Insurance Co. Ltd. [1971] ACJ 206; AIR 1971 SC 1624. The principle spelt out in Gobald Motor Service's case [1961-62] 20 FJR 503; AIR 1962 SC 1, was reiterated in this case. These decisions of the Supreme Court were based on a consideration of certain English decisions in which the same principle was laid down.

11. The above Supreme Court decisions were noticed by a Full Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case of Lachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur [1979] ACJ170; AIR 1979 P&H; 50; [1979] 81 PLR 1 [FB] in which after dealing with numerous decisions of various High Courts and of the English Courts, the law was stated thus in paragraph 27 (at p. 59 of AIR 1979 P & H) of the judgment:

' It is manifest from a perusal of the various judgments of this court that the multiplier method has not been applied and compensation in cases under the Act, and the Motor Vehicles Act, has been assessed on erroneous basis. Keeping in view the decisions in the Supreme Court cases and some English cases, noticed above, we hold that the following principles be observed and followed while assessing the compensation.

(1) The compensation to be assessed is the pecuniary loss caused to the dependants by the death of the person concerned, and no compensation is to be assessed on any extraneous considerations like love, affection, mental agony or any such similar consideration. Solatium is alien to the concept of compensation...'

12. In a decision of this court also, the same principle has been adopted : vide Mrs. Brij Kali Devi v. Ramchand Bishan Singh [1979] ACJ 164 (All); AIR 1979 All 49. In this case, a Bench of this court, after noticing various decisions of the Supreme Court including the leading case of Gobald Motor Service Ltd. v. R.M.K. Veluswami [1961-62] 20 FJR 503 ; AIR 1962 SC 1, stated the law in the following terms (at p. 51 of AIR 1979 All):

' It will thus be seen that unless there is something special in the circumstances of a particular case which may justify determination of compensation payable to a claimant on some other basis, the normal rule for its determination is to ascertain the future pecuniary benefit which the claimants would have gained, had the deceased not died and, thereafter, to adjust therefrom any pecuniary advantage which from whatever source comes to the claimants by reason of the death.'

13. The Bench repelled a contention raised on behalf of the claimants whereby some amount was claimed on account of mental shock and physical pain suffered by the deceased. The Bench observed in paragraph 17 (at p. 53 of AIR 1979 All) of the judgment that a claim on account of any personal loss suffered by the deceased was not admissible under the MotorVehicles Act. It was also a case of fatal accident and the Bench refused to award any compensation on account of any mental shock and physical pain suffered by the deceased.

14. From a conspectus of the judicial pronouncements referred to above and the precedents cited therein, therefore, there appears to be a complete unanimity on the question as to the measure of compensation in cases of accidents resulting in death. The preponderance of view is that in cases of fatal accidents, compensation is not claimable on account of mental suffering or shock and similar sentimental considerations and that in these cases, the only compensation which can ordinarily be claimed is the loss of pecuniary benefit to which the claimants are exposed as a result of the death deducting therefrom any pecuniary advantages which accrue to them as a consequence of the death of the victim of the accident. As observed by their Lordships of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case of Lachhman Singh's case [1979] ACJ 170; AIR 1979 P& H 50; [1979] 81 PLR 1 [FBj.in such cases, solatium is alien to the concept of compensation. This principle will, however, not apply in cases other than fatal accidents.

15. That being the legal position, it is apparent that the Tribunal was in error in awarding Rs. 30,000 as compensation to the claimant on account of mental agony and suffering.

16. In the result, the appeal succeeds in part and is allowed. The award made by the Tribunal is modified. The compensation awarded by the Tribunal against the appellants is reduced from Rs. 32,134 to Rs. 2,134. The claimant shall be entitled to pendente lite and future interest at the rate of 6% per annum on this reduced amount. The parties shall, however, bear their own costs of this appeal.

17. During the pendency of this appeal, an interim order was passed whereby the appellant was directed to deposit the entire amount awarded by the Tribunal out of which the claimants were left free to withdraw half without furnishing security and the other half on furnishing security. In pursuance of that order, the claimant has withdrawn half of the amount deposited by the appellant without furnishing security. Learned counsel for the appellant has made a concession before this court as a special case and on compassionate grounds that the appellant shall not recover the amount which the claimant-respondent has withdrawn without furnishing security in pursuance of the interim order of this court. In view of this statement, the appellant shall be entitled to withdraw only the remaining half which has been deposited with the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal. If, however, the claimant has withdrawn that half also on furnishing security, the appellant shall be entitled to recover the same from the security furnished by the claimant.


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