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Sunanda Maudgal Vs. Pepsu Road Transport Corporation, Patiala and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberLetter patent Appeal No. 342 of 1979
Judge
Reported inAIR1983P& H370
ActsMotor Vehicles Act, 1939 - Sections 110-A
AppellantSunanda Maudgal
RespondentPepsu Road Transport Corporation, Patiala and anr.
Cases ReferredAsha Rani v. Union of India
Excerpt:
.....on record like income-tax returns or assessment orders to corroborate her statement regarding the income of her deceased husband from this source. 100/- per month on account of car maintenance out of the total emoluments of the deceased and then to work out the amount that the deceased must have spent upon himself out of the balance was clearly unwarranted. part of such expense, could at best, be considered as one of the items of expense that the deceased must have been incurring during his lifetime. this is a matter and circumstances of each case, besides considering the position in life and occupation of the deceased and the claimant and any special facts, if any, pertaining to them, it would be well to bear in mind here that, in the expenses of the family or the household, as the..........during his lifetime.10. similarly, in the matter of the deduction made in the present case on account of income-tax there is no evidence that the deceased was actually paying any such tax, considering the total emoluments of the deceased it is very likely that after permissible deductions had been allowed, no income-tax was payable. excluding any amount on account of the income-tax or car maintenance as had been done in this case cannot, therefore, be supported.11. in dealing with the matter relating to the assessment of the amount that the deceased must have been spending upon himself, there can be no hard and fast rule for determining such amount. this is a matter and circumstances of each case, besides considering the position in life and occupation of the deceased and the.....
Judgment:

S.S. Sodhi, J.

1. Doctor Mahesh Chander Maudgal a Senior Lecturer at the Medical College, Patiala was killed in an accident which took place between his car and a bus belonging to the Pepsu Road Transport Corporation on Dec. 6, 1967 near village Kauli on the Patiala-Rajpura road. Mrs. Sunanda Maudgal, the young widow of the deceased doctor preferred a claim for compensation for a sum of Rs. 1,75,000.-under S. 110-A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, for the loss suffered by her due to her husband's death.

2. The claim filed by Mrs. Sunanda Maudgal was dismissed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, holding that the accident had not been shown to have taken place on account of the rash or negligent driving of the respondent-bus driver. On appeal this finding was overturned by the learned single Judge, who held that the accident was the direct consequence of the rash and negligent driving of the bus driver. A sum of Rupees 45,000/- was awarded to the claimant as compensation long with interest at the rate of 4 per cent per annum thereon.

3. The challenge in this Letters patent Appeal, filed by Mrs. Sunanda Maudgal, is with regard to the amount awarded as compensation. The finding of the learned single Judge with regard to negligence of the respondent-bus driver was not questioned before us.

4. The evidence on record shows that Dr. Mahesh Chander Maudgal, deceased, was 36 years of age at the time of his death and he had only recently been married to the claimant in Feb., 1967. She was 21 years of age at the time of his death. The couple had no child.

5. Dr. Mahesh Chander Maudgal was a highly qualified doctor. Not only was he M. B. B. S. and M. S., but he also had to his credit medical qualifications from abroad, namely D. O. M. S. (Ogheart-Belgium) and F. R. C. S. (Dublin). As has been mentioned above, he was senior lecturer at the Medical College, Patiala at the time of his death.

6. According to the statement of the claimant Mrs. Sunanda Maudgal, the income of her deceased husband consisted of his salary from the post held by him, as also the amount which he earned by the private practice. This she stated was Rs. 600 to 700/- per month.

7. Mr. H. S. Sawhney, counsel for the appellant argued that the learned single Judge had erred in not taking into account the income of the deceased from private practice, in computing the loss suffered by the claimant on account of the death of her deceased husband. This contention does not merit acceptance. No claim had been put-forth by the claimant in her application on this account nor is there any evidence on record like income-tax returns or assessment orders to corroborate her statement regarding the income of her deceased husband from this source. In this situation the learned single Judge rightly took the income of the deceased to be only his salary for the post held by him, as had been mentioned in the application field by the claimant.

8. The total emoluments of Dr. Mahesh Chander Maudgal, at the time of his death, were Rs. 737/- per month, as was deposed to by Shri K. N. Behal (A. W. 8) from the office of the Accountant General, Punjab The learned single Judge held that out of this sum Rs. 37/- were likely to have been deducted as income-tax and the deceased was also likely to have spent about Rs. 100/- per month on the maintenance of his car and it was the remaining Rs. 600/- per month which the deceased and the claimant were utilising for themselves. After excluding the expenses that the deceased must have been spending upon himself, Rs. 250/- per month was taken to be the amount which must have been spent by the deceased for the maintenance of his wife-claimant. It was on this basis that the annual dependency was assessed at Rs. 3,000/- . The learned single Judge took 15 to be the appropriate multiplier in the present case and it was on this basis that a sum of Rs. 45,000/- was awarded as compensation.

9. We are constrained with respect to differ here in the matter of the computation of the loss suffered by the claimant and the compensation that she is consequently entitled to in this case. Deduction of a sum of Rs. 100/- per month on account of car maintenance out of the total emoluments of the deceased and then to work out the amount that the deceased must have spent upon himself out of the balance was clearly unwarranted. Car maintenance cannot be taken to be an expense wholly attributable to the deceased. Such an expense would be an expense of the family. Part of such expense, could at best, be considered as one of the items of expense that the deceased must have been incurring during his lifetime.

10. Similarly, in the matter of the deduction made in the present case on account of income-tax there is no evidence that the deceased was actually paying any such tax, Considering the total emoluments of the deceased it is very likely that after permissible deductions had been allowed, no income-tax was payable. Excluding any amount on account of the income-tax or car maintenance as had been done in this case cannot, therefore, be supported.

11. In dealing with the matter relating to the assessment of the amount that the deceased must have been spending upon himself, there can be no hard and fast rule for determining such amount. This is a matter and circumstances of each case, Besides considering the position in life and occupation of the deceased and the claimant and any special facts, if any, pertaining to them, it would be well to bear in mind here that, in the expenses of the family or the household, as the case may be, there are certain, what may be called inflexible items of expenditure like house rent, water and electricity charges, children's education expenses, house furnishing and the like which remain largely unaffected by the addition or subtraction of a member of the family. Seen in this context and generally in the totality of circumstances of the deceased and the claimant, it would be reasonable to hold that the loss suffered by the claimant on account of the death of the deceased was to the tune of Rs. 500/- per month. The remaining amount out of the total emoluments of the deceased being taken to be what the deceased must have been spending upon himself.

12. The principles governing the assessment of compensation payable to dependants of the deceased in such cases are those as laid down by the Full Bench of this High Court in Lachhman Singh v. Gurmit Kaur, 81 Pun LR 1: (AIR 1979 Punj & Har 50) where it was observed that the compensation to be assessed is the pecuniary loss caused to the dependants by the death of the deceased and for the purpose of calculating the just compensation, annual dependency of the dependants should be determined in terms of the annual loss accruing to them due to the abrupt termination of life. For this purpose annual earnings of the deceased at the time of the accident and the amount out of the same which he was spending for the maintenance of the dependants will be the determining factor. This basic figure will them be multiplied by a suitable multiplier. It was further observed that the suitable multiplier shall be determined by taking into consideration the number of years of the dependency of the carious dependants the number of years by which the life of the deceased was cut short and the carious imponderable factors such as early natural death of the decease, his becoming incapable of supporting the dependants due to illness or any other natural handicap or calamity, the prospects of the re-marriage of the widow, the coming up of the age of the dependants and their developing independent sources of income as well as the pecuniary benefits which might accrue to the dependants on account of the death of the person concerned.

13. The Full Bench authority referred to above came up for consideration before a Division Bench consisting of Chief Justice S. S. Sandhawalia and Surinder Singh, J. in Asha Rani v. Union of India, 84 Pun LR 486: (AIR 1982 Punj & Har 435) where it was held that the normal multiplier is sixteen and it can rise to a maximum of twenty, virtually as the outer limit. It was further observed that the primary purpose of compensation to the dependants is to provide them a consolidated fund of money which would continue to yield annual financial support, which the deceased was providing to his dependants, in other words, the amount which would guarantee the availability of an equivalent annual financial income to them.

14. Considered in the light of the principles as set out in the authorities referred to above, there can be no escape from the conclusion that bright prospects for advancement in life clearly lay ahead for the deceased, in view of the high qualifications which he had attained. Being in good health and only 36 years of age at the time of his death, he also could look to a long life expectancy had it not been cut short by this unfortunate accident. The claimant on her part, being the wife would naturally have shared in the fortunes of her deceased husband and that too for a long period of time, she herself being only 21 years old at that time. These aspects have, however, to be imponderables as set out in Lachhman Singh's case (AIR 1979 Punj & Har 50)(supra) for settling upon an appropriate multiplier to fit the peculiar facts of this case. Here, it would be pertinent to be a in mind that in the case of widows, particularly young widows, the prospects of remarriage and dependency upon the deceased husbands coming to an end thereby, is one of the main factors which go to peg down the extent of the likely loss suffered by them on account of their husband's death. It is, here, that the claimant's case is distinguishable form other such case relating to compensation to widows, in that it is now almost 16 yeas since the accident took place and as stated by her counsel, she has not remarried to date. This fact seen in the context of her being widowed at such a young age and that too without children, renders her remarriage now well-nigh out of question. In these circumstances, the learned single Judge had clearly fallen in error in taking 15 to be the multiplier in the present case, whereas a higher multiplier than the normal was amply justified in the totality of the circumstances of the case. Al things considered the appropriate multiplier must be taken to be 18.

15. The award of interest at the rate of 4 per cent per annum on the amount awarded as compensation also cannot be sustained. Keeping in view the interest payable on be awarded at the rate of 12 per cent pr annum on such amounts.

16. In the result, taking 18 to be the appropriate multiplier, the compensation payable to the claimant is enhanced to Rupees 1,08,000/- . This sum is accordingly awarded to the claimant as compensation along with interest at the rate of 12 per cent per annum thereon, from the date of the application to the date of the payment of the amount awarded. The judgment of the learned single Judge is modified accordingly.

17. This Letters patent Appeal is thus accepted to the extent indicated above with costs. Counsel's fee Rs. 500/- .

S.S. Sandhawalia, C. J.

18. I agree.

19. Order accordingly.


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