No restriction on Court in awarding compensation exceeding claimed amount under Section 168 of MV Act 1988; “just compensation” explained: SC

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of N.V. Ramana and M.M. Shantanagoudar, JJ. allowed an appeal for enhancing the compensation awarded under Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 by the Kerala High Court.

The claimants were the dependants (wife, 2 children, and aged father) of the deceased who died in an accident in 2008. The moved a claim petition before the Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal seeking a total compensation of Rs 25,00,000. The Tribunal granted a compensation of Rs 11,83,000 which was enhanced by the High Court by an additional award of Rs 9,70,000. The claimants preferred the instant appeal for further enhancing the compensation.

The Supreme Court considered the salary certificate of the deceased, cost of living, and other relevant factors. It was held that the High Court was not right in deducting 2/3rd of the deceased’s total income towards his personal expenses and was of the view that a deduction of 40% would be appropriate for quantifying compensation. In the opinion of the Court, the claimants were entitled to a total compensation of Rs 28,00,000 which interestingly was higher than the amount claimed by the dependants of the deceased. Referring to Nagappa v. Gurudayal Singh, (2003) 2 SCC 274; Magma General Insurance v. Nanu Ram, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1546 and Ibrahim v. Raju, (2011) 10 SCC 634, the Court observed, “There is no restriction that the Court cannot award compensation exceeding the claimed amount, since the function of the Tribunal or Court under Section 168 of the Motor Vehicles  Act, 1988 is to award ‘just compensation’. The Motor Vehicles Act is a beneficial and welfare legislation. A ‘just compensation’ is one in which reasonable on the basis of evidence produced on record. It cannot be said to have become time-barred. Further, there is no need for a new cause of action to claim an enhanced amount. The Courts are duty to award just compensation.”

The appeal was thus allowed and disposed of in terms above. [Ramla v. National Insurance Company Ltd.,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2616, decided on 30-11-2018]

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