The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No bar on mishap damages

New Delhi, Dec. 5: The Supreme Court has ruled that motor accident tribunals could enhance the insurance compensation amount for widows, children, and poor, illiterate and other underprivileged persons while increasing the damages for a farmer of Karnataka by Rs 1 lakh.

A three-judge bench of Justice M.B. Shah, Justice B.P. Singh and Justice H.K. Sema said in a judgment that tribunals need not stick to the compensation amount claimed by the victim. It could enhance the amount if it thought it necessary.

Nagappa, an agricultural labourer, lost his legs when a speeding vehicle rammed into his bullock cart. The tribunal granted him Rs 30,000 as compensation, an amount that was not even enough for his medical expenses. After hearing his appeal, the apex court ordered sanction of another Rs 1 lakh to meet his “recurring medical expenses”.

“Under the provisions of the motor vehicles Act, there is no restriction that compensation could be awarded only up to the amount claimed by the claimant,” the judges said.

The apex court pointed out that Nagappa’s artificial legs had to be replaced every two to three years and the appellant “would be required to have some sort of operation and also change the artificial leg”.

“Considering this aspect, if Rs 1 lakh is awarded as an additional compensation, the appellant would be in a position to meet the said expenses from the interest of the said amount,” the judges ruled.

While granting Nagappa the additional amount, the judges added: “In an appropriate case, where from the evidence brought on record if the tribunal or the court considers that the claimant is entitled to get more compensation than claimed, then the tribunal/court may pass such an award.”

The court laid down one condition: the enhanced compensation should be “neither arbitrary, fanciful nor unjustifiable from the evidence”.

The judges reiterated that if in a case the evidence justified the enhanced compensation for recurring medical treatment required for the injury caused by the accident, there was no reason why such amendment or enhanced compensation should not be granted.

He court reiterated that for minors, the damages should be invested in long-term fixed deposits, at least till the child becomes an adult.

The minor’s guardian can withdraw an amount from the deposit to meet expenses. A widow’s compensation should also be put in a fixed deposit.

The court cautioned that banks should not permit any loan or advance on such fixed deposits and that interest from the deposit should be paid directly to the claimant or the guardian.

In personal injury cases, if further treatment is necessary, the tribunal could permit withdrawal of the amount necessary for the incurring the expenses from the deposit.

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