A division bench of Justices Surya Kant and MM Sundresh were hearing an appeal challenging a decision made by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana wherein they reduced the compensation awarded by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT). [Gurpreet Kaur and Others v. United India Insurance Company and Others].
The husband of the appellant, Pyara Singh met with an accident on November 12, 2014, when a JCB collided with his motorcycle. The tribunal had initially calculated the compensation based on his monthly income as a contractor i.e. Rs. 50,000/- along with the EMI payment for his tractor. Besides this, the court also took into account his expenses for maintaining his family and his two minor children. After the assessment the monthly income of the deceased was taken as Rs. 25,000/- and the compensation decided was Rs. 43,75,000/-.
When the plea came to High Court, they overlooked the factors and concluded that the mere fact of instalments paid could not itself be evidence for the assessment of the income of the deceased. Hence taking into consideration the notification issued by the State of Haryana, fixing the minimum wage is more relevant and, on this premise, the income was assessed at Rs. 7,000/- and the compensation granted to the appellants was substantially reduced to Rs. 16,57,600/-.
According to the Supreme Court, the tribunal adopted a balanced approach by keeping in view all factors that are justified in law as well as facts.
The excerpts from the judgment read out:
“In the summary proceedings where the approach of the Tribunal’s determination must be in conformity with the object of the welfare legislation, it was rightly held that the monthly income of the deceased could not be less than Rs.25,000/-. The reason assigned by the High Court to reduce the monthly income of the deceased is totally cryptic and has no rationale. The Notification of Minimum Wages Act can be a guiding factor only in a case where there is no clue available to evaluate the monthly income of the deceased.”
The Supreme Court further held that the order dated 24.09.2019 by the High Court was set aside and the award dated 12.09.2016 by Motor Accident Claims Tribunal was restored. The appellants are held to be entitled to the tribunal’s award and the balance amount after adjusting the amount already paid shall be deposited along with the interest before the Tribunal within the time frame of two months from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.
Source: Live Law, Bar and Bench.