The Jharkhand High Court observed that a Motor Accident Claim Tribunal cannot disbelieve claimant's sworn testimony regarding his income if there is no rebuttal evidence from the opposite party.

The Court allowed the appeal filed by the said Advocate for an increase in said compensation observing that incorrectly reduced the compensation of the Advocate involved in a road accident.

The Court noted that the Tribunal arbitrarily reduced the monthly income from Rs.14,000/- to Rs.9,000/- without valid reasons, citing the absence of documentary proof despite an unrebutted sworn testimony for the said Advocate.

The Bench of Justice Pradeep Kumar Srivastava observed, “learned tribunal on his own accord conjectured about the monthly income of the claimant reduced it to Rs.9,000/- in place of Rs.14,000/- as claimed without any cogent reasons merely on the ground of absence of documentary proof of income the unrebutted sworn testimony of a witness can not be disbelieved”.

Advocate M. B. Lal appeared for the Appellant, Advocate Mrinal Kanti Roy appeared for the First Respondent and Advocate Yogendra Prasad appeared for the Second Respondent (M/s National Insurance Company Ltd).

The Appellant, a victim of a road accident, filed an appeal seeking an increase in the compensation awarded by the Motor Accident Claim Tribunal (MACT). The MACT had awarded Rs. 8,16,492 along with simple interest at 6% per annum under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (MV Act). The Appellant's claim was based on injuries sustained in a collision with a rashly driven Maruti Car.

The Court framed the following issue: “Whether the impugned award requires re-assessment of compensation amount as per established principles of law?

The Court noted that the appellant was a practising lawyer and underwent multiple medical treatments, including surgery and bone grafting, incurring expenses exceeding Rs.2 lakhs. Despite being bedridden for over a year, the Appellant continued to receive outpatient care, with one pending operation. The injuries resulted in the loss of flexibility in his right leg, hindering his mobility and affecting his daily activities.

The Bench noted that the Tribunal disregarded the claimant's sworn testimony and made conjectures without rebuttal evidence from the opposing parties. The Tribunal, without sufficient reasons, reduced the claimed monthly income from Rs.14,000 to Rs.9,000, relying on the absence of documentary proof. However, the Bench held that the unrebutted testimony of the practising lawyer, with over 12 years of experience, should not be dismissed.

The Court observed that the tribunal awarded 6% interest per annum on the awarded amount but excluded the period from February 26, 2015 and January 26, 2017 due to the dismissal and subsequent restoration of the claim petition. The Court observed that this exclusion was unreasonable, stating that the restoration of the claim petition relates to its institution date and should carry interest from that date until the actual payment.

The Court therefore held that the awarded amount of Rs.14,88,532 will carry interest at 6% per annum from the date of the claim petition's institution until the date of actual payment. Any amount previously paid by the Second Respondent per the tribunal's award will be deducted, and the remaining amount will be paid with the specified interest within 8 weeks from the date of this order.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Appeal and modified the impugned order.

Cause Title: Gautam Kumar Banarjee v C. P. Vidyarthi

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