The Supreme Court, while granting enhanced compensation to the dependents of a deceased, observed that the assessment of compensation cannot be done with mathematical precision.

The dependants (old mother, wife, daughter and son) of the deceased had filed an insurance claim petition pleading that the deceased was the sole bread earner of the family.

The dependents were aggrieved by the grant of compensation awarded by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (Tribunal), therefore, they preferred an appeal before the Madras High Court. The High Court on the contrary reduced the compensation granted by the Tribunal.

The Supreme Court had to ascertain the quantum of compensation the dependents were entitled to with reference to the assessment of the income of the deceased.

In this context, Justice C.T. Ravikumar and Justice Rajesh Bindal observed, “Assessment of compensation cannot be done with mathematical precision. The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 also provides for assessment of just and fair compensation...It is evident that besides generating income from the land owned by the family in the form of sale of paddy and bananas, the deceased was also having income from supply of milk and coconuts to the school. There is also material available on record to show that he worked as a Government contractor…To make the lives of his family members comfortable, the deceased was multi-tasking and he was not engaged in a 9.00 to 5.00 P.M. job.

Sr. Advocate V Chidambaresh represented the appellants, while Advocate Pankaj Seth appeared for the respondents.

The Court took note of the fact that the deceased was in various businesses such as supplying milk and coconuts, taking care of the family land, and other contractual work.

The Court stated that the “High Court on a very conservative basis assessed the income of the deceased” and the same deserved to be re-assessed as the deceased was doing multiple works.

The Court remarked that the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 provided for “assessment of just and fair compensation,” and held that the “value of the labour being put in by the deceased in agriculture, it would be reasonable to assess his income at 35,000/- per month.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court modified the judgment of the High Court and disposed of the appeal.

Cause Title: Vethambal & Ors. v. The Oriental Insurance Company & Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 180)


Appellants: Sr. Advocate V Chidambaresh; AOR Biju P Raman; Advocates Usha Nandini V, John Thomas Arakal and Govind Venugopal

Respondents: AOR Manjeet Chawla; Advocates Pankaj Seth and Aashish Arora

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