Our yardsticks of compensation should not be so abysmal as to lead one to question whether our law values human life, the bench said.
While enhancing compensation awarded to a man who lost both his hands in an accident, the Supreme Court, in Jagdish v Mohan, observed that the measure of compensation must reflect a genuine attempt of the law to restore the dignity of the being.
Justice DY Chandrachud, speaking for the three-judge bench, observed: “Our yardsticks of compensation should not be so abysmal as to lead one to question whether our law values human life. If it does, as it must, it must provide a realistic recompense for the pain of loss and the trauma of suffering. Awards of compensation are not law’s doles. In a discourse of rights, they constitute entitlements under the law. Our conversations about law must shift from a paternalistic subordination of the individual to an assertion of enforceable rights as intrinsic to human dignity.”
Although in this case, the tribunal noted that the claimant is unable to even eat or to attend to a visit to the toilet without the assistance of an attendant, it had computed the disability at 90 percent. The tribunal awarded compensation of Rs. 12,81,228 for the injuries suffered by him, which the high court enhanced by an amount of Rs.2,19,000. Dissatisfied, the claimant approached the apex court.
The three-judge bench headed by Chief justice of India Dipak Misra observed: “For a person engaged in manual activities, it requires no stretch of imagination to understand that a loss of hands is a complete deprivation of the ability to earn. Nothing – at least in the facts of this case – can restore lost hands… In this background, it would be a denial of justice to compute the disability at 90 percent. The disability is indeed total.”
The court finally awarded a total sum of Rs. 25,38,308 by way of compensation, which includes future treatment expenses.