The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court has allowed a Christian religious organization to claim compensation for the death of a nun who died in a road accident after being hit by a rashly driven State Transport Corporation bus as it was of the view that the organization suffered considerable loss due to the death of the voluntary worker in a fatal accident.
Justice A M Basheer Ahamed dismissed the appeal filed by the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation against the order of compensation passed by the Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal in year 2009 in favour of St. Maria Auxilum Sisters's Congress on account of death of a nun belonging to the Congress in a road accident in year 2002 after being hit by a rashly driven bus of the State Transport Corporation.
The court held that there was no evidence to show that the deceased nun had any other legal representative on the date of the accident while also considering the decision of the apex court in Montfort Brothers of St.Gabriel & Anr Vs. United India Insurance & Anr., etc. wherein has been held that religious organization may suffer considerable loss due to the death of a voluntary worker.
The State Road Transport Corporation was contending that the relationship between the deceased Sister and the religious organization was that of Employee and employer and the employer cannot be held to a legal heir to claim compensation.
It contested the order of the Tribunal awarding a compensation of Rs 3.22 lakh with 7.5 percent annual interest to be paid by the corporation to the St. Maria Auxilum Sisters's Congress.
In this case, on March 1, 2002, at about 8 PM, Sister Alangara Mary belonging to St.Maria Auxilium Sisters' Congress, K.Kallikudi, Tiruchi, was riding a Moped two-wheeler while Sister Roseline Joseph was riding pillion. They were moving from North to South on Trichy - Dindigul main road when the bus belonging to the State Transport Corporation, driven by its driver in a rash and negligent manner, dashed against the moped and due to the impact of the collision, Sister Roseline sustained severe injuries while Sister Alangara succumbed to her injuries while being raced to the hospital.
The organization moved the Tribunal for compensation for the death of Sister Alangara while Sister Roseline also moved a separate plea for compensation on account of injuries sustained in the accident.
The Corporation disputed the locus standi of the organization in claiming compensation as legal representative/dependents of the deceased Sister Alangara Mary.
The high court noted that St.Maria Auxilium Sisters' Congress' is registered by its Mother General Sister Animariya. Hence, the claimant in the claim petition is a service Society / Religious Organization. Sister Alangara joined the claimant organization and did services to the Society after denouncing her family and was working as Sister under the claimant organization/society prior to the date of the accident.
It noted that the Tribunal had come to the conclusion that the claimant organization suffered considerable loss due to the death of the voluntary worker in a fatal accident.
In the appeal, the Transport Corporation contended that a claimant religious organization cannot be a legal representative of the deceased claiming compensation due to death in the accident and there was an employer and employee relationship between the deceased and claimant and one employer cannot be a legal heir of the deceased employee.
The organization, however, relied on the decision of the Apex Court in Montfort Brothers of St.Gabriel & Anr Vs. United India Insurance & Anr., etc. wherein it has been held that religious organization may suffer considerable loss due to the death of voluntary worker and the Act does not define the term legal representative, but the term 'legal representative' as having assigned in Section 2(11) of CPC., which is as follows:- Section 2(11) 'Legal representative' may a person, who in law represents the estate of a deceased person and includes any person, who intermeddles with the estate of the deceased and where a party sues or is sued in a representative character the person on whom the estate devolves on the death of the party so suing or sued.”
Justice Ahamed, thus, held, “There is no evidence on the side of the appellant/respondent in the claim petition that the deceased was having other legal representatives on the date of the accident. Considering the above facts and also the decision of the Apex Court …relied on by the respondent herein, the respondent has locus standi and also entitled to maintain the claim petition, as legal representative of the deceased Sister of the claimant religious institution."
The court also upheld the amount of compensation awarded by the Tribunal dismissing Corporation’s plea that the same was excessive.