In a significant order, the Bombay High Court last Thursday granted over Rs.8 lakh towards compensation to the family of a deceased 45-year-old woman who succumbed to her injuries after the driver of the jeep she was travelling in violently dashed into a tree. While setting aside Motor Accident Tribunal's order rejecting the family's claim, the bench observed that the role of a woman as a housewife is the most challenging and important role in a family.
Acknowledging the pivotal role of a homemaker in a family, Justice Anil S Kilor observed-
"When we talk about a 'family', the role of a woman as a 'housewife' in family is the most challenging and important role which deserves much appreciation but is least appreciated. In fact emotionally she holds the family together. She is a pillar support for her husband, a guiding light for her child/children and harbor for the family's elderly. She works round-the-clock without a single day off, no matter whether she is working or not. However, the work she does go unacknowledged and is not considered as a 'job'. It is an impossible task to count the services she renders which are consisting of hundreds of components that go into the functioning of a household itself, in monetary terms."
Court was hearing an appeal against order of the Motor Accident Claim Tribunal rejecting the claim of compensation made by Rambhau Gawai and his two sons on these three grounds namely:
(a) the claimants have suppressed the actual age of the deceased Baby thus the claim is based on falsity.
(b) the husband of the deceased Baby, being an earning member, cannot claim compensation for the death of his wife in the accident.
(c) the claimant nos. 2 and 3 being major sons of the deceased Baby, are not entitled to claim any compensation.
On March 31, 2005, the deceased was traveling in a jeep owned by the respondent no.1. The driver of the said vehicle was driving in a high speed and in a negligent manner which resulted into a violent dash to a tree. The deceased Baby received severe injuries and succumbed to the same.
The deceased's husband and her two sons filed a claim petition under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicle Act and claimed Rs.5 lakh towards compensation. The owner of the jeep did not appear and file a written statement before the Tribunal, though he was served. However, The respondent no.2 Insurance Company resisted the claim by filing a written statement, on the grounds that the driver of the offending vehicle was not holding effective and valid motor driving licence on date of accident and the offending jeep was insured for private use but it was used for commercial purpose in breach of condition of the Insurance policy.
In an order dated February 3, 2007, the said Tribunal rejected the family's claim.
Advocate PR Agrawal appeared on behalf of the appellant family, Advocate KB Zinjarde for the deceased driver and his family and Advocate SK Pardhy for Oriental Insurance Company.
After hearing submissions of all parties in the case, the court referred to the following judgments of the Supreme Court, Arun Kumar Agrawal and another Vrs. National Insurance Company Limited and others and New India Assurance Company Ltd., Vrs. Kamla and others. Court said-
"The above referred judgments of the Hon'ble the Supreme Court of India, make it abundantly clear that the loss to the husband and children consequent upon the death of the housewife or mother has to be computed by estimating the loss of personal care and attention given by the deceased to her children as a mother and to her husband as a wife and further for loss of gratuitous and the multifarious services rendered by the housewives for managing the entire family. The Hon'ble the Supreme Court says that estimation, should be Rs.3000/- per month and Rs.36,000/- per annum in respect of those housewives between the age group of 34 to 59 and as such who were active in life."
Moreover, the bench asserted that the Supreme Court has already laid down the law in the above referred judgments and the denial by the Tribunal to consider the case of the claimant for compensation based on the ground that the deceased was the housewife and they have lost personal care and attention given by the deceased, is contrary to well settled law. Justice Kilor noted-
"At the same time rejection of the claim of the claimants on the ground that the husband and the major sons are not entitled to claim compensation on the death of wife or mother, appears to be in ignorance of the well established principles of law, on the part of the learned Tribunal."
Furthermore, Court observed that the deceased used to do labour work and her earning was Rs.100 per day-
"The Insurance Company has not raised a serious challenge to the oral evidence of appellant No.1 led in that regard. Thus, in absence of serious challenge to the said fact, learned Tribunal ought to have accepted the case of the appellant that the deceased was earning Rs.100/- per day and her monthly earning was Rs.3000/- in addition to her work as homemaker/housewife.
However, the learned Tribunal without assigning any proper reason rejected the case of the claimants that the deceased was earning 100 per day as a labourer. Thus, the said finding is contrary to the evidence available on record. Hence, in my view, deceased Baby, being a woman and mother of two children, would have also contributed her physical labour for maintenance of household and also taking care of her children. Being a labourer and also maintaining her family, her daily income should be fixed at Rs. 200 per day and Rs. 6000 per month."
Thus, the High court fixed the deceased's income at Rs.6000 per month and later deducted one third towards personal expenses. So the yearly income would be Rs. 48,000. Moreover, as per the Second Schedule to the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, for the age groups 40-45 years multiplier is "15". As per Sarla Verma v. DTC, for the age groups 41-45 years the multiplier to be adopted is "14". Therefore adopting the multiplier of 14, loss of dependency is calculated at Rs. 6.72 lakhs.
Thereafter, Court added Rs.1,20,000 towards loss of love and affection and Rs.30,000 towards loss of funeral expenses, and estate. Finally, the Court concluded that the appellants are entitled to receive Rs. 8.22 lakh towards compensation with interest at 6% pa from the date of application till its realisation and directed the insurance company to pay the amount within three months.
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