Age of unmarried deceased to form basis for multiplier in motor vehicle compensation case, Supreme Court

Age of unmarried deceased to form basis for multiplier in motor vehicle compensation case, Supreme Court

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today held that in case of death of a bachelor in a motor vehicles accident, the age of the deceased, and not the age of the dependents, will be the basis of the multiplier for computation of compensation.

This judgment was rendered by the Bench of Justices SA Bobde, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and Mohan M Shantanagoudar in the appeal filed by the appellant, Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Company.

It was the contention of appellant company that the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad had erred in holding that the age of the deceased will form the basis of the multiplier.

During the course of the hearings, counsel appearing for the appellant was asked by the Bench to put forth any 3-Judge Bench decisions on the issue. The Bench also sought to find out the most recent view that was taken by the Supreme Court on this subject.

The counsel submitted that the decision of a 3-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the case Sube Singh & Anr. v. Shyam Singh (Dead) took the view that the age of the deceased shall be taken into consideration in a situation like this.

However, he sought to establish a link of precedents that have been relied upon in each of these judgments, starting from Sube Singh, to submit that a sequential error has followed, given that the first judgment cited had not dealt with the question of the death of a bachelor. Therefore, a mere affirmation in Sube Singh does not settle the legal position on this. Other judgments of Division Benches that have taken a contrary view were thus cited by the appellant’s lawyer.

As far as the case of the claimants was concerned, an enhancement of the compensation was sought. 50% was already granted for future prospects and not in dispute.

The judgment authored by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul states that the endeavour of the Court has been to establish a standard formula for the computation of compensation. The amount to be paid to the dependents ought to be in tune with what the deceased would have provided had he been alive. The judgment states,

“The amount thus received by the dependents in turn becomes a part of the estate as they may live longer or may be younger than the age limits taken into account for calculation of a multiplier to be applied in such a situation.”

The Bench further held that when the liability to pay compensation arises on a principle of no-fault, the quantification of compensation cannot be lower than the amount that would normally be the contribution by the deceased and “to that extent the amount would form a part of the estate of the deceased.”

As was argued by the counsel for the insurance company, in case of death of a married person, it is the age of the deceased that will be taken into account for compensation. The Court added to this submission and expressed the need for a standard and uniform principle for calculation of the multiplier. The Court goes on to thus, state,

“We may also note the importance of applying uniform settled principle to such cases. Certainty of law is important. Once the law is settled, it should not be repeatedly changed as that itself causes confusion and litigation.”

The Court thus placed reliance on the judgment in the Sube Singh case where a 3-Judge Bench had held that the age of the deceased shall be taken into account while computing the multiplier. It is noted that this judgment also cites the decision of a Constitution Bench judgment in the Pranay Sethi case, where the principle laid down was the same.

Therefore, the Court found no merit in the appeal and refused to interfere with the High Court’s ruling.

Read the judgment:

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