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“This is not the first award of this Tribunal which we are adjudicating upon… We do feel that it is not an innocent error and there is something more to it,” the Court said.
The Madras High Court recently ordered the initiation of departmental proceedings against the Presiding Officer of a Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT), after taking serious note of an “unbelievable”, unreasoned award of Rs 35 lakhs as compensation under the head “loss of love and affection” in a motor accident case (National Insurance Company Limited vs. Nirmaladevi and ors.).
Justices MM Sundaresh and Krishnan Ramasamy noted that this was not the first time that an error was noted on the part of the Tribunal that had passed such an order,
“This is not the first award of this Tribunal which we are adjudicating upon… We do feel that it is not an innocent error and there is something more to it.”
Madras High Court
The Court further recounted that, “After seeing series of such orders, we directed the Registry to place one of them in the Annual Confidential Report(ACR) of the officer concerned. Even thereafter, we are witnessing several such orders.”
In this backdrop, the Bench proceeded to emphasise,
“Penning down a wrong order per se would not be a factor to initiate departmental proceedings …. However, if an award is passed against the fundamental principles of law and is even contrary to the earlier decision made by the very same Tribunal in similar matters, then it would certainly be a fit case for taking action by initiating departmental proceedings against the judicial officer.”
Madras High Court
The main case concerned a fatal motor accident that took place in 2012. The MACT awarded a total of over Rs 1.93 lakhs as compensation to the family of the man who passed away in the accident.
Inter alia, the High Court was told by the Insurance Company that the MACT had wrongly arrived at an enhanced figure of Rs 1.25 lakhs as the income of the deceased at the time of death, when the such an amount was not even mentioned in the claim petition.
The claimants, in turn, responded that they had sufficient material to prove their claims regarding the loss of income before the Tribunal. Therefore, the High Court decided to remand the matter back to the MACT for fresh consideration as far as the assessment of loss of income was concerned.
Interestingly, the Insurance Company also challenged the grant of Rs 35 lakhs by the Tribunal as compensation for loss of love and affection, contending that the grant of such an amount “unknown to the parlance of compensation law.”
The claimants did not raise objection to this objection, admitting that the amount awarded for loss and love and affection could not sustained. The Court proceeded to remark,
"… an unbelievable amount of Rs.35,00,000/- has been awarded by the Tribunal towards the loss of love and affection without any basis or rationale. We do not wish to state much on the way in which the loss of income of the deceased is arrived at, only for this reason, we are remanding the issue for fresh consideration though the award cannot be obviously sustained."
Madras High Court
Further, it was opined that,
The Court proceeded to set aside the amount so awarded for loss or love and affection, and quantified it instead at Rs 1.6 lakhs. Further, in view of the error noted on the part of the MACT on this aspect, the Court also directed the initiation of departmental proceedings against the Presiding Officer of the Tribunal. As recorded in the order,
“... we direct the Registrar General of this Court to take appropriate steps to initiate departmental proceedings against the Presiding Officer in awarding a sum of Rs.35,00,000/- towards the loss of love and affection. Though in the typed copy of the judgment, the amount awarded for the loss of love and affection is mentioned as Rs.35,000/-, it is nothing but a typographical error as we compared the same with the original…”
This apart, the amounts awarded under other heads such as funeral expenses and loss of estate was confirmed.
The Court further clarified that, "the order of remittal is only pertaining to the loss of income of the deceased payable to the claimants.”
The Insurance Company in the case was represented before the High Court by Advocate N Vijayaraghavan, whereas the claimants were represented by Advocate N Umapathi.
[Read the Judgment]