In the Supreme Court of India Civil Appellate Jurisdiction Civil Appeal No. 79 of 2020 Appellant Mohammed Siddique & Anr. Respondents National Insurance Company Ltd & Ors. Date of Judgement 8th January, 2020 Bench Hon’ble Justice N.V. Ramana, Hon’ble Justice V. Ramasubramanian
In the present case Hon’ble Supreme Court has discussed the concept of contributory negligence. The Supreme Court has also discussed the use of Multiplier in cases of compensation. It affirmed that the age of victim should be considered for the purpose of calculating compensation and selecting the Multiplier.
- A 23 year old son of appellant, died on 7th September, 2008, due to injuries caused in a road accident that took place on 5th September, 2008.
- He was riding on a motor cycle and was one of the two pillion riders.
- A car hit the motor cycle from behind.
- ‘Motor Accident Claims Tribunal’ found that the rash and negligent driving of car by the car driver caused the accident.
Decision of tribunal
The Tribunal awarded compensation of Rs. 11,66,800 payable to appellant, comprising following sums for different causes.
|1.||Loss of dependancy||Monthly salary as Rs. 9600. Multiplier of 18 and 50% deduction of salary towards personal expenses||Rs. 10,36,800/-|
|2.||Loss of love and affection||Rs. 1,00,000/-|
|3.||Performance of last rites||Rs. 20,000/-|
|4.||Loss of Estate||Rs. 10,000/-|
Decision of High Court
The High Court on appeal of Insurance Company on point of contributory negligence and income of victim reduced the compensation to Rs. 4,14,000/- comprising following causes.
|1.||Loss of dependancy||Monthly salary as Rs. 3,683. Multiplier of 14. 50% deduction of salary towards personal expenses||Rs. 3,10,000/-|
|2.||Loss of love and affection||Rs. 1,00,000/-|
|3.||Performance of last rites||Rs. 25,000/-|
|4.||Loss of Estate||Rs. 25,000/-|
|5.||Deduction of 10%||Contributory negligence||Rs. 46,000/-|
1. Whether victim is guilty of contributory negligence?
2. Whether Salary of deceased should be considered in calculating the compensation?
Multiplier to be applied
- The Supreme Court noted that that the accident occurred at 2:00 am. There was no possibility of heavy traffic. A car hit the motor cycle from behind which clearly indicates rash and negligent driving of the car. The deceased was wearing helmet. The High Court held that two persons on the pillion which is meant for only one person would have definitely added to the imbalance and therefore victim is guilty of contributory negligence.
The Supreme Court stated that it is a flawed reason to make victim guilty of contributory negligence. At most victim can be held liable for violation of S. 128 of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 which restricts number of pillion rider to one for two wheeler. But such violation by itself cannot lead to contributory negligence. There should be causal connection between the act and its impact on the injuries caused to victim, or violation and contribution to accident. The principle of contributory negligence could be involved only when the ‘no violation of law’ could have caused injuries of lesser degree, or could have averted accident. The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that it is not the case of insurer where the accident would have been averted if three persons were not riding on the motor cycle, or the violation itself caused the accident or contributed to the accident.
Therefore the Court held that the victim cannot be held guilty of contributory negligence because of the absence of any evidence to show that riding three persons on motor cycle contributed to accident or to nature of injuries sustained. Hence reduction of 10% considering contributory negligence is unjustifiable. The Apex Court held that the finding of High Court is presumptuous.
- The Supreme Court noted that the High Court reversed the decision of tribunal on the ground of substantial evidence to show nature of employment and monthly income like salary vouchers, tax returns etc.
The Court pointed that the Tribunal specifically recorded finding that there exists no reason to discard testimony of employer. And High Court should have appreciated that the court of first instance are in better position to appreciate oral testimony. The court observed that the testimony of employer was unshaken during the trial, no allegation was made that he was set for the case, there was no contradiction in his testimony, and it was supported by salary certificate. And therefore the High Court should not have discarded the testimony of employer.
- The Apex Court observed that the High Court had applied the multiplier of 14 relying on UPSRTC Vs. Trilok Chandra,1994 (3 member bench) which approved the decision of General Manager, Kerla SRTC Vs. Susamma Thomas,1993. As observed by the Supreme Court, in these cases, the question of choice between the age of claimant and age of the deceased, for multiplier, never arose directly for consideration.
The Supreme Court referred to Sarala Verma & Ors. Vs. Delhi Transport Corporation & Anr. which recommended a multiplier table, arrived at juxtaposing Charlie, Trilok Chandra, Susamma Thomas with multiplier mentioned in Second Schedule. It was approved by Hon’ble Court in Reshma Kumari & Ors. V. Madan Mohan & Anr, and Munna Lal Jain V. Vipul Kumar Sharma. The Munna Lal Jain Judgement approved use of the multiplier with reference to the age of the deceased. Being larger bench it is binding on the present bench. On this ground Supreme Court held that the Multiplier of 18 should be applied instead of 14.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that the High Court has committed serious error and set in holding victim guilty of contributory negligence, rejecting evidence submitted by emoloyer, applying multiplier of 14 instead of 18, and therefore set aside the order of High Court and restore the award of the Tribunal.
This Judgement affirmed the use of Multiplier table formulated in Munna Lal Jain case. It discussed at length the concept of contributory negligence.
“The views of the authors are personal“