The Hon’ble Supreme Court on 10th April 2021, Saturday while dismissing the SLP filed by the widow of the deceased against the decision of the Hon’ble Delhi HC. The Hon’ble Apex court held that the Hon’ble bench supports the decision passed by the Hon’ble Delhi HC “that a widow’s right to claim compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act (hereinafter referred to as “MV Act”) for the death of her husband in a motor vehicle accident will not abate on her remarriage and that she was entitled to equal share as the parents of the deceased for ‘loss of dependency'”.
The Hon’ble bench in the instant case was hearing the SLP at the instance of the widow’s in-laws, challenging verdict passed of the Hon’ble Delhi HC wherein the Hon’ble HC held that remarriage of a widow has nothing to do with her right and claim for compensation, for the loss which accrued to her on account of the unnatural demise of her husband.
Subsequently, counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners/in-laws, contended that the order passed by the Hon’ble Delhi HC is bad in law and needs to be set aside because a widow is not entitled to compensation after remarriage. In continuation, the counsel also submitted that following the judgment of the hon’ble apex court in the case of Anju Mukhi & Anr. Versus. Satish K. Bhatia & Ors. [2010 (15) SCC 630], it was held by the Hon’ble SC that the respondent/widow cannot be treated as a dependent of the deceased after re-marriage.
Moving ahead in the instant case, it was observed by the Hon’ble SC that the main purpose of the MV Act is to award compensation for loss of income on the death of a person and “on remarriage, there is no longer a loss of income as now the dependency has shifted “in unusual circumstances of the case” on to the new husband said the Hon’ble SC while dismissing the SLP.
Additionally, the Hon’ble bench also stated that the Hon’ble SC agrees with the Hon’ble High Court’s decision so passed in the instant case “that after remarriage a widow would not be entitled to any compensation”.
Likewise, counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent/widow, claimed that a second marriage does not abate a widow’s claim to compensation for the ‘loss of dependency. It was also argued by the counsel before the Hon’ble court that the views taken by various High Courts in similar matters ought to be given due weight while deciding the instant case.
In the due course, reliance was placed on a 2020 judgment of the Kerala High Court wherein it was held by the Hon’ble Kerala HC that while computing compensation for the dependency of a widow, upon the death of her husband, under Section 166 of the MV Act, her remarriage shall not be a key factor; that the loss of dependency consequent to the death of the husband does not stop simply because she has remarried or become self-reliant.
Lastly, the Hon’ble Apex Court while dismissing the present SLP held that “after observing the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, the Hon’ble bench believes to interfere in this matter”.
Further MACT had awarded Rs. 1,68,39,642/- along with interest in favour of the deceased’s claimants, i.e., his widow and his parents. However, the widow had been apportioned only Rs. 3,91,054.47/-.
Needful to mention that the Hon’ble Delhi HC while passing the judgment noted that the Tribunal had not compensated the wife for “loss of love and affection” and “loss of consortium”. “There is no persuasive reason stated in the impugned order for the unambiguously disproportionate apportionment against the widow”.
In continuation, the Hon’ble HC directed that the widow was entitled to equal, i.e., 1/3rd share of the awarded amount of Rs. 1,68,39,642/-. Thus, she was granted Rs. 56,13,214/- compensation, on the following reasoning, “The calculation of loss of dependency was based on her dependency on her deceased husband; her loss is equal to the loss of dependency suffered by her parents-in-law.
Moreover, it was stated by the Hon’ble court that the decision to re-marry was entirely a personal choice of a widow, over which nobody can have any say. Her right to claim compensation crystallized upon her husband’s life being tragically snatched away in the motor accident. Therefore, simply because she has now remarried, her claim does not abate or lessen. Who can judge whether the second marriage was not a compromise because of her circumstances and whether it would have the same value emotionally and psychologically as the first marriage.
Therefore as an aggrieved widow, she would be entitled to a share of compensation apropos ‘loss of dependency’ of equal amount to her parents-in-law, who had lost their son”.