All the Elements which are capable of restoring the Victim to the original position should be part of ‘Just Compensation’ [Road Accident Cases]

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Pappu Dev Yadav v. Naresh Kumar and ors. [ Civil Appeal No. 2567 of 2020] held that in Road Accident cases “just compensation” should include all elements that would go to place the victim in as near a position as she or he was in, before the occurrence of the accident.

The three-judge bench comprising of Hon’ble Justices L. Nageshwara Rao, Krishna Murari and S. Ravindra Bhat while examining a Catena of judgements observed that “The principle consistently followed by this court in assessing motor vehicle compensation claims, is to place the victim in as near a position as she or he was in before the accident, with other compensatory directions for loss of amenities and other payments. These general principles have been stated and reiterated in several decisions. Two questions arise for consideration: one, whether in cases of permanent disablement incurred as a result of a motor accident, the claimant can seek, apart from compensation for future loss of income, amounts for future prospects too; and two, the extent of disability.”

It was further observed by the Hon’ble court that “Courts should not adopt a stereotypical or myopic approach, but instead, view the matter taking into account the realities of life, both in the assessment of the extent of disabilities, and compensation under various heads. In the present case, the loss of an arm, in the opinion of the court, resulted in severe income earning impairment upon the appellant.”

As a typist/data entry operator, full functioning of his hands was essential to his livelihood. The extent of his permanent disablement was assessed at 89%; however, the High Court halved it to 45% on an entirely wrong application of some ‘proportionate’ principle, which was illogical and is unsupportable in law. What is to be seen, as emphasized by decision after decision, is the impact of the injury upon the income generating capacity of the victim. The loss of a limb (a leg or arm) and its severity on that account is to be judged in relation to the profession, vocation or business of the victim; there cannot be a blind arithmetic formula for ready application. On an overview of the principles outlined in the previous decisions, it is apparent that the income generating capacity of the appellant was undoubtedly severely affected. Maybe, it is not to the extent of 89%, given that he still has the use of one arm, is young and as yet, hopefully training (and rehabilitating) himself adequately for some other calling. Nevertheless, the assessment of disability cannot be 45%; it is assessed at 65% in the circumstances of this case.

While allowing the appeal against the Judgement of High Court in this regard, the Hon’ble court observed that “In parting, it needs to be underlined that Courts should be mindful that a serious injury not only permanently imposes physical limitations and disabilities but too often inflicts deep mental and emotional scars upon the victim. The attendant trauma of the victim’s having to live in a world entirely different from the one she or he is born into, as an invalid, and with degrees of dependence on others, robbed of complete personal choice or autonomy, should forever be in the judge’s mind, whenever tasked to adjudge compensation claims. Severe limitations inflicted due to such injuries undermine the dignity (which is now recognized as an intrinsic component of the right to life under Article 21) of the individual, thus depriving the person of the essence of the right to a wholesome life which she or he had lived, hitherto. From the world of the able bodied, the victim is thrust into the world of the disabled, itself most discomfiting and unsettling. If courts nit-pick and award niggardly amounts oblivious of these circumstances, there is resultant affront to the injured victim.”

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