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Minimum wage notification cannot be absolute to fix the income of the deceased: Supreme Court of India

In absence of a salary certificate the minimum wage notification can be a yardstick but at the same time cannot be an absolute one to fix the income of the deceased.  In absence of documentary evidence on record, some amount of guesswork is required to be done as held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India through the learned bench of Justice R. Subhash Reddy, in the case of Chandra & Anr Vs Mukesh Kumar Yadav & Ors ] Civil Appeal No. 6152 Of 2021] (Arising out of S.L.P.(C)No.6466 of 2019). Sri   Aditya   Singh was learned counsel for the appellants and Sri Sahil Raveen was learned counsel for respondent no.3.

The brief facts of the case are that the deceased Shivpal was employed as a driver on the vehicle. When he was driving the vehicle on 27.02.2016, within the limits of Adarsh Nagar Police Station, Ajmer, a truck being driven by the 1st respondent, belonging to 2nd respondent and insured with 3rd respondent came on the wrong side and rammed into the vehicle of the deceased result of which Shivpal died.

It was the case of the claimants before Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Tribunal, Ajmer claiming compensation of Rs.93,08,000/­ with interest @ 15% p.a.  The Tribunal by judgment dated 25.11.2017 has awarded the total compensation of Rs.10,99,700/­ with interest @ 6% p.a.  The appellant parents alone have filed an appeal before the High Court.  The High Court by impugned judgment dated 06.07.2018 dismissed the appeal.  As such the appellants are before this Court.

Learned counsel for the appellants submitted that the deceased was earning Rs.15, 000/­ per month, being a heavy vehicle driver,   the   Tribunal has awarded compensation on account of loss of dependency by taking the income of the deceased at Rs.5746/­ per month. It was submitted that in spite of the evidence submitted by the wife of the deceased was earning Rs. 15,000/- per month, the Tribunal has committed error in taking the income of the deceased at Rs.5746/­ as per the minimum wage notified to the skilled labor.

The learned counsel for respondent no. 3 while relying on the judgment of Kirti  &   Anr Vs Oriental   Insurance   Company   Limited submitted that in absence of any documentary evidence on record to show the salary of the deceased at   Rs.15,000/­   per month the Tribunal has correctly taken into account the monthly earnings of the deceased at Rs.5746/­ and that there are no grounds to interfere with the impugned judgment of the High Court.

Having heard the learned counsels on both sides, the Hon’ble Supreme Court was of the view that “In absence of salary certificate the minimum wage notification can be a yardstick but at the same time cannot be an absolute one to fix the income of the deceased.  In absence of documentary evidence on record, some amount of guesswork is required to be done. But at the same time, the guesswork for assessing the income of the deceased should not be totally detached from reality.  Merely because claimants were unable to produce documentary evidence to show the monthly income of Shivpal, the same does not justify the adoption of the lowest tier of minimum wage while computing the income.  There is no reason to discard the oral evidence of the wife of the deceased who has deposed that late Shivpal was earning around Rs.15000/­ per month.”

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Judgment Reviewed by – Aryan Bajaj

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