The Supreme Court on November 13, 2019, in the case of Jabbar v. The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, has observed that the court under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, can grant compensation of any amount in excess to that which has been claimed.
A Division Bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M.R. Shah was hearing an appeal filed against the judgment and order passed by the High Court wherein it had enhanced the compensation granted to the appellant from Rs.1.50 lac to Rs.2.50 lac.
The appellant was a fruit seller whose right hand was amputated after the accident. In the claim petition, he has claimed that he is entitled for compensation of Rs.9,05,000/- from the respondents. However, due to financial crisis, he was unable to pay court fees on the said amount and thus restricted his claim to the tune of Rs.3,00,000/-. The Tribunal accepted the case setup by the appellant and allowed the claim to Rs.1.50 lacs.
On appeal, the High Court enhanced the compensation granted to the appellant from Rs.1.50 lac to Rs.2.50 lac. Being unsatisfied with the amount of compensation, the appellant moved the Supreme Court.
The learned counsel for the appellant submitted before the Supreme Court that the High Court having noticed that the appellant was carrying business of fruits on a hand-cart, the amputation of right hand has made the business of the appellant non-functional. In this view, the amount of Rs.2.5 lacs awarded by the High Court is neither fair nor a just compensation.
Learned counsel for the respondent, on the other hand, submitted that the appellant having confined his claim to Rs.3 lacs before the High Court cannot be allowed to contend that he is entitled for any higher compensation.
After hearing both the parties, the court took into consideration the injury caused to the appellant which resulted into permanent disability substantially affecting his business and opined that the award of Rs.2.5 Lakhs cannot be held to be a just and reasonable compensation.
“This Court in large number of cases has laid down that it is permissible to grant compensation of any amount in excess to that one which has been claimed. This Court in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution has awarded just and reasonable compensation,” the court said.
It referred to a judgment in Ramla v. National Insurance Company Limited [(2019) 2 SCC 192] wherein the apex court had observed that “There is no restriction that the Court cannot award compensation exceeding the claimed amount, since the function of the Tribunal or Court under Section 168 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 is to award "just compensation". The Motor Vehicles Act is beneficial and welfare legislation. A "just compensation" is one which is reasonable on the basis of evidence produced on record. It cannot be said to have become time barred. Further, there is no need for a new cause of action to claim an enhanced amount. The Courts are duty bound to award just compensation."
Placing reliance on the above judgment and also noting that in the claim petition the appellant had expressly stated that if it is entitled to get more than Rs.3 Lakhs, the claimant is ready to deposit deficient court fee, the court allowed the appeal and granted an amount of Rs.5 lacs as compensation to the appellant.