Decided on April 14,1970

Perumal And Anr. Appellant


Maharajan, J. - (1.) THIS is an appeal against the judgment of the Additional Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Madras awarding compensation of Rs. 3,000/ - under Section 110A of the Motor Vehicles Act. The claimants are the parents of the deceased Rani, who was run over by the State Transport Bus M.S.S. 9037 and have preferred this appeal claiming enhancement of the compensation that has been awarded. It is not disputed that the injuries that resulted in the death of Rani, the victim of the motor accident, were caused by the rash and negligent driving of the State Transport Bus. The only question that arises for consideration is whether the quantum of compensation awarded by the Tribunal is reasonable and related to the relevant circumstances and if not, whether it is liable to be enhanced and if so, to what amount. The girl that lost her life, was 8 years' old at the time of the accident. P.W. 4, who is the father of the deceased, is working as a cooly in the Royapuram Goods shed earning Rs. 5 per day. Admittedly he could not afford to send the deceased to school. The Tribunal, after considering the uncertainties of life and the status of the family, in which the deceased was born, fixed the sum of Rs. 3,000 as just and reasonable compensation for the loss of the life of the child. The question raised before me has vexed many courts in India and England and has provoked some judges to embark upon metaphysical investigation into the value of human life and ultimately to exclaim that the answer to the question is far from simple. In Benham v. Gambling, 1941 AC 157 Viscount Simon L.C. said: Such a problem might seem more suitable for discussion in an essay on Aristotelian ethics than in the judgment of a court of law, but in view of the earlier authorities, we must do our best to contribute to its solution. The noble Lord disagreed with the view that human life is on the whole good and preferred to award damages in respect of the shortened life of a given individual on the basis of the length of life that was lost. This view is in ill -accord with Indian thought, which regards human life as precious, as much for the joys it brings as for the sufferings it inflicts. Whichever view is sound, the difficulty of measuring its worth in terms of money is real. There are some aspects of human life, which were susceptible of monetary measurement, but the totality of human life is, like the beauty of the sunrise or the splendour of the stars, beyond the reach of the monetary tape measure.
(2.) YET another difficulty that besets the courts is this. Most appellate courts refuse to interfere with the quantum of compensation awarded by the trial courts on the ground that the sum awarded is neither unduly high nor unduly low. This principle of judicial neutrality has resulted in a lack of uniformity in the decisions of the trial courts. In my experience, I have found that the compensation awarded for the death of an infant of the same age varies from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 10,000 according to the discretion of the Judge concerned. The range of variation between one trial judge and another in fixing the amount of compensation is almost whimsical and bewildering. In these circumstances, it is desirable that the Legislature lays down guide lines, which would enable the courts to fix the quantum of compensation in such matters in the light of prevailing sociological values. In fact in England, the Council of Law Society to the Departmental Committee on the Alternative Remedies, recommended for the purpose of securing uniformity in fatal cases, that a statutory scale should be provided for the calculation of damages for the loss of expectation of life. The following scale was suggested though not accepted: (vide page 427 Motor Claims cases by Bingham, fourth edition) In the absence of statutory guidelines, I think that for the purpose of securing uniformity some workable formula should be evolved, which can be usefully followed by the trial courts, after making marginal adjustments in the light of the peculiar facts of each individual case. In Benham v. Gambling, 1941 A.C. 157 an infant child of 2 1/2 years old was so injured by a running car that it died the same day. The trial Judge fixed the damages at £1200. The appellate court confirmed it. But the House of Lords reduced the figure to £ 200. After fixing the amount at £ 200 the House of Lords observed as follows: In reaching this conclusion, we are in substance correcting the methods of estimating this head of loss, whether in the case of children or adults, which have grown up in a series of earlier cases, and which Asquith, J. naturally followed, and are approving a standard of measurement, which had it been applied in those cases, would have led at any rate, in many of them, to reduced awards. I trust that the view of this house, expressed in dealing with the present appeal, may help to set a lower standard of measurement than has hitherto prevailed for what is in fact incapable of being measured in coin of the realm with any approach to real accuracy. This decision was rendered in 1941. Subsequent to this ruling courts in England have been awarding £ 400 to £ 500 on the ground that since the above decision of the House of Lords there has been depreciation of the value of money. I see no reason why the same standard of measurement should not be adopted in India. In my view, the damages in respect of the death of an infant may be fixed at Rs. 5,000/ -. I may add that there may be other peculiar circumstances in a given case which may influence the court to reduce or enhance this amount, but neither wealth nor the status of the child should be regarded as relevant in fixing the quantum. I may also say that there is justification for my interfering with the award of the court below because the lower court has failed to take into consideration relevant factors bearing upon the quantum of compensation.
(3.) LEARNED Counsel for the Appellants would ask me to award a separate sum of money as compensation for the mental agony and suffering of the deceased. But evidence shows that immediately after the accident, the child became unconscious. Courts have been consistently refusing to award compensation in such cases evidently on the basis that an unconscious person cannot suffer from pain or agony. I therefore refuse to award any separate amount on this account.;

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