Married daughters cannot be considered to be dependent family members of the deceased

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The Tripura High Court recently comprising of a bench of  Justice Mr. G.Chattopadhyayobserved thatin the case where daughters are married at the time of death of their father and each of them is living in their respective matrimonial home. Though they are entitled to claim compensation for the death of their father as his legal representatives, they cannot be. considered as dependent family members of the deceased for the purpose of deduction towards personal and living expenses. (The National Insurance Company Ltd v. Smti Pratibha Das and Ors).

Facts of the Case

The deceased was returning home. On his way, he was hit by the offending motorbike, he succumbed to his injuries. His wife, 3 sons, and 3 daughters being claimants filed a claim petition at the MAC Tribunal claiming compensation to the tune of Rs.25 lakhs. The Tribunal framed issues and recorded the evidence adduced by the parties and determined the compensation payable to the claimant at Rs.27,76,160/- with 9% annual interest. The insurance company has challenged the award.

Contention of the Parties

Counsel appearing for the appellant submits that at the time when the claim petition was filed at the Tribunal, each of the 03 daughters of the deceased were married and the claimant sons of the deceased were also adult and they were independent earning members of the family. Mr.A.K.Deb, learned counsel representing the insurance company having relied on the survival certificate [Exbt.5] has contended that the survival certificate would show that each of his 03 sons were above 30 years of age when their father died and the eldest son was 37 years old and it would also appear from the impugned award of the Tribunal that each of the daughters were also married when their father died in the accident. According to learned counsel, despite these facts being placed on record, the married daughters and sons of the deceased were considered as dependent family members of the deceased against law and loss of dependency was determined by the Tribunal on the basis of such erroneous finding. Learned counsel has, therefore, urges this court to re-assess the loss of dependency after deducting the personal and living expenses of the deceased in terms of the method laid down by the Apex Court in the case of Sarla Verma (supra).

Mr.S.Bhattacharjee, learned counsel appearing for the respondents opposes the submission of the counsel of the appellant with regard to deduction for personal and living expenses and submits that the Tribunal has categorically observed in paragraph 12 of the award that the appellant did not deny the claim of the respondents at the Tribunal that they were dependent family members of the deceased. According to Mr.Bhattacharje, learned counsel, now in the appeal they cannot take the plea that deduction made by the Tribunal for personal and living expenses were incorrect because the claimants were not dependent family members of the deceased.

With regard to the contention of the appellant that the deceased exceeded the age of 60 years and therefore, 15% increase in his income for future prospect made by the Tribunal was incorrect, it is submitted by learned counsel of the respondents that age of the deceased was recorded as 59 by the Tribunal on the basis of documentary evidence submitted by the claimants. Moreover, he was in Government service at the time of his death. Therefore, such contention of the appellant is not at all justifiable.

The counsel appearing for the respondent contended that the respondent sons and daughters of the deceased were also entitled to a consortium.

Courts Observation  & Judgment

The Court made reference to the judgment of National Insurance Company Limited vs. Birender and Others, wherein the following observation had been made,“that though they were major and married sons of the deceased, they had a very meager income who were largely dependent on the earning of their deceased mother. Situated thus, the Apex Court granted adequate compensation to them.”

The Court also made reference to judgment of Apex Court in Manjuri Bera(Smt.) Vs. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. and Another, and observed that, “even if there is no loss of dependency, the claimant even he or she is the legal representative will be entitled to compensation, the quantum of which shall not be less than the liability flowing from Section 140 of the Motor Vehicles Act.”

Considering the precedents and the facts of the case the court held that,  as none of the sons of the deceased were in gainful employment and they were largely dependent on the income of their father who used to live together in a joint mess. In such circumstances, the 3 sons, though married, should be treated as the dependent family members of the deceased. Dependent family members would be 4 in this case and thus there should be 1/4th deduction towards personal and living expenses instead of 1/5th deduction. Thus the court passed an order amending the compensation awarded.