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.?
On the first question, the High Court no doubt, is technically correct in holding that Pranay Sethi8 involved assessment of compensation in a case where the victim died. However, it went wrong in saying that later, the three-judge bench decision in Jagdish9 was not binding, but rather that the subsequent decision in Anant10 to the extent that it did not award compensation for future prospects, was binding. This court is of the opinion that there was no justification for the High Court to have read the previous rulings of this court, to exclude the possibility of compensation for future prospects in accident cases involving serious injuries resulting in permanent disablement. Such a narrow reading of Pranay Sethi11 is illogical, because it denies altogether the possibility of the living victim progressing further in life in accident cases – and admits such possibility of future prospects, in case of the victim’s death.This court has emphasized time and again that “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. Whilst no amount of money or other material compensation can erase the trauma, pain and suffering that a victim undergoes after a serious accident, (or replace the loss of a loved one), monetary compensation is the manner known to law, whereby society assures some measure of restitution to those who survive, and the victims who have to face their lives.
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. 21. This court is also of the opinion that the courts below needlessly discounted the evidence presented by the appellant in respect of the income earned by him. Working in the informal sector as he did, i.e. as a typist/data 25 entry operator in court premises in Delhi, his assertion about earning ₹12,000/- could not be discarded substantially, to the extent of bringing it down to ₹ 8,000/- per month. Such self employed professionals, it is noticeable, were not obliged to file income tax returns for AY 2011-2012, when no levy existed for anyone earning less than ₹ 1,60,000/- per annum.29 The advocate who deposed about the earnings of the appellant was believed to the extent that the tribunal fixed the appellant’s monthly earnings at ₹ 8,000/-. If one takes into account contemporary minimum wages for skilled workers (which was in the range of ₹ 8,500/-) the realistic figure would be ₹10,000/- per month. Adding future prospects at 40%30, the income should be taken as ₹14,000 for the purpose of calculation of compensation. Accordingly, this court finds that the compensation payable for the disability of loss of an arm (assessed at 65%) would be ₹19,65,600/- (i.e., ₹ 14,000/- x 12 x 65% x 18) or Rupees Nineteen lakhs sixty five thousand six hundred only.