Loss of life can't be measured by earning potential alone, rules HC

Mumbai: Observing that loss of human life cannot be measured only in terms of loss of earning capacity alone, the Bombay High Court recently enhanced the pecuniary compensation to be given to a family which lost their 10-year-old daughter. The HC accordingly directed the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, (MSRTC) to pay Rs 2.29 lakh to the family.

A bench of Justice Anuja Prabhudesai was seized with a plea filed by Devappa Maskar challenging the orders of the motor vehicles' claims tribunal, which had fixed the monetary compensation to Rs 51,000.

Maskar urged the bench to enhance the compensation to Rs one lakh, claiming he was ‘shattered’ by the loss of his daughter, who died in an accident while travelling on an MSRTC’s bus.

The MSRTC, on the other hand, argued that the amount fixed by the tribunal was just and fair as the deceased was a child and not an earning member of the family.

Having heard the contentions, Justice Prabhudesai said. “It is well known that in case of children there is no clear proof of pecuniary loss resulting from accidental death. Nevertheless, want of proof of pecuniary loss would not lead to an inference, much less a conclusion, that no pecuniary loss accrues due to their death.”

Justice Prabhudesai, referring to some rulings of the apex court, further said, “Human life cannot be measured only in terms of loss of earning or monetary losses alone. There are emotional attachments involved and the loss of a child can have a devastating effect on the family which can be easily visualised and understood.”

The bench noted, the tribunal awarded a lump sum compensation without considering the fact that the deceased, though a student, had potential to earn income. “In my considered view, the compensation awarded by the tribunal is not just and reasonable and hence it is necessary to compute the compensation on the basis of the binding principle and formula laid down by the Supreme Court,” Justice Prabhudesai said.

The court further noted that Maskar’s daughter was a student. “The mental shock and trauma suffered by the Maskar family can only be understood and visualised. No amount of compensation can alleviate the intensity of pain and suffering or restore their devastated lives. But all the same, the court can only try to calculate the incalculable and endeavour to compensate them to the extent of payment of money,” Justice Prabhudesai observed.

The bench, after applying all the formulas and parameters, concluded that the Maskar family was entitled for total compensation of Rs 2,29,300 with a rate of interest of 7.5 per cent.