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Computation of the depletion in the net income which accrues to the deceased need to be adduced: SC

Malarvizhi & Others v. United India Insurance Company Ltd & Another, Civil Appeal No. 9196-97/2019, SLP 9630-31/2019 – 9th December, 2019

CORAM: Two judge bench comprising of Justice Dr. Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud & Justice Hrishikesh Roy

Wherein, it was being held that

“The appellants shall be entitled to compensation based upon loss of dependency, funeral expenses, losses such as loss of estate, loss of consortium as well as loss of love and affection.”

The facts of the case are that a man named Aranganathan, was travelling in an Ambassador car. About 12.45 AM a TATA Sierra car hit his car and he died due to it on 25th May 2001. He is survived by his wife and four daughters who are the appellants before this Court. The latter had filed a claim u/s. 166 of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 before the tribunal, claiming compensation of Rs. 99, 90, 000. By its award dated 11th July, 2012, the tribunal assessed the agricultural income Rs. 3, 40, 708, total income from business Rs. 89, 590, income from real estate business Rs. 30, 000 and contract business and upon the sum, added 30% towards future prospects, deducting 1/4th income for living expenses and  funeral expenses, loss of consortium, love and affection Rs. 70, 000 using multiplier 13 allowed the claim in amount of Rs. 59, 04, 000 plus interest rate of 7.5 % & the appellants then filed a first appeal before the High Court of Madras by taking annual income of the deceased at financial year 1997-98, Rs. 2, 09, 211, annual income Rs. 40, 000. No deduction was made towards personal expenses. Using multiplier 13, loss of dependency was calculated as Rs. 32, 50, 000. Funeral expenses, loss of consortium, love and affection were Rs. 1, 05, 000. The Court reduced claim from Rs. 59, 04, 000 to Rs. 33, 55, 000

The question of law raised was as to how much compensation was to be given and how it is to be computed.

The appellants contended that the HC need not take income tax returns precedence to other documents to determine annual income as over 52 documents of income from other sources were submitted in Tribunal, all of which weren’t disclosed in income tax returns. They also contended that the HC erred in not considering other contractual work awarded to the deceased as well as other solvency certificates of the deceased while computing his annual income. Even if the HC’s way of taking the annual income earned in the financial year 1997-98 is correct, they have erred by not accounting for the depreciation costs on the fixed assets. Also, they contended that the HC should have calculated the monthly income of the deceased at Rs. 50, 000 taking into account the turnover from his trade and wine businesses.

The respondents, on the other hand, contended that the action of the High Court in acting in accordance to that of income tax returns to determine the deceased’s income is quite justifiable. They also argued that depreciation costs on fixed assets cannot be added to the income of the deceased & that the award of the HC is legally justifiable.

The appellant brought out in his argument the precedent of New India Assurance Company v. Yogesh Devi to contend that the Court may reasonably determine the income that accrues to the deceased and also compute the expenses incurred in the upkeep of agricultural land.

“In the normal course the claimants are expected to adduce evidence as to what would be the quantum of depletion in the income from the above mentioned asset on account of the above mentioned factors.”

The Court observed that there was no evidence that was adduced by the appellants at any stage of the proceedings to assist in the computation of depletion in the net income which accrues to the deceased.

The Court held that the multiplier to be applied when the deceased falls in the age group of 46-50 is 13. Since the deceased at the time of his death was 49 years old, they took the multiplier 13 and so concluded that the appellants are entitled to compensation of loss of dependencyRs. 41, 09, 534, Funeral Expenses – Rs. 15, 000, Loss of estate, consortium, love and affection of Rs. 15, 000, Rs. 40, 000 and Rs. 50, 000 respectively, totalling up to a sum of Rs.42, 29, 534.

Therefore the total compensation to be paid to the appellants is a sum of Rs.42, 29, 534 plus interest at 9 % per annum from the date of filing of application till the date of payment of compensation to the appellants. The appeals are partly allowed to the extent indicated above. There shall be no order as to costs. Pending applications, if any, shall stand disposed of.

Nardhana Ram

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