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How much is a life worth?

delhi Updated: Feb 22, 2008 02:35 IST
Harish V Nair

The Delhi High Court on Thursday ridiculed the legal provision of a mere Rs 50,000 as interim compensation for the kin of those who get killed in road accidents. The court, which for the first time in a judgment described the Bluelines as “killer buses”, sought to remind the Centre, which was yet to amend the Motor Vehicles Act hiking the amount, and the insurance companies that a person's life is not cheaper than the Nano, the lowest-priced car set to hit the road.

“In any event, it is to be remembered that life of a human being is not cheaper than a Nano car,” wrote Justice Kailash Gambhir, awarding a compensation of Rs 4.6 lakh to the parents of a 21-year-old who was crushed under the wheels of a bus nine years ago.

The proposed amendment in the Motor Vehicles Act to increase the amount to Rs one lakh has been passed by the Lok Sabha and is pending before the Rajya Sabha. As an interim measure, a Division Bench of the High Court headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal is levying Rs 1 lakh on owners for the release of buses involved in fatal accidents and Rs 50,000 on those causing grievous hurt. It also plans to release the amount to victims.

Stressing that the meagre amount fixed 14 years had to be hiked, Justice Gambhir said, "Massive progress in urbanisation and industrialisation led to faster way of life and faster vehicular traffic. This was a boon to many and a bane to some. With the escalation in automobile traffic, there has been a corresponding increase in the road accidents."

Noting that the Blueline buses have turned out to be the "major killers" as far as Delhi is concerned, the court said, "Death of any person in the family torments and shatters the entire family more particularly when it is the death of the sole bread winner."

Justice Gambhir squarely blamed the insurance companies for delaying compensation to victims saying they are prompt in settling the claims relating to damaged vehicles by promptly appointing investigator/surveyor and photographers but create obstructions in settling claims of victims of accidents forcing them to knock the doors of courts.