The Supreme Court has held that it is not necessary to be a dependant of the deceased to avail compensation under the Motor Vehicle Act.
Acting on a civil appeal filed by a woman against a high court order that held that the petitioner was entitled to just one-fourth of her deceased husband’s property while the remaining would be awarded to his brothers, a bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and DK Jain said “dependency” was crucial to assess the quantum of compensation and not its entitlement.
It held that any legal representative could approach the Motor Accident Claim Tribunal to seek compensation in case of a road accident death. “A legal representative is one who suffers on account of the death of a person due to a motor vehicle accident and need not necessarily be a wife, husband, parent or child,” it observed. “Legal representative means a person who, in law, represents the estate of a deceased, and includes any person who intermeddles with the estate of the deceased or the person on whom the estate devolves on the death of the party,” it added.
The court remitted the appeal back to the Gauhati High Court. However, it did not decide on the question of whether the brothers had a right to their share in the compensation awarded to them by the tribunal.
Hafizun Begum had petitioned the high court challenging the tribunal’s order awarding the compensation to her dead husband’s brothers.
Citing a section of the Motor Vehicle Act, the Bench said: “All or any legal representative of the deceased becomes entitled to compensation and any such legal representative can file a claim petition.” It held the scope of a legal representative in the Civil Procedure Code was wide.
It includes heirs as well as persons who represent the estate without a title, as an executor or an administrator in possession of an estate of the deceased. “Liability in terms of the Motor Vehicle Act does not cease because of the absence of dependency,” it said.