Allowing the appeal filed on behalf of the girl, Priyanka Pradeep Gavade, a resident of Belagavi, Justice P Krishna Bhat has said that she is entitled to a recomputed compensation of Rs 21.8 lakh against Rs 4.4 lakh awarded by Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Belagavi, on September 16, 2010. tnn
HC: Claimant has become functionally 100% disabled
The compensation awarded by the high court includes Rs 14.6 lakh towards loss of future earning capacity due to permanent disability, Rs 3 lakh for the loss of marriage prospects and Rs 2 lakh for loss of amenities and future happiness.
“Unfortunately, human life is not mathematics. It is something more complex. The stark reality is that for such a person who has lost proper use of some of the essential limbs in terms of their utility for earning purpose, it is over-simplistic to say he/she can earn some income by resorting to limb-wise arithmetic. Accordingly, the contention of the insurer’s counsel is unacceptable, besides being unreasonable,” justice Krishna Bhat observed in his order.
The judge directed the insurer, New India Assurance Company, to deposit the enhanced compensation amount of Rs 17.4 lakh within eight weeks before the tribunal.
Around 4.45pm on October 24, 2006, Priyanka, then seven, was walking by the side of the road from Kudal to Peth when a speeding goods vehicle bearing a Maharashtra registration number hit her. The girl was dragged for 20ft, causing her grievous injuries. Considering the Rs 80,173 spent on hospital bills and the disability certificate indicating that she suffers from 50% permanent disability, the tribunal had awarded Rs 4.4 lakh as total compensation.
Priyanka challenged the verdict, claiming the compensation awarded is too low. On the other hand, the insurance firm argued it is not a case of the victim suffering 100% disability.
Justice Bhat pointed out that the doctor in his cross-examination had opined that due to shrinking skin of the leg, the girl cannot straighten her right leg and cannot perform routine daily activities. The judge noted the doctor had stated that she cannot use her left hand as it has lost power in the same as well, while assessing the disability for the whole body to be 50%.
“But the picture one gets from the medical expert’s evidence and perusal of medical records is very bleak about the future prospects of this minor claimant. Human body cannot be treated like an assemblage of its constituent parts. In other words, if there is clinching medical evidence a minor child cannot straighten one of her lower limbs and one of her upper limbs has lost its power for use, it is as good as the body becoming useless so far as the person’s ability to work and earn a livelihood is concerned. In the said larger sense, the claimant in this case has become functionally 100% disabled,” justice Bhat said.
The judge said in his opinion, accepting the insurer’s contention is tantamount to viewing a human being as a machine. “If the claimant, as evidence shows, cannot use one of the lower limbs, as a human requires to use it, and one of the upper limbs has completely become non-functional, it is harsh and inhuman to hold that he/she is functional to some extent and in terms of his earning capacity in the labour market he/ she would have some demand,” he said.