In a recent case, the Hon’ble Bombay High Court answered a fascinating question: whether a widow who earned herself and got remarried during dependency of a motor vehicle accident claim is entitled to get compensation from the insurance company?
The case before the MACT
The MACT accepted the claim of the woman but allotted her fewer shares. Order passed by the MACT was challenged in the Bombay High Court.
Contentions raised before the High Court.
Learned Counsel for the MACT submitted that the woman(widow) was working since the beginning was not dependent on the deceased husband’s income.
It was also argued that the widow had lost her right to compensation as she got remarried during the case’s pendency.
Main Issues Before the Court:
There were two main issues before the Court:-
- Whether separate earrings of the woman(widow) would affect her right to claim compensation?
- Whether getting remarried would disentitle her from claiming compensation.
Observations made by the Bench
The Court observed that even though the Tribunal had rejected remarriage, it did not apportion the compensation properly.
It was further stated that the widow was one of the heirs and that the Court should consider the age of the deceased, income of deceased and the number dependents.
In the Bench’s opinion, legal representatives would come first, and the eligibility of dependents would come later.
On the issue that the widow was also earning, the Court stated that just because the widow has earning separately, it would not relieve the deceased husband from contributing towards expenses.
Decisions relied on by the High Court.
A reference was made to the Supreme Court’s decision in Manjuri Bera vs Oriental Insurance Company wherein it was held that a married daughter( who was not dependent on the deceased income) was legal representative and was entitled to compensation.
In Kartar Kaur vs Nidhi Goel, the Punjab & Haryana High Court held that if a woman were disentitled to get compensation due to remarriage, it would go against the proposal of remarriage of widows and if such a view were taken, then it would discourage widows from remarrying after their husbands pass away.
The Court also relied on National Insurance Company Ltd. vs Nidhi Goel. It was observed that if the proposition of the insurance company was accepted, it would violate the right of a widow to remarry and harm the public interest and interest of society at large.
After perusing the facts of the case and various case laws that were cited, the COurt held that separate earnings of a widow or the fact that she got remarried, would not disentitle her claiming compensation.
Apportionment of Compensation made by the Court
Hon’ble Court held that the deceased’s children should get more compensation and observed that the widow does not deserve Rs. 400000 as she was already earning and had received benefits from the LIC as well.
Both the children( Son and Daughter) of the deceased Rs 16,56,500 each, Mother of the deceased received Rs.500000 while the widow was awarded Rs. 2,00,000.
Title: Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company vs Pushpa Narayan Khurde.
Case No.: First Appeal No. 1379 of 2018
Date of Order: 18.12.2020
Coram: Hon’ble Justice SM Modak