Bombay HC: Remarriage of Widow will not divest her right to claim Compensation under Motor Vehicles Act The Bombay High Court has ruled that Remarriage of Widow will not divest her right to claim Compensation under Motor Vehicles Act. Justice S. M. Modak of the the Bombay High Court was hearing the case of Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company Ltd. vs. Smt. Pushpa Narayan Khurde & Ors....
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Bombay HC: Remarriage of Widow will not divest her right to claim Compensation under Motor Vehicles Act
The Bombay High Court has ruled that Remarriage of Widow will not divest her right to claim Compensation under Motor Vehicles Act.
Justice S. M. Modak of the the Bombay High Court was hearing the case of Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company Ltd. vs. Smt. Pushpa Narayan Khurde & Ors. in which he awarded the respondents Pushpa Narayan Khurde and Others their claim for compensation.
The issue involved in this appeal was about entitlement of widow to the compensation who got remarried during the pendency of the petition before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (Tribunal). What was the effect of a marriage of widow on her right to claim compensation on account of death of her husband in a vehicular accident? Whether due to marriage, her right vanishes? Further, whether an earning wife can be said to be dependent of her husband?
The Court first dealt with the issue of dependency and remarriage and held that the Tribunal had outrightly rejected the ground of remarriage. However the Court held that separate earning and remarriage disqualifies the widow totally and set aside that part of the judgment.
The Court then moved on to the section 166 of Motor Vehicle Act, (MVA) which lays down the category of persons who can apply for the compensation. It categorizes the legal representatives in case of death. The Court felt it was important to note that the section nowhere uses the word 'dependent' and also the word 'dependent' has not been defined under the Act.
The word 'legal representative' also has not been defined under the MVA. Section 2(11) of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), lays down the meaning of the said word. The meaning given to the word 'legal representative' under CPCcould be borrowed while interpreting the provisions of MVA, according to the Court.
The Court also explained that widow is certainly one of the heirsin which property of a Hindu devolves as per intestate succession. Now, it was interesting to see how the word 'dependent' has evolved. It has been judicially recognized that – age of the deceased, income of the deceased and number of dependents are three factors to be considered while fixing the quantum of compensation.
The Court analysed the various judgments and found that there was a consistent view that remarriage does not disqualify the widow from claiming compensation. Section 21 (iii) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act and Section 25(3) of the Hindu Marriage Act states, right of a wife to claim maintenance till she remarries. Based on this logic,Court elaborated the nexus between personal laws vis-à-vis MVA.
There are provisions which are based on 'no fault liability,' which are under Section 140 and under Section 163-A of the MVA. Section 147 of the MVA mandates the owner from obtaining insurance policy (to cover the risk caused to third party) prior to putting the vehicle on road for use. The Court stated, object behind these provisions was to protect the victim of the vehicular accident and the rights and liabilities arising out of vehicular accident are not the outcome of personal laws but they are the outcome of statutory provisions.
The Court opined that when the accident took place at that time the widow was the legal representative of the deceased, certainly she was entitled to claim compensation. Right already vested in her cannot be divested. When a widow approaches the Tribunal, she wants to exercise her right which has become part of her estate, added the Court.
Next the issue raised was, when widow is having her separate income, whether she can be said to be depending on the income of deceased? The Court specified that it had two aspects. One was deciding the percentage for personal expenses and towards contribution of dependents. Second was apportionment of compensation which comes later.
The Court felt it was necessary to discuss the term 'dependency' and that it does not mean 100 per cent dependency. It may be totally or partially. The Court found that the relationship between 'father having separate earning as dependent on son' is different from widow (having separate income) depending on husband. Separate earning of widow does not relieve the deceased husband from contributing towards the expenses.
"If evidence on the point of spending by every individual spouse could have been available, this Court might have deleted the widow from the list of dependents", added the Court. Hence, the Court affirmed the percentage of distribution (25 per cent towards personal expenses of deceased and 75 per cent towards contribution to four dependents two children, widow and mother) arrived at by the Tribunal.
The Court felt that remarriage will not divest the widow from her right to claim compensation and dismissed the appeal while altering the percentage of apportionment made amongst the dependents made by the Tribunal.