Kochi, Kerala— In a recent judgement, the Kerala High Court awarded Rs 1,64,654 as compensation to a 61-year-old woman who suffered severe injuries due to the rash driving of a bus owned by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) in August 2006. The woman had filed a petition with the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Irinjalakuda, seeking compensation of nearly Rs. 2 lakhs, but was granted a mere Rs. 40,214. The High Court observed that the compensation granted by the Tribunal was exiguous and did not bear any reasonable nexus to the injury suffered by the petitioner, which had severely impaired her future life.
The counsel for KSRTC, Alex Antony Sebastian, contended that the compensation granted by the Tribunal was irreproachable, particularly because the petitioner was a housewife without any income. However, the High Court held that the contention of KSRTC that a housewife earns no income and, therefore, is not eligible for compensation for disability and loss of amenities, is outrageous and beyond comprehension.
"At the outset, I must say that the contentions of the KSRTC, that a housewife earns no income and therefore, not eligible for compensation for disability and loss of amenities, is outrageous and beyond comprehension. The role of a mother and wife at home is beyond compare, and she is a true nation builder. She invests her time for the family and ensures that the next generation is fostered with the highest levels of excellence; and her efforts can never be taken trivially or brushed aside, as being without monetary value. The lives of human beings are never tested on the scales of their monetary worth, but by their contribution and selflessness,” Justice Devan Ramachandran wrote in the judgement.
The Court held that the monetary compensation for an injury caused to a housewife will have to be measured and weighed on the same scales as it would be for a working woman, if not more.
The Court also noted that the petitioner had to undergo extensive treatment and was bedridden for a long period of time, suffering from acute pain. The wound certificate showed that the petitioner suffered from spinal fracture, leading to compression, with difficulty in breathing and pain all over the body. The disability certificate records that the petitioner suffered from a malunited fracture on the vertebra, with the loss of more than 50% movement, with back pain and stiffness, leading to limitation of the movement of the spine to the extent of 25%, added with difficulty in breathing. However, the Tribunal refused to accept its contents merely because the petitioner did not examine the doctor who issued the same.
The High Court, guided by the declarations in Ramachandrappa v. Manager, Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Company Ltd., held the notional income of the petitioner at the time of the accident to be Rs. 5,500 per month. The Court granted Rs. 50,000 as claimed by the petitioner under the head "pain and sufferings" and Rs. 15,000 towards "loss of amenities and convenience." Going by the income so reckoned, the compensation for disability to the petitioner, adopting the multiplier as per the ratio in Sarla Verma v. Delhi Transport Corporation, she was entitled to Rs. 6.5 lakhs.
"The judgment is likely to have far-reaching implications in recognizing the contribution of housewives and mothers to society and awarding just and equitable compensation for injuries caused to them" Dr. Sudha Chowdhary, Vice President All India Progressive Women Association said.
Speaking to The Mooknayak, advocate Bhagyashree Pancholi said, " The denial of compensation to a housewife by KSRTC based on her lack of financial earnings is completely unjustified. The principle of equality before the law applies to all individuals regardless of their occupation or income. The Kerala High Court has fortunately upheld this principle and acknowledged the equal status of all individuals. It is worth noting that this is not the first time a court has recognized the valuable contributions of housewives, as the Supreme Court has previously acknowledged their integral role in society and suggested that governments consider providing them with a monthly income. Furthermore, in divorce cases, the Supreme Court has ordered husbands to compensate their wives for their significant contributions to the household. It goes without saying that housewives play a crucial role in laying the foundation for a successful household ".
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