The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 30th June 2020, in the matter of United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Satinder Kaur @ Satwinder Kaur & Ors. directed the Tribunals and High Courts to award compensation for loss of consortium, which is a legitimate conventional head. And not to award compensation towards loss of love and affection as a separate head.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:
(Para 8) In motor accident claims, the criteria which are to be taken into consideration for assessing compensation in the case of death, are :
- the age of the deceased at the time of his death;
- the number of dependants left behind by the deceased; and
- the income of the deceased at the time of his death.
The personal and living expenses of the deceased should be deducted from the income, to arrive at the contribution to the family. (Para 8a)
In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, brothers and sisters of the deceased bachelor would not be considered to be dependants, because they would usually either be independent and earning, or married, or dependant on the father. (Para 8a)
Thus, even if the deceased was survived by parents and siblings, only the mother would be considered to be a dependant. The deduction towards personal expenses of a bachelor would be 50%, and 50% would be the contribution to the family. (Para 8a)
However, in a case where the family of the bachelor was large and dependant on the income of the deceased, as in a case where he had a widowed mother, and a large number of younger non-earning sisters or brothers, his personal and living expenses could be restricted to 1/3rd, and contribution to the family be taken as 2/3rd.(Para 8a)
In the wake of increased inflation, rising consumer prices, and general standards of living, future prospects have to be taken into consideration, not only with respect to the status or educational qualifications of the deceased, but also other relevant factors such as higher salaries and perks which are being offered by private companies these days. The dearness allowance and perks from which the family would have derived monthly benefit, are required to be taken into consideration for determining the loss of dependency. (Para 8a)
Loss of Consortium, in legal parlance, was historically given a narrow meaning to be awarded only to the spouse i.e. the right of the spouse to the company, care, help, comfort, guidance, society, solace, affection and sexual relations with his or her mate. The loss of companionship, love, care and protection, etc., the spouse is entitled to get, has to be compensated appropriately. The concept of non- pecuniary damage for loss of consortium is one of the major heads for awarding compensation in various jurisdictions such as the United States of America, Australia, etc. English courts have recognised the right of a spouse to get compensation even during the period of temporary disablement. (Para 8(e)(b))
The right to consortium would include the company, care, help, comfort, guidance, solace and affection of the deceased, which is a loss to his family. With respect to a spouse, it would include sexual relations with the deceased spouse. Parental consortium is granted to the child upon the premature death of a parent, for loss of parental aid, protection, affection, society, discipline, guidance and training. Filial consortium is the right of the parents to compensation in the case of an accidental death of a child. An accident leading to the death of a child causes great shock and agony to the parents and family of the deceased. The greatest agony for a parent is to lose their child during their lifetime. Children are valued for their love and affection, and their role in the family unit. Modern jurisdictions world-over have recognized that the value of a child’s consortium far exceeds the economic value of the compensation awarded in the case of the death of a child. Most jurisdictions permit parents to be awarded compensation under loss of consortium on the death of a child. The amount awarded to the parents is the compensation for loss of love and affection, care and companionship of the deceased child. (Para 8(e)(b))
The Tribunals and High Courts are directed to award compensation for loss of consortium, which is a legitimate conventional head. There is no justification to award compensation towards loss of love and affection as a separate head. (Para 8(e)(b))
Copy of judgement: Judgement_30-Jun-2020
-Adv. Tushar Kaushik