Legal Rights Cannot Be Disregarded by Lawyers by Arrangements Which Are Contrary To Law, Says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court in a recent judgment, while disposing of the appeal arising out of Motor Accident Compensation Claim observed ‘Advocates cannot throwaway legal rights or enter into arrangements which are understood to be contrary to law. The claim was filed by the heirs of a deceased couple who died in a road accident.

Facts of the case and brief court proceedings:

In the present case of Kriti & Anr. Etc. v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal awarded a sum of Rs. 40.71 lakhs to the heirs of the deceased couple. While the appeal which was filed by the Insurance Company was partly allowed, the High Court reversed the addition of future prospects which made the claimants file an appeal in the Supreme Court.

While opposing the appeal filed by the claimants, the insurance company contended that the decision which was taken by the High Court was a consent order and that the counsel for the claimants had conceded to a lower computation under the head of loss of dependency, which further can not be challenged in the appeal proceedings.

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In the present case, the prior decision which was passed by the Delhi High Court read as,

The learned counsel for the claimants fairly concedes to the above submissions. She agrees that the loss of dependency may be re-computed on the basis of minimum wages payable to the workers in the State of Haryana as in force on the date of accident (12.04.2014), the rate being Rs.5547.10. She further concedes that in calculating the loss of dependency in the case of death of Poonam, one-third may be deducted towards personal and living expenses and that there is no occasion for any element of future prospects of increase being added since there was no proof of regular employment.”

The amount as the compensation of Rs. 40.71 Lakhs to the heirs of the deceased which was rewarded by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal has reduced to Rs. 22 lakhs by the High Court.

Judgment:

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The bench constituted of Justice NV Raman, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, and Justice Surya Kant. It observed that the claims and legal liabilities crystallize at the time of the accident itself and changes the post thereto ought not to ordinarily affect pending proceedings.

The bench stated that,

“It cannot be disputed that at the time of death, there in fact were four dependents of the deceased and not three. The subsequent death of the deceased’s dependent mother ought not to be a reason for the reduction of motor accident compensation. Claims and legal liabilities crystallize at the time of the accident itself, and changes post thereto ought not to ordinarily affect pending proceedings. Just like how appellant claimants cannot rely upon subsequent increases in minimum wages, the respondent insurer too cannot seek the benefit of the subsequent death of a dependent during the pendency of legal proceedings.”

The bench, in the furtherance of the judgment, observed that “Any concession in law made in this regard by either counsel would not bind the parties, as it is legally settled that advocates cannot throwaway legal rights or enter into arrangements contrary to law.”

The bench, while allowing the appeal, changed the amount of compensation to Rs. 33,20,000/-.


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