The Allahabad High Court has termed the payment of accident compensation on the basis of indicative notional income as arbitrary, irrational, against the fundamental right to equality and life.
The Division Bench of Justice Surya Prakash Kesarwani and Justice Saurabh Srivastava heard the petition filed by Kaneez Fatima.
The facts of the case are that the petitioner’s husband, namely Hani Khan died on 10.04.2022 on account of electrocution by 11 KV overhead line which was installed by the respondents at a height of less than 4.7 meters in breach of Rule 77 of of the Rules, 1956 and non-maintenance of the aforesaid line by the respondents as per provisions of Rule 29 of the Rules, 1956.
As per admitted case of the respondents, the death of the husband of the petitioner was caused on 10.04.2022. The petitioner submitted entire desired papers including certificate of Maharani Laxmi Bai Medical College and Hospital, Jhansi, dated 10.04.2022 in which cause of death of her husband has been shown as electric current, Panchnama dated 10.04.2022 and death certificate dated 20.04.2022 etc of her husband.
Petitioner’s statement was recorded by the competent authority/ Electricity Safety Officer on 13.04.2022. Form 4 under Section 161(2) of the Electricity Act, 2003 was submitted by the Deputy Director, Electricity Safety, Government of Uttar Pradesh, Jhansi, Region, Jhansi on 18.04.2022 in which the entire particulars of the incidence and the investigation report etc were well mentioned with reference to documentary evidences, namely, first information report dated 11.04.2022, detailed report dated 11.04.2022, police report, medical report received on 15.04.2022 and investigation report dated 13.04.2022 etc.
The cause of death of the petitioner’s husband being electric current and negligence of officers and employees were also recorded in the said report.
On 18.04.2022 the Deputy Director, Electricity Safety, Government of Uttar Pradesh, Jhansi Region, Jhansi, submitted a report to the respondent no 2 requesting him to take action as per relevant Government orders and also submitted that investigation under Section 161 of the Electricity Act, 2003 has been completed and recommendation for compensation to the petitioner has been made which is to be paid by the Electricity Distribution Corporation.
Thus, by 18.04.2022 all the required investigation and reports were submitted by the competent authorities to respondent no 2 for payment of compensation to the petitioner.
In the writ petition, the petitioner has specifically stated that her deceased husband was working as a contractor of M/s Sri Ramdoot Steelfab and his total income was around Rs 3,50,000/- per annum and in support thereof she has also submitted proof of income.
Thus, it is undisputed that the income of the deceased based on average income of the last three years, was more than Rs 3,50,000/- per annum.
It has also been admitted by the respondents in the personal affidavit/ counter affidavit dated 06.09.2022 that the death of the petitioner’s husband was caused due to defective installation of 11 KV overhead line.
Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner is entitled for just compensation on the basis of her deceased husband’s admitted annual income, in terms of the law laid down in two Division Bench judgments of the the court in Shiv Ranshu Chhuneja vs State Of U.P and Others.
Counsel for the petitioner further submitted that the petitioner is a widow lady and there are four dependents of the deceased and she is running from pillar to post to get just compensation in terms of the aforesaid judgments read with the policy decision of the respondents dated 25.09.2021 but compensation has not been paid to them and she and her family have been left with no source of income for their survival.
Counsel for the petitioner also submitted that it is only after the court passed the order dated 01.09.2022 and 08.09.2022, the respondents have paid merely a sum of Rs 5 lacs and stated on 09.09.2022 before this Court that the total compensation is Rs 7,23,506/- out of which Rs 5 lacs have been paid as per sanction letter dated 03.09.2022 and the balance amount of Rs 2,23,500/- shall be paid soon.
Counsel for the petitioner said that the aforesaid computation of the compensation is based merely on notional income of Rs 51,000/- per annum whereas it has been admitted by the respondents that the actual annual income of the deceased from contract work was Rs 3,50,000/-.
He further said that under the circumstances, the writ petition deserves to be allowed with exemplary cost.
The Court observed that,
It is admitted by the respondents that the deceased husband of the petitioner namely Hani Khan died on 10.04.2022 due to electrocution on account of defective installation of 11 KV overhead line by the respondents. It has also been admitted by the respondents in their personal/ counter affidavit dated 06.09.2022 that the actual income of the deceased husband of the petitioner was Rs 3,50,000/- per annum based on last three years income tax return.
Thus, as per settled principles of law, the respondents are bound to award just compensation to the petitioner for a fatal accident on account of their own negligence which caused the death of the husband of the petitioner on 10.04.2022. However, despite there being admitted proof of actual income of the deceased to be Rs 3,50,000/- per annum, the respondents have computed compensation on the basis of assumed notional income of the deceased as Rs 51,000/- per annum.
The order for compensation has been passed by the authority in exercise of statutory power under Section 161 of the Electricity Act, 2003 and the policy decision to award just compensation. If just compensation is not awarded, it would affect fundamental rights of the sufferer guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, order so passed would be amenable to writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
In the light of the discussions made above and applying the law settled by the Supreme Court in various judgments aforementioned, the Court found that the petitioner is entitled for compensation on the basis of undisputed actual annual income of the deceased at Rs 3,50,000/-. The notional income of Rs 51,000/- as given in the policy decision of the Corporation dated 25.09.2021 shall not be applicable where the actual income of the deceased husband of the petitioner has been admitted by the respondents to be Rs 3,50,000/- per annum.
The Court said that, admitted facts of the case as discussed in forgoing paragraphs of the judgment are that the husband of the petitioner namely Sri Hani Khan died on 10.04.2022 on account of electrocution by 11 KV overhead line due to negligence of the respondents. At the time of his death, he was aged about 27 years and left behind four dependents including the petitioner. His average annual income on the basis of past income tax returns was about Rs 3,50,000/-.
The Court allowed the petition with the following directions:-
(a) The respondents shall pay to the dependents of the deceased the above mentioned amount of compensation of Rs 66,85,000/- with simple interest @ 6% per annum from the date of filing of the claim application till realisation, after adjusting the amount earlier paid by them to the petitioner.
(b) Out of the aforesaid amount of compensation, a sum of Rs 10,00,000/- shall be paid in the name of the minor daughter of the deceased through the petitioner as guardian which shall be kept by the petitioner in the highest interest bearing fixed deposit with interest payable monthly/ quarterly, in a Nationalized Bank till the aforesaid minor daughter attains majority. The interest so received by the petitioner shall be spent by the petitioner only for the purposes of education and maintenance of her aforesaid minor daughter-Amayera Khan. After the aforesaid minor daughter shall attain majority, the aforesaid principal amount may be utilised or invested by the petitioner as per need and after her, the remaining amount, if any, by her aforesaid daughter.
(c) Out of the aforesaid amount of compensation, another sum of Rs 10,00,000/- shall also be paid in the name of the aforesaid minor daughter of the deceased through the petitioner as guardian which shall also be kept by the petitioner in a highest interest bearing fixed deposit in a Nationalized Bank in the name of the aforesaid minor daughter with provision for accumulation of interest, for the purposes of higher education and marriage of the aforesaid minor daughter.
(d) The other two dependents of the deceased shall be paid Rs 10,00,000/- each out of the compensation amount determined above. (e) The interest and the balance amount of compensation (after adjusting the aforesaid amount of Rs 40,00,000/- payable to three dependents and also after adjusting the amount already paid), shall be paid to the petitioner.
“Decision of the respondents dated 25.09.2021 to compute and pay compensation only on the basis of notional income, is not only arbitrary and violative of fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India but is also in conflict of the law laid down by the Supreme Court in judgments aforementioned directing for payment of just compensation.
Therefore, we issue a general mandamus to the respondents to compute and pay just compensation on the basis of actual income of the injured person/ victim/ deceased wherever actual income is ascertainable or may be proved by claimant with future prospect as per law settled by the Supreme Court in the various judgments aforenoted and apply the multiplier as provided in the policy decision dated 25.09.2021.
If actual income of injured/ victim/ deceased is either not ascertainable or is not proved by claimant, then notional income as given in the policy decision dated 25.09.2021, shall be applied for computation and payment of compensation.
The amount of compensation for loss of estate, loss of consortium and funeral expenses shall be determined and paid by the respondents in accordance with the law settled by the Supreme Court in the case of National Insurance Company Ltd vs Pranay Sethi (supra), which is binding under Articles 141 of the Constitution of India”, the order reads.