SCs fiat to courts in accident cases

New Delhi: Courts should play an active role in awarding just compensation to victims rather than acting as mere neutral umpires, the Supreme Court has said while awarding over Rs 4.70 lakh compensation to a labourer for suffering permanent disability in a road mishap.

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganugly in a judgement found fault with the accident tribunal in Karnataka and the State High Court for overlooking the fact that victim Nagarajappa has been permanently incapaciated from working after being hit by a bus.

"The doctor assessed permanent residual physical disability of the upper limb at 68% and 22-23% of the whole body.

"Sections 168 and 169 of the Act make it evident that the tribunal does not function as a neutral umpire as in a civil suit but as an active explorer and seeker of truth who is required to hold an inquiry into the claim for determining the just compensation.

"The tribunal should therefore take an active role to ascertain the true and correct position so that it can assess the just compensation," Justice Ganguly said quoting an earlier ruling.

The apex court pointed out that the victim, who was working as a manual labourer, required the use of both his hands to earn his livelihood, which has now been rendered impossible due to the accident.

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