"Salary earned by (victim's) wife was due to the work put in by her and could not be adjusted or treated as compensation for the loss of earning of her husband. Salary earned by her could not be equated with the compensation she was entitled to on account of death of her husband," Justice V B Gupta said.
The court disagreed with the view of the Motor Accident Claim Tribunal which considered earnings of wife while fixing the amount of compensation for death of her husband who was killed in a road accident.
"The Tribunal erred in recording a finding that the salary earned by her would compensate for the loss of salary which was being earned by the deceased. Whatever salary she got after employment was in lieu of services rendered by her. The same does not mean that there was no loss of dependency," the court said, awarding her a compensation of Rs 20 lakh.
The court passed the order on a petition filed by National Assurance Co. Ltd. pleading that the deceased was not entitled to any claim as driver of offending vehicle was not holding a valid driving licence at the time of accident and the wife of deceased got a job on compassionate ground.
The court, however, was not satisfied by its contention and said, "Merely by bringing evidence on record that the driver was holding a fake license, the insurance company cannot be absolved from its liability, in absence of cogent and reliable evidence."
In this case, 34-year-old Jagjit Singh died in a road accident in December 1996 when his scooter collided with a truck parked on the wrong side with head lights off.
"In our view, the Tribunal has gravely erred in denying the compensation under the head 'loss of dependency' to her because of her appointment on compassionate grounds in the place of the deceased," the court said while directing the insurance company to pay compensation to Neelam.