Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Whether court should grant compensation for death of wife if husband was earning more than wife?

MUMBAI: Just because a man earns a high salary, it does not mean that the family is not dependent on a wife's salary, the Bombay high court has ruled. A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Revati Dere directed New India Assurance to pay around Rs 47 lakh in compensation along with 7% interest to Sangli resident Sunil Garud (52) and his two young sons for the death of his wife in a car accident.

The insurance company had opposed the claim as the husband, a government servant, was earning more than his wife, a professor in an engineering college, and therefore he was not dependent on her earnings.

The HC said the company's contention that the husband of the deceased was earning and was not dependent on his wife's income, could not be accepted. "In this day and age, considering the cost of living, the income of both husband and wife are equally important for running the house as they supplement each other's income. It cannot be generally said that as the surviving spouse is earning, there is no dependency," the judges said, pointing out that when both spouses are earning, they share the expenses, resulting in higher savings. "If a spouse loses the benefit of contribution rendered by the other in managing the household, the surviving spouse will be entitled to compensation for loss of dependency. In this case, the deceased was contributing her entire salary for household needs, including the education of her two sons. The evidence has gone unchallenged," they said.

Ujwala Garud (45), a professor at an engineering college, was returning home after a meeting in Mumbai on January 3, 2009, when the vehicle she was in lost control and met with an accident on the Pune-Mumbai road. The police registered a case of rash and negligent driving against the driver. Ujwala's husband and two sons filed a claim for compensation from the vehicle's insurance company. The Motor Accidents' Claims Tribunal told the insurance company to pay compensation.

The company challenged the order on various grounds, including that there was no evidence that the vehicle was being driven rashly and disputed the fact that Ujwala had a permanent job and had future prospects. The court turned to evidence like the FIR, which alleged that the driver was charged for rash and negligent driving, as well as statements from the college that revealed her salary and position. The company then claimed that since Sunil was earning Rs 55,000 per month, the family was not dependent on Ujwala's earnings. The HC disagreed.

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