Wednesday 22 May 2024

Supreme Court: The court should grant compensation on notional income for future prospects on account of death of homemaker

 Once notional income has been determined, the question remains as to whether escalation for future prospects should be granted with regard to it. Initially, the awarding of future prospects by this Court was related to the stability of the job held by the victim. {Para 37}

38. However, there was a shift in jurisprudence regarding future prospects with the five-Judge Bench decision of this Court in Pranay Sethi (supra). This Court extended the benefit regarding future prospects to even self-employed persons, or those on a fixed salary. The Court held as follows:

57. Having bestowed our anxious consideration, we are disposed to think when we accept the principle of standardisation, there is really no rationale not to apply the said principle to the self-employed or a person who is on a fixed salary. To follow the doctrine of actual income at the time of death and not to add any amount with regard to future prospects to the income for the purpose of determination of multiplicand would be unjust. The determination of income while computing compensation has to include future prospects so that the method will come within the ambit and sweep of just compensation as postulated Under Section 168 of the Act. In case of a deceased who had held a permanent job with inbuilt grant of annual increment, there is an acceptable certainty. But to state that the legal representatives of a deceased who was on a fixed salary would not be entitled to the benefit of future prospects for the purpose of computation of compensation would be inapposite. It is because the criterion of distinction between the two in that event would be certainty on the one hand and staticness on the other. One may perceive that the comparative measure is certainty on the one hand and uncertainty on the other but such a perception is fallacious. It is because the price rise does affect a self-employed person; and that apart there is always an incessant effort to enhance one's income for sustenance. The purchasing capacity of a salaried person on permanent job when increases because of grant of increments and pay revision or for some other change in service conditions, there is always a competing attitude in the private sector to enhance the salary to get better efficiency from the employees. Similarly, a person who is self-employed is bound to garner his resources and raise his charges/fees so that he can live with same facilities....Taking into consideration the cumulative factors, namely, passage of time, the changing society, escalation of price, the change in price index, the human attitude to follow a particular pattern of life, etc., an addition of 40% of the established income of the deceased towards future prospects and where the deceased was below 40 years an addition of 25% where the deceased was between the age of 40 to 50 years would be reasonable.

(emphasis supplied)

39. The rationale behind the awarding of future prospects is therefore no longer merely about the type of profession, whether permanent or otherwise, although the percentage awarded is still dependent on the same. The awarding of future prospects is now a part of the duty of the Court to grant just compensation, taking into account the realities of life, particularly of inflation, the quest of individuals to better their circumstances and those of their loved ones, rising wage rates and the impact of experience on the quality of work.

41. When it comes to the second category of cases, relating to notional income for non-earning victims, it is my opinion that the above principle applies with equal vigor, particularly with respect to homemakers. Once notional income is determined, the effects of inflation would equally apply. Further, no one would ever say that the improvements in skills that come with experience do not take place in the domain of work within the household. It is worth noting that, although not extensively discussed, this Court has been granting future prospects even in cases pertaining to notional income, as has been highlighted by my learned brother, Surya Kant, J., in his opinion [Hem Raj v. Oriental Insurance Company Limited,   MANU/SC/1799/2017 : (2018) 15 SCC 654; Sunita Tokas v. New India Insurance Co. Ltd.,   MANU/SC/1105/2019 : (2019) 20 SCC 688].

 The granting of future prospects, on the notional income calculated in such cases, is a component of just compensation.


Civil Appeal Nos. 19-20 of 2021 

Decided On: 05.01.2021

Kirti and Ors. Vs. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd.

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:

Surya Kant, S. Abdul Nazeer and N.V. Ramana, JJ.

Authored By : Surya Kant, N.V. Ramana

Surya Kant, J.

Citation: MANU/SC/0004/2021.

Read full Judgment here: Click here.

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