Medical evidence in accident cases can't be substituted on surmises, conjectures: SC

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Court has said the tribunal and the High Court committed a serious error in not accepting the said medical evidence and in the absence of any contra evidence

The Supreme Court has said that the medical evidence of a doctor cannot be brushed aside on surmises and conjecture while increasing a motor accident claim made by an injured person in a road mishap case.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Karol and Aravind Kumar noted the tribunal here computed the compensation towards loss of future income by considering the whole body disability at 10%. 

"On surmises and conjectures the percentage of disability has been reduced. No reason whatsoever has been assigned by the tribunal for substituting its opinion to that of the expert opinion namely, the doctor who treated the claimant and examined," the bench said.

The court said the compensation awarded under the head ‘loss of income’ towards permanent disability deserves to be enhanced by construing the whole body disability at 17%. 

"In view of position of law as explained when the medical evidence tendered by the claimant is perused, we are of the considered view that tribunal and the High Court committed a serious error in not accepting the said medical evidence and in the absence of any contra evidence available on record, neither the tribunal nor the High Court could have substituted the disability to 10% as against the opinion of the doctor certified at 17%," the bench said.

An appeal was filed against the order by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Bench at Indore whereunder the compensation awarded by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal in a sum of Rs 87,700 with interest at the rate of 7% p.a. came to be enhanced to Rs 1,27,700 with same interest contending inter-alia that compensation so awarded by the High Court is on the lower side and same has to be enhanced.

The accident has resulted into injuries to the appellant, Aabid Khan in the road accident on April 23, 2013.

The court noted perusal of the award passed by the tribunal as modified by the High Court, would reveal that claimant had sustained compound fracture in the left acetabulum and left rib. Dr Alok Mehta, who had examined the claimant had deposed that whole body disability suffered by the claimant was to the extent of 17% and this fact has been elicited in the cross-examination. 

The bench cited 'Raj Kumar Vs Ajay Kumar and another', (2011) in which the SC has observed, "The tribunal should not be a silent spectator when medical evidence is tendered in regard to the injuries and their effect, in particular, the extent of permanent disability. 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 enquiry into the claim" for determining the "just compensation"."

The court also relied upon 'Sidram Vs Divisional Manager, United India Insurance Co Ltd and Another' (2023), in which the SC had said, "Severe limitations inflicted due to such injuries undermine the dignity (which is now recognized as an intrinsic component of the right to life Under Article 21) of the individual, thus depriving the person of the essence of the right to a wholesome life which she or he had lived, hitherto. From the world of the able bodied, the victim is thrust into the world of the disabled, itself most discomfiting and unsettling. If courts nit-pick and award niggardly amounts oblivious of these circumstances there is resultant affront to the injured victim". 

In the case, the bench said the monthly income of the claimant has been construed as Rs 3,500, which is on the lower side. The claimant was self-employed as a mechanic and had work experience of over 30 years. Resultantly, the court construed his income at Rs 6,500 per month in substitution to Rs 3,500 computed by the tribunal and the High Court. 

The bench also noted the compensation awarded by the tribunal under the heads of attendant charges, pain and suffering, transportation together in a sum of Rs 9,000 being abysmally on the lower side, which was enhanced to Rs one lakh.

The court enhanced the total compensation as determined by the High Court from Rs 1,27,700 to Rs 2,42,120. It directed the Insurance Company to pay the balance amount of compensation with interest at the rate of 7% per annum as awarded by the tribunal by depositing it before the jurisdictional tribunal within six weeks from the date of this order.