In a rare incident, the Madras High Court has shown the spine to say sorry to a women who had been waging a legal battle for 24 years to win compensation for the death of her son in 1993. “Sorry, we have kept you waiting this long to secure your right,” the High Court told the woman litigant, while rejecting an appeal filed by a public sector insurance company against the award of Rs 3.4 lakh by a motor accident claims tribunal (MACT).
“This accident had taken place in May 1993. It is little over 24 years now and this mother is not compensated yet. She still awaits her remedy. And, whatever remedy that has been provided to her by the tribunal may have been possibly delayed further due to the pendency of this appeal...The insurance company which objects to passing of the award on a point of maintainability of the claim before this court is yet to part with its money. It reflects an attempt to write off the life of a citizen and the support he could have given to his parent as valueless,” Times of India quoted Justice N Seshasayee.
Bakkiam’s lorry driver-son Lokeshwaran was killed on 18 May 1993, when his lorry had a head-on collision with a bus belonging to the state transport corporation. However, because of reasons unknown, Bakkiam sought to get compensation under the Workmen's Compensation (WC) Act instead of moving a motor accident claims tribunal for compensation under Motor Vehicles Act. As WC Act is invoked mostly in cases of industrial accidents, her claim was rejected.
According to Times of India, the woman, instead of filing an appeal, later moved a fresh application in the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal for Rs 5 lakh as compensation, which was opposed by the National Insurance Company Limited. The company said since she had elected to make a claim under the WC Act, a second claim before MACT was not maintainable. However, the tribunal rejected objections, and awarded Rs 3.47 lakh as compensation, after which the company filed the current appeal.
Dismissing the companies appeal, Justice Seshasayee said, the aggrieved mother had not been paid the compensation while the forums discussed legal semantics on burden of proof.
The court also pointed out that the first claim made by Bakkiam was rejected solely on the basis of suspected identity of the victim who died in the accident. The judge directed authorities to deposit the compensation sum within four weeks.