Supreme Court awards nearly Rs 50 lakh compensation to disabled driver of deceased Punjab minister

A man who suffered permanently disability in an accident while driving the car of the thenD leader and Punjab cabinet minister Kanwaljit Singh in 2009 was on Monday awarded Rs 49.9 lakh compensation by the Supreme Court.

Singh, who was Punjab Cooperation Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal’s General Secretary, had died on March 29, 2009 at a hospital in Chandigarh following the accident.

His driver Parminder Singh, who suffered 100 per cent disability in the mishap, had moved the apex court for enhanced compensation.

A bench comprising Indu Malhotra and M R Shah concurred with the legal and factual findings of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the award of compensation.

The high court had awarded Rs 32.40 lakh and the apex court raised it to Rs 49.9 lakh saying that the facts that the driver had repeated hospitalisation and the need of future medical expenses and attendant charges were not taken note of by high court.

“The appellant (driver) was produced before us. He was in an extremely pitiable state. On account of the removal of the frontal bone of the skull, half of his head has caved in. Furthermore, a deep circular incision was made in his throat, and his body was in an unstable condition, undergoing tremors. The Appellant is further suffering from hemiplegia, due to which the left side of his body is not functioning properly,” the judgement said.

“Given the debilitated state of the Appellant, no amount of money can compensate him. He has been in this condition since the age of 22 years when the accident took place, and will remain like this throughout his life…,” it added.

The driver has also been deprived of having a “normal married life with a family” and would require medical assistance from time to time and being completely dependant, he would require the help of an attendant throughout his life, it said.

He was driving the a Hyundai Elantra car of the minister on March 29, 2009 when it was rammed by a truck coming from opposite direction near Ludhiana.

The accident happened also due to “contributory negligence” of another truck which was wrongly parked on the road. The minister died at the hospital on the same day and the driver suffered grievous injuries and had undergone five corrective surgeries.

The court took note of the fact that both the truck drivers had invalid driving licenses and hence New India Assurance Co Ltd, the insurer of the offending trucks, had no liability to pay the compensation.

It referred to a judgement and said that if the driver of the offending vehicle does not possess a valid driving license, the principle of “pay and recover” can be ordered to direct the insurance company to the pay the victim and then recover the amount from the owner and the drivers of the offending vehicles.

“We deem it just and fair to direct the Respondent Insurance Company to pay the enhanced amount of compensation…to the appellant (driver) within a period of 12 weeks from the date of this judgment… Insurance Company is entitled to recover the amount from the owners and drivers of the two offending trucks,” it held.

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