The Mohali Motor Accident Claims Tribunal has awarded a compensation of more than Rs 7 crore to the family of an NRI who died while travelling in a private bus which fell into the SYL canal near Rajpura in October 2009 after the driver lost control of the vehicle.
The tribunal has directed the driver and the owner of the bus, along with the insurance company jointly and severally, to pay the compensation to the parents, wife and son of the man who worked as a chartered accountant in the USA and drew an average salary of around 95,000 US dollars a year.
The first liability, however, has been fixed on the insurance company, namely ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co Ltd, Sector 40, Chandigarh, through its branch manager. The bus was driven by one Hardev Singh, resident of Badhan village in Hoshiarpur, and was owned by M/s Indo-Canadian Transport Company, Ludhiana.
While Rs 5,56,55,780 has been fixed as the compensation amount, the court has also directed the respondents to pay annual interest of six per cent from the date of filing of the claim to the date of realisation, which makes it around Rs 7.06 crore till date.
“It is the highest compensation amount awarded ever in Mohali, and probably the highest in the Tricity,” said advocate HS Hundal.
Mandeep Singh Madhar (48), who lived with his wife and son in Spring, Texas, came to India on the morning of October 16, 2009, and boarded a mini-bus of M/s Indo-Canadian Transport Company, along with four other passengers, from the Delhi airport to go to Mohali.
Around 2.30 pm, on the Shambu Rajpura road, the driver of the bus lost control of the vehicle which fell into the SYL canal, resulting in the death of Mandeep and injuries to others. An FIR for rash and negligent driving and causing death due to negligence was registered in Rajpura against driver Hardev.
In April 2010, Mandeep’s parents Parminder Kaur and Daljit Singh, residents of Phase 10 in Mohali, filed a claims petition in the MACT while his US-based wife Suresh Inderjit Kaur and son Mansunder Singh Madhar (16 at that time) filed a separate petition, both of which were consolidated by the tribunal in July 2012.
Hardev and the transport company contested the claims, denying the accident and claiming that Mandeep never boarded the bus. The insurance company, meanwhile, alleged that the driver did not hold a valid licence at the time of accident and the bus was running without a permit, thereby violating the terms of the insurance agreement.
“However, the investigating officer in the case, along with complainant in the FIR Kunal Grover, testified in the court that the accident was caused due to rash and negligent driving on Hardev’s part. Grover, a passenger who himself was injured, got the site plan prepared by the police and later also moved the MACT in Sirsa, which held that Hardev drove in a negligent and rash manner, a judgement which was not contested by any of the respondents,” said advocate Gurpreet Singh, counsel for claimants.
Hardev proved in the court that he held a valid licence and the insurance company failed to produce any record to prove that the terms of the insurance policy had been violated.
To prove his income, the complainants produced Mandeep’s income tax receipts from 2006 to 2009 while he worked at a tax consultancy firm in Houston. He quit in June 2009 and started his own practice, they said.
The insurance firm objected to the salary information and applied for verifying the information through concerned authorities in the US, which was allowed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
A Chandigarh-based firm got the information verified and according to its report, Mandeep’s income for 2008 was actually higher than claimed by his family.
The court calculated his average annual income on the basis of his tax returns and it came to $94,985 a year. The tribunal calculated the final compensation amount as Rs 5.56 crore, based on the exchange rate of the US dollar at the time of the accident.
“The parents have been awarded Rs 56.55 lakh in equal shares while the widow and the son have been awarded Rs 5 crore in equal shares, excluding the interest. The judgement was pronounced on January 31 but the detailed order became available only today,” said Gurpreet Singh.