The Supreme Court (SC) ruled Tuesday that if a person who has renounced family to serve a religious organisation or sect dies in an accident, other members of the sect/organisation shall be entitled to compensation.
In a wider interpretation of the law, a Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and S K Singh noted that a religious order or organisation may also suffer considerable loss due to the death of a volunteer and it must be allowed compensation.
The order came on an appeal by charitable organisation Montford Brothers of St Gabriel that runs various institutions as a constituent unit of the Catholic Church.
A person joining the society renounces the world and is known as ‘Brother’. Such a ‘Brother’ severs all relations with his natural family. Alex Chandy Thomas, a ‘Brother’ who was director-cum-head master of a school run by the society, died in a motor accident in June 1992 in Assam.
A motor accidents tribunal directed United India Insurance Company, with which the vehicle was insured, to disburse Rs 2.27 lakh to the society with 12 per cent interest. However, the company filed a writ petition in the Gauhati High Court.
It argued that the society was not competent to claim compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act for the accidental death of the ‘Brother’ since the law allowed benefits only to natural family. The High Court set aside the tribunal order.
The Supreme Court, however, underlined that the Motor Vehicles Act created a new and enlarged right for filing an application for compensation and such a right cannot be hedged in by technicalities.
The Bench held that the term “legal representatives” will include those who have suffered losses due to the death of a person and hence, it cannot be confined to natural family. It overturned the High Court order and directed the company to compensate the society within eight weeks.