The Supreme Court declared a motor accident claim petition filed by the mother-in-law of the deceased who was dependent on the latter is maintainable. A mother-in-law is eligible for compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 if she establishes grounds that she was dependent on the victim.
A bench of Justice Abdul Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari mentioned that the definition of a 'legal representative' under the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 is much more elaborative and not confined to mean the spouse, parents, and the children of the deceased.
"It is not uncommon for the Indian Society for the mother in law to live with her daughter and son in law during her old age and be dependent on her son in law for her maintenance." The court observed.
The Apex court said that the Motor Vehicles Act is benevolent legislation enacted for the object of providing monetary relief to the victims or their families.
Facts of Case -
A 52-year-old professor passed away in an accident. The mother-in-law told the High Court of Kerala that she had been living with the deceased and his family members and thus she is to be regarded as the legal representative to derive compensation.
However, the High Court of Kerala held that the mother-in-law of the deceased is not a legal representative under Section 166 of the MV Act.
Section 166 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 includes provisions for who all can apply for compensation in the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT) in case they get involved with a road accident.
To address this issue, the High Court took note of the term ' legal representative' -
The Motor Vehicle Act does not define the term ‘legal representative’.
Generally, ‘legal representative’ means a person who in law represents the estate of the deceased person and includes any person or persons in whom legal right to receive compensatory benefit vests. A ‘legal representative’ may also include any person who intermeddles with the estate of the deceased. Such a person does not necessarily have to be a legal heir. Legal heirs are the persons who are entitled to inherit the surviving estate of the deceased. A legal heir may also be a legal representative.
The Court's Decision -
Before pronouncing the judgment, the High Court referred to similar judgements -
The Court's Judgment -
With respect to the facts mentioned in the present case, the mother-in-law is the fourth appellant of the deceased. She may not be the legal heir of the deceased, but she suffered on account of his death. As the former was dependent on him for his shelter and maintenance. In conclusion, the High Court of Kerala - Bench Justice Abdul Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari held that the mother-in-law of the deceased is the legal representative under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicle Act. She is thus entitled to maintain a claim petition.
Case - N. Jayasree vs. Cholamandalam Ms General Insurance Company Ltd.
Citation - LL 2021 SC 588
Date - 25th of October, 2021.