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May 2011

Legal representative — Not legally wedded wife — Right to apply for compensation — Civil Procedure Code, section 2(11).

By Dr. K. Shivaram Ajay R. Singh, Advocates
Reading Time 3 mins
[ Heeralal Giri v. Ramratan & Ors., AIR 2011 Chhattisgarh 22]

Seema Bai (since deceased), was dashed by the driver of Marshal Jeep by driving the said vehicle rashly and negligently, due to which she succumbed to the injuries sustained in the said accident.

The Tribunal on a close scrutiny of the evidence led, material placed and submissions made, held that deceased Seema Bai was not legally wedded wife of the appellant; the appellant not being legal representative of the deceased; nor was the appellant dependent upon her, is not entitled to file claim petition u/s. 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, and dismissed the claim petition. The appeal was filed by the appellant claiming compensation for the death of deceased Seema Bai.

The Court observed that the fact that deceased Seema Bai was not legally married wife of the appellant is not in dispute. Admittedly, one Kaushalya Bai is the legally wedded wife residing with the appellant. It was also not in dispute that the appellant was not dependant upon the deceased.

As per section 5(i) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, a marriage may be solemnised between any two Hindus if neither party has a spouse living at the time of marriage.

U/s. 166 of the MV Act, an application for compensation arising out of an accident of the nature specified in Ss.(i) of section 165 may be made where death has resulted from the accident, by all or any of the legal representative of the deceased.

According to section 2(11) of the Code of Civil Procedure, ‘legal representative’ means a person who in law represents the estate of a deceased person, and includes any person who intermeddles with the estate of the deceased and where a party sues or is sued in a representative character the person on whom the estate devolves on the death of the party so suing or sued. Almost in similar terms is the definition of legal representative under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, i.e., u/s. 2(1)(g). The term legal representative has not been defined in the Motor Vehicles Act.

The word ‘legal representative’ occurring in section 166 of the MV Act, has the same meaning as defined u/s. 2(11) of the Code of Civil Procedure. Now if the same definition of legal representative is applied to the facts and circumstances of the present case, it was crystal clear that the appellant, admittedly was not dependent upon the deceased, is neither a person who in law represents the estate of deceased Seema Bai, nor is a successor in interest of the deceased. Therefore, if the definition of legal representative as provided u/s. 2(11) of the Code of Civil Procedure is taken in its widest amplitude even then the appellant cannot be termed as a legal representative of the deceased entitled to file claim petition before the Tribunal under the MV Act and thus, the order of the Tribunal was upheld.

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