New Delhi: The Supreme Court has held that courts can ask states to compensate road mishap victims or their relatives if convict drivers are not capable of paying the compensation.
"We are also of the view that where the accused is unable to pay adequate compensation to the victim or his heir, the Court ought to have awarded compensation under Section 357A (Criminal Procedure Code) against the State from the funds available under the Victim Compensation Scheme framed under the said section," a bench of justices TS Thakur and Adarsh Kumar Goel said.
The ruling came in a verdict on an appeal of the Himachal Pradesh government against a state High Court judgement in an accident case.
The High Court had upheld the conviction of Ram Pal under relevant penal provisions for "rashly" driving a tanker that had killed a 20-year-old girl, a road construction worker, on August 20, 2009 near Manali.
However, the High Court set aside the jail term of six months of the convict and substituted it by a fine of Rs 40,000 and clarified that if the driver fails to pay the amount then the sentence awarding imprisonment will get revived.
The apex court, however, did not re-appreciate the evidence.
"Moreover, in an appeal under Article 136 of the Constitution, this court does not re-appreciate the evidence, in absence of perversity or patent legal error, merely because a different view was also possible. We are thus, not inclined to reopen the correctness of conviction of the respondent and proceed to consider the question of adequacy of the sentence," it said.
It also said that the sentence of "mere fine of Rs 40,000 imposed by the High Court is not adequate and proportionate to the offence. We have been informed that a sum of Rs 3.60 lakh has been awarded as compensation by the insurance company to the heirs of the deceased."
The apex court modified the HC order and enhanced the compensation to be paid by the driver to Rs 1 lakh and directed the Himachal Pradesh government to pay interim compensation of Rs 3 lakh.