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Surjit Singh and Ors. Vs. Union of India - (High Court of Calcutta) (03 Oct 2018)

Emotional dependence cannot be measured to be in part; either it is there or is not there



In present matter, the daughter of the Appellants (hereafter the victim) died on August 2, 1999 in a rail accident. The accident claimed the lives of several persons including the victim and her husband. The father-in-law of the victim had initially filed a claim application for compensation. It was dismissed as not maintainable in view of Section 123 of the Railways Act, 1989. In terms thereof, the father-in-law of a deceased passenger is not entitled to be treated as "dependant" of the victim.

Thereafter, the Appellants filed a claim application for compensation under Rule 5 of the Railway Claims Tribunal (Procedure) Rules, 1989 exercising the right to claim compensation conferred by Section 125 of the 1989 Act read with Section 16 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987 (hereafter the 1987 Act). The Tribunal declined to grant compensation to the Appellants on the ground of lack of evidence to prove that, the Appellants were dependant on the victim, either wholly or partly.

It is a well-recognized rule of interpretation of statute that, the Court's jurisdiction to interpret a statute can be invoked only when the same is ambiguous. The Court cannot enlarge the scope of legislation or intention when the language of the provision under consideration is plain and unambiguous. Similarly, it is well settled that while interpreting statutory provisions, the Court should consider each word, phrase, or sentence as each of them has a meaning and purpose and none of them can be treated as redundant or useless.

Emotional dependence cannot be measured to be in part; either it is there or is not there. According to the scheme of compensation envisaged in the relevant statutory provisions and the context in which the word 'dependant' appears in the statute (Section 125 of the 1989 Act, and as defined in Section 123 thereof), the conclusion seems to be inescapable that, it signifies economic dependence and cannot be read in a manner to include emotional dependence.

There is otherwise no evidence of the Appellants being economically dependent on the victim. Sending of some money, and that too not regularly, does not lead to the conclusion of the Appellants being partly dependant on the victim for their survival.

It is unfortunate and pitiable that, the Appellants lost their daughter in the rail accident but on that score alone, the statutory provisions cannot be put aside or read in a strained manner to award compensation. No reason to interfere with the impugned award. Accordingly, the appeal stands dismissed.


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