The Apex Court, while allowing an appeal, gave a wide interpretation to Section 166 of Motor Vehicle Act and made an observation that a “dependent” mother-in-law of a deceased can rightfully file motor accident claim petition.

In the instant case, the High Court of Kerala had held that petitioner (mother-in-law) could not be entitled to be a legal representative under Section 166 of Motor Vehicle Act and thus dismissed her petition. The petitioner then approached the Supreme Court by way of an appeal.

The counsel on behalf of petitioner contended that petitioner had been living with the deceased and his family members and thereby is entitled to be treated as a legal representative for the purpose of determining the compensation.

The counsel further raised the issue whether the High Court had been justified in precluding petitioner as a legal representative of deceased. The bench addressed the issue by noting that Motor Vehicle Act does not explicitly define “legal representative.”

The bench defined the term as person who has been legally empowered to represent the estate of deceased person and receive compensatory benefits. The bench clarified that a legal representative might not necessarily be a legal heir.

Moreover, it emphasized on the fact that the term be given wider interpretative w.r.t the Chapter XII of Motor Vehicle Act and not be confined to spouse, parents and children of deceased. The bench highlighted the objective of this legislative, which is to provide monetary relief to the family of victims, and called for liberal interpretation in order to accomplish the underlying objective.

The bench also observed that nowadays it is not uncommon for the Indian Society to see a mother-in-law residing with her daughter and son-in-law. It agreed to the fact that mother-in-law can be a dependent on her son-in-law for maintenance.

The bench concluded the petition by addressing the situation of mother-in-law, who certainly suffered on account of her son-in-law’s death, and therefore, allowed the appeal by holding her as a legal representative of deceased.

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