CHENNAI: The Lok Adalat (People’s Court) in the city has settled an amount in excess of 46 lakhs that is to be paid to the family of a cook who died on board a ship almost eight months ago. The compensation will be paid to the four legal heirs of Mr. Ramaiah Murugaiah, the crewmember who died on the ‘Siam Sapphire’ while she was in Saldanha Bay, South Africa in December last year, the Adalat has ruled on September 1.
As per the outcome of the Adalat’s proceedings, Rs.46,36,400 will be paid to Murugaiah’s wife and three children. The cook’s wife Mrs M Sethu and the other heirs had represented to the Adalat that her husband had signed on the Siam Sapphire on October 4, 2009 after signing a contract. On December 29, her husband died of cardiac arrest while the ship was in Saldanha Bay. The ship’s owners, M Sethu complained, had not paid compensation under the rules of the International Bargaining Forum accepted by the International Maritime Employees Committee presently in force. Siam Sapphire, a bulk carrier, is owned by Siam Jewels Marine Limited, Bahamas, and represented in Chennai by Pioneer Marine Services Pvt. Ltd of Mylapore.
Ms Sethu said in her complaint that she and her children were entitled to $60,000, i.e. $15,000 for each member of the family. A pre-litigation agreement was finally reached at the Lok Adalat presided over by Justice N.V. Balasubramanian (retired), with two other members present. Lok Adalats are established by the government to settle disputes through conciliation and compromise and accept cases that are pending in the regular courts within their jurisdiction. Presided over by a sitting or retired judicial officer as the chairman, the Adalats are free for litigants and their decisions are legally binding. Their main condition is that both parties should agree to settle. A lawyer and a social worker sit in at the proceedings as members.
In this case, around Rs 3 the owners had already paid lakhs after Murugaiah’s death. The cook’s widow then approached the Adalat for the remainder of the compensation. On notice from the Lok Adalat, the owners agreed to pay roughly Rs 25 lakhs to the wife and about Rs 7 lakhs to each of the three children, totaling Rs 46,36,400. The amount was arrived at after “mutual discussions, negotiations, mediation and conciliation between both parties”, according to the Adalat.
Later, the Adalat and the Chennai High Court felt that the interests of the children would be best served by dividing the total amount equally between the four claimants; the parties agreed to this. Ms Sethu and her children will now share the compensation equally. Since the children are minors, their share of the compensation will be deposited in a fixed deposit in a nationalised bank until they become adults.