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"it is palpably clear that the labouring process of drafting decrees for awards passed in motor accident cases, for the last 64 years, is totally misconceived", the Court observed.
On finding that the Court's Registry was being saddled with the task of drafting decrees in thousands of appeals in motor accident cases, the Madras High Court has issued directions to do away with the misconcieved process of drafting decrees in motor vehicle cases by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunals (MACTs).
Directions have also been passed so that the parties in motor vehicle cases have expeditious access to copies of the award passed and to ease the procedure for filing appeals to challenge these awards.
Justice Anand Venkatesh passed an order to this effect on Monday after explaining that "it is clear that the Tribunal cannot be equated to a Civil Court" and that the laws applicable to MACTs only clothe these statutory tribunals with certain trappings of a Civil Court.
The judge found that,
Recalling Justice PN Bhagwati's observations in Distributors (Baroda) Limited v. Union of India that “To perpetuate an error is no heroism. To rectify it is the compulsion of judicial conscience”, the Court has proceeded to issue the following directions in order to ease the process of passing "awards" in Motor Vehicle cases.
The process of drafting decrees for awards passed in motor vehicles cases, both at the level of the Claims Tribunal throughout the State of Tamil Nadu and at the appellate level, shall cease forthwith.
The Claims Tribunal shall arrange to deliver free copies of the award to the parties concerned within 15 days from the date of the award as contemplated by Section 168 (2) of the MV Act and Rule 20(6) of the Rules.
The Claims Tribunals in the State shall not insist on parties filing copy applications for the purpose of receiving their respective free copies.
A copy of the award, duly authenticated by the Presiding Officer of the Tribunal, will suffice for the purposes of an appeal under Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act, and Rule 23 (2) of the Rules.
The Registry of the High Court need not insist on separate certified copies to be filed along with the memorandum of appeal under Section 173 of the Act.
Moreover, to avoid any confusion that may arise at the stage of execution of the award, the High Court has directed that the following details shall be mandatorily incorporated into all awards passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunals in the State of Tamil Nadu, i.e:
Name and address of the claimant (s)
Name and address of the respondent (s)
Name and address of the Insurance company
Name and address of the Transport Corporation or such other respondents who are held liable to pay.
Date of filing of the claim petition.
Date of award
The Claims Tribunal shall upload the award contemporaneous with the date on which the award is passed and the uploaded award copy shall also be construed as an authenticated copy of the award and it will also suffice for the purposes of filing an appeal or for the purposes of execution of the award.
Amount of award
Interest rate applicable
Date (s) from which interest is payable
Costs, if any
In cases where the compensation, interests and costs are directed to be paid proportionately, the award should also specify who shall pay which portion of award, interest and costs.
In cases where there are several claimants, the shares and amounts payable to each of them shall be specified.
The mode and manner of deposit of compensation
The mode and manner of disbursement.
Other miscellaneous procedural guidelines issued include the following:
In cases where the claimants have availed exemption from payment of Court fee under Rule 24(3) at the time of making an application under Section 166 or under Section 163A of the Act, the award shall also specify the time within which the claimants shall deposit the balance of Court fee.
The award shall also specify that the claimants shall not be entitled to withdraw the sum deposited pursuant to the award, with or without cost, unless the balance of Court fees is deposited as directed.
In the event of the claim petition being dismissed for default, the period between the date of dismissal of the claim petition and the date of the restoration of the same shall be dealt with by the Tribunal at its own discretion, depending upon the facts and circumstances of each case, for grant of interest.
The Court has further directed that, 'The Registry of the High Court shall ensure that the aforesaid details are also incorporated in every case where the award of the Tribunal has been varied or modified by the High Court in an appeal under Section 173 of the Act."
A copy of this order has been directed to be circulated to all the Principal District Judges in the State and Union Territory of Puducherry so that it can be brought to the notice of MACTs in their respective jurisdictions.
Justice Anand Venkatesh passed the above order while dealing with pleas moved by two private insurance companies to facilitate compromises entered into between them and a number of claimants.
Three orders (including the above order) allowing such compromises were passed on Monday, on the basis of digital consent obtained from the insured claimants through media such as WhatsApp and E-mail, amid the restrictions in place due to COVID-19.
These orders were passed on lines similar to the High Court's decision to allow 23 such compromises earlier this month.
In this manner, it was also observed on Monday that,
The Court added that, "The gesture of the insurers to compromise and the conduct of the claimants and their counsel deserves commendation. The others may need to emulate the example set."
Notably, the Court also urged MACTs to take up such initiatives, rather than constrain litigants to approach the High Court for such compromises.
As observed in Justice Venkatesh's order, "I am of the view that the Claims Tribunals are as competent as this Court to allow such reliefs. All that this court did, was to examine the digital consent of parties and on satisfaction of consensus as genuine, accorded compromise. The Claims Tribunals can also do the same and possibly more effectively as the victims may be closer to the forums, in most cases."
As such, the judge pointed out,
During the course of the order, the judge also recommended that a ‘Presentation for E-Compromise in MCOP Cases’ be placed before the E-court Committee of the Court so that virtual platforms to overcome issues of distances and the inability of the physical presence of litigant or lawyer in the court.
In one of the orders passed, the Court also noted that at the present time of the COVID-19 crisis, the Government functionaries, insurance companies etc. "must come in and provide succour and relief, in a timely manner, to the victims."
As such, the Court has suggested that, the Central Government/Union Finance Ministry/IRDA/GIC/4 PSUs and nearly 21 private motor insurance companies and State Transport Corporations agree to withdraw, in one go, appeals in insurance/motor accident claim disputes where the claim is less than Rs. 7,50,000.
The Court mooted this suggestion as "as a one off gesture in these Pandemic times, without prejudice to any legal issues thatneed to be resolved in those appeals."
The Court added that "Such a measure may unclog the pending appeals and release a significant sum of money, into the hands of the victims, to tap into, in their financially stringent position."
It made note to emphasise, however, that this is only a suggestion inspired by the Court's experience in being able to aid motor accident claimants arrive at settlements during the present pandemic.
"That experience has led this court to have a heart, and think of the victims and for them", the Court said, and further that,
"This court cannot be seen to be directing any of the entities to agree for this loudly thought suggestion. It is up to them to take a call as they deem fit. But, the fact that this court is perched in a constitutional position, suggests that its words may carry a value, for serious consideration. This Court would like to make use of it for the larger public interest. This court is not issuing any direction."