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“Things are going beyond [one’s] imagination“, remarked Justice PN Prakash of the Madras High Court yesterday, while hearing a case that has brought to the fore concerns of rampant corruption in the field of motor accident insurance claims.
After an insurance company, Cholamandalam, had approached the High Court seeking an independent probe into a motor accident case involving duplicate claims, the Court took note of broader issues concerning litigation in motor accident cases.
Over the course of hearings, the Court had taken it upon itself to address the unofficial turf war amongst lawyers when it comes to motor accident cases. An Expert Body was constituted under retired Madras High Court Judge, Justice K Chandru to examine these issues and suggest reforms.
Seven advocates named in Justice Chandru’s report as being complicit in filing duplicitous motor accident claims had been directed to defend themselves against the allegations levelled. When the matter was taken up yesterday, they requested the Court for more time to submit their replies. Accordingly, the Court adjourned the matter to next week.
As the hearing progressed yesterday, Justice Prakash also emphasised that it is not his intention to shame the Bar by seeking an explanation.
“I also came from the Bar”, he pointed out. He assured the Court that his directions were only aimed at preserving the reputation of the Bar and the judiciary.
He went on to state that the there is a need to ensure that the judicial institution endures. While admitting that the judiciary is “not without blemish”, Justice Prakash orally observed that it is still, by and large, one among the public institutions which has not failed in the country.
“We have to leave it [the judicial institution] for posterity,” he reminded.
Further, in the latest direction issued as part of its efforts to reform the field of motor accident claims litigation, the Court has directed MCOP (Motor Vehicle Accidents Claims Original Petitions) Tribunals to upload witness depositions in cases online. The direction was issued after the Court was informed that earlier orders passed to issue signed photocopies of witness depositions to parties were not being complied with by MCOP tribunals in certain districts.
On being informed that City Civil Courts upload the witness depositions online, Justice Prakash ordered as follows,
“The MCOP Tribunals have also been connected to the Case Information System (CIS) and that being so, the procedure followed in the City Civil Court can be adopted by the MCOP Tribunals as well. Therefore, this Court directs the MCOP Tribunals to upload the deposition of witnesses in the CIS, thereby enabling the parties to peruse the same and even take print out of it, if need be.“
Another concern raised before the Court yesterday was the apparent reluctance of the police to upload pertinent details of motor accident cases online, thereby making it difficult for lawyers to deal with the same. As noted in the order,
“It is also brought to the notice of this Court that the police are not uploading the documents relating to MCOP cases in the CCTNS online platform, in particular, the mobile number of the victims and the Motor Vehicle Inspectors’ reports, even after charge sheets are filed, for extraneous reasons.”
Observing that this has to be explained by the police, the Court has directed that the concerned Additional Superintendent of Police be present before the Court at the next hearing.
Further, the Court has also directed the Advocate General to explain the delay in bringing about crucial amendments to the MCOP rules, in line with an order of the High Court passed last year.
“This Court, in paragraph no.24 of the order dated 12.09.2017 passed in Crl.O.P. No.18110 of 2016, has directed the State Government to amend the MCOP Rules for giving legal imprimatur to the Crime and Criminal Tracking Networks and Systems (CCTNS) online platform that has now been put in place. It is reported that till date, the State Government have not amended the MCOP Rules. Hence, notice is issued to the learned Advocate General to get instructions from the Government in this regard and report to this Court as to why no amendment has been made to the MCOP Rules, so far.“
As for the instant case brought by insurance company Cholamandalam, the Court was handed over a report by the CB CID (Crime Branch, Crime Investigation Department). After he perused the same, Justice Prakash returned the same to the CB CID, remarking that it would be apt not to comment on its contents to guard against suspects evading the investigation. As recorded in his order,
“The CB-CID have submitted a report in a sealed cover narrating the progress of the investigation in the case. Seemingly, the CB-CID have almost zeroed in on some persons. It may not be appropriate for this Court to express anything beyond this, at this juncture, as there is every likelihood of the suspects getting scent and escaping from the clutches of law. Therefore, this Court perused the report and the case diary file and returned both the report and the case diary file to the Investigating Officer for safe custody.“
The Court was also informed yesterday that, in compliance with the Court’s earlier order, four public insurance companies are in the midst of collecting records on bogus insurance claims. It was submitted that a report on the same will be submitted to the Court-constituted Expert Body.
The matter will be taken up next on December 20, when the seven advocates summoned earlier are expected to file their explanations on the complaints of misconduct made against them.
Read the order: