The Bombay High Court has passed a significant judgement regarding the disposal of claims for accidents under Motor Vehicles Act by the Motor Accident Tribunals in the state.
The division bench of Justices AS Oka and RD Dhanuka passed a detailed order laying down various legislative suggestions to ensure streamlining of certain rules under these claims while hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Anil Prabhakar Tadkalkar.
Following directions were passed by the bench-
“i) The state government shall issue a direction to all the concerned officers of the Motor Vehicles Department to scrupulously implement sub-Rule (2) of Rule 251 of the Maharashtra Rules by submitting reports in form R.A.R. The State Government shall take appropriate decision on the issue of uploading the said forms on a website;
(ii) The Director General of Police shall issue instructions to all the Police Stations in the State to scrupulously follow and implement the provisions of sub-Rules (6) and (8) of Rule 254 of the Maharashtra Rule read with Section 160 of the MV Act. The State Government shall issue a direction for uploading form Comp AA on either a dedicated website or on its existing website by making a provision for Police Station wise and date wise search. The State Government shall consider of amending the sub-Rule (8) of Rule 254 for making a provision for submitting information as regards all the accidents involving bodily injury;
Form Comp AA is a kind of report regarding motor vehicle accidents containing names of police CR Court observed that the State Legislature should step in by providing that the information in Form Comp AA shall be furnished by the Police Stations in the case of not only fatal or serious accidents but of all the accidents where injuries are caused to the concerned person/persons. The bench also said that in view of the amendment to Section 166 of the MV Act, only way by which information can be made available in the form of Comp AA to all the Tribunals where claim petitions could be filed, is to ensure that the same is uploaded together with all its accompaniments such as copy of FIR on a dedicated website or the website of the Transport Department within a specified time.
The bench said- “For making this provision, it is not necessary to wait till an amendment is made to the Maharashtra Rules and therefore, we propose to issue necessary directions in that behalf.”
Other significant direction by the bench was regarding the personal presence of claimants at the time of filing claim petition. It has been directed-
(iii) We hold that the Tribunals are not entitled to insist on personal presence of the applicants at the time of filing of the claim petitions;
The bench observed- On perusal of the Rules in Chapter IX of the Maharashtra Rules, we find that there is no requirement of the applicant or applicants personally remaining present in the office of the Tribunal at the time of presenting claim petitions under any of the three Sections.
(iv) Subject to what is observed above, the Tribunals shall not refuse to accept the filing of the claim petitions on the ground that the documents as provided in Rules 254 to 255-A of the Maharashtra Rules are not filed along with the claim petitions. However, compliance with Rule 256 is mandatory. But attestation by the Advocate for the applicants on photographs will be mandatory provided the claim petition is either filed or sent by post by an Advocate;
Regarding grant of permission by the tribunal for representation by an advocate, the bench said- “If the Tribunal refuses permission to engage an Advocate, notwithstanding the said order, filing of the claim petition should be accepted and the office of the Tribunal shall intimate the applicant regarding the refusal of the Tribunal to grant permission to engage the Advocate. We may note here in many cases; the Tribunal may need assistance of a Member of the Bar for effectively disposing of the cases. Therefore, in a normal course, when a permission under Section 264 is sought, the Tribunal should grant permission to engage an Advocate and the refusal should be only in exceptional cases.”
Other significant directions passed are-
(v) We strongly recommend to the State Government to repeal Rule 263 of Maharashtra Rules which requires payment of process fees on claim petitions. If Rule 263 is not repealed, it may expose itself to the vice of being discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, the State Government shall take necessary action in accordance with law;
(vi) The directions issued in the decision of this Court in the case of Anish Kondra continue to bind all the Tribunals. In addition, If the address of the owner or driver of the offending vehicle or the insurer of the vehicle is of a place which is beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the Tribunal, ordinarily, the notice shall be issued simultaneously through Bailiff and by R.P.A.D or Speed Post to facilitate early service.
(vii) It will be appropriate if the State Government amends the Maharashtra Rules to facilitate service of notice through Courier service as provided in sub-Rule(3) of Rule 9 of Order V of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908;
(viii) There is no prohibition on recording the evidence of the medical practitioner or for that matter other witnesses including claimants through video conferencing or if video conferencing is not available, through applications providing for video chat services. The Tribunals are well advised to take recourse to such method for recording the evidence of the Medical Practitioners or other experts. If side in this behalf.
(ix) If the Registrar General of this Court has not issued instructions to all the Tribunals in the State in terms of the directions issued by the Apex Court in the case of Jai Prakash and the directions issued by this Court in the case of Amish Kondra, he shall do so in addition to the directions which are required to be issued in terms of this decision”.
Three month time has been granted for compliance of the directions passed, this matter will now be listed on March 24, 2017.
Read the Judgment here.
This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.