Motor Accident Claimants Often Not Aware Of Their Rights, Judges Shouldn't Get Technical: Punjab & Haryana HC Issues Guidelines To Tribunals

Aiman J. Chishti

10 July 2024 1:56 PM GMT

  • Motor Accident Claimants Often Not Aware Of Their Rights, Judges Shouldnt Get Technical: Punjab & Haryana HC Issues Guidelines To Tribunals

    The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued a set of guidelines to the Tribunals under the Motor Vehicles Act (MV Act), observing that Judges should not go into the technicalities of the provisions under which the application or petition is moved; rather they should apply judicial mind since "these are only the irregularities and not illegalities which cannot be cured."Justice Sudeepti...

    The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued a set of guidelines to the Tribunals under the Motor Vehicles Act (MV Act), observing that Judges should not go into the technicalities of the provisions under which the application or petition is moved; rather they should apply judicial mind since "these are only the irregularities and not illegalities which cannot be cured."

    Justice Sudeepti Sharma said,

    "there cannot be any dispute that the Motor Vehicles Act is a beneficial piece of legislation and, therefore, endeavour has to be made as to how best the intention of the legislation can be achieved so as to safe-guard the interest of the victims of the accident, rather than defeating the same. The statute has to be construed according to the intent of the makers and it is the duty of the Courts to interpret the statute in such a manner that the true intention of legislature is achieved."

    The Court further said, "the Court should try to appreciate and see the intention of the legislation before deciding the cases. The litigants place immense trust in the judicial system, viewing judges as symbols of justice. Thus, judges have a duty to maintain this trust by delivering fair and substantive justice to the parties by actually and factually appreciating the evidence/conduct and over all facts and circumstances, difficulties faced by the near and dear ones, the gravity of loss, the gravity of agony and pain."

    The Court issued following guidelines to the Tribunals:

    1. The Tribunals upon receiving the application under Sections 140, 163-A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (pre- amendment i.e. 2019 amendment w.e.f. 01.04.2022), Sections 164 and 166 (post- amendment i.e. 2019 amendment w.e.f. 01.04.2022), shall thoroughly appreciate the evidence and exercise their judicial discretion;

    2. The Tribunals after applying their judicial mind to the evidence led as well as all relevant facts and circumstances of the case and the extent of loss to be compensated, shall, before announcing the award, shall apprise the claimants of their right to seek compensation, under the best available remedy to them, under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988;

    3. Even if the claim petition is filed under Sections 140, 163-A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (pre-amendment i.e. 2019 amendment w.e.f. 01.04.2022) or Sections 164, learned Tribunal shall after appreciation of the evidence and before passing the award, if it finds that respondents negligence is established should advice the claimant, in the interest of justice, to opt for Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. 

    4. It is further clarified that with the 2019 amendment (w.e.f.01.04.2022) Section 164 is introduced where the owner of the motor vehicle or the authorized insurer shall be liable to pay in the case of death or grievous hurt due to any accident arising out of the use of motor vehicle, a compensation, of a sum of five lakh rupees in case of death or of two and half lakh rupees in case of grievous hurt to the legal heirs of the victim, as the case may be, and the claimant shall not be required to plead or establish that the death or grievous hurt in respect of which the claim has been made was due to any wrongful act or neglect or default of the owner of the vehicle or of the vehicle concerned or of any other person. 

    The development comes in an appeal filed under Section 163-A of MV Act for enhancement of compensation for injuries and loss of a life suffered by a family in a car accident. It was alleged that the car was driven by one Happy who lost control over it due to high speed and as a result it was struck to a truck.

    The counsel for the appellants contended that though the claim petition was filed under Section 163-A [Special provisions as to payment of compensation on structured formula basis] of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (prior to 2019 Amendment w.e.f 01.04.2022), she prayed that the present appeal be treated under Section 166 [Application for compensation] of the Act. 

    After hearing the submissions the Court considered whether at the appellate stage, the claim petition under Section 163-A can be converted to Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988?

    Perusing the provisions, the Court said, "taking a purposive interpretation of Section 163-A of the Motor Vehicles Act (pre-amendment i.e 2019 amendment w.e.f 01.04.2022), the clear intention of the legislation was to come to the rescue of all those who in the absence of any evidence are not in a position to file a claim petition under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicle Act, where death of the victim or permanent disablement of the victim is required to be proved by establishing the factum of negligence involving the offending vehicle resulting into causing of accident, but under Section 163-A (pre-amendment i.e 2019 amendment w.e.f 01.04.2022) the requirement of proving the negligence was dispensed with."

    A bare reading of Section 164 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (amended by the Act 32 of 2019), shows that the claimant shall not be required to plead or establish that the death or grievous hurt in respect of which the claim has been made, was due to any wrongful act or neglect or default of the owner of the vehicle or the vehicles concerned or of any other person, it added.

    "The object and purpose of incorporating Section 163-A of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 (pre-amendment i.e. 2019) was to provide a speedy remedy to the victims or their dependents. And the compensation to be granted in case of death or permanent disability due to accident arising out of the use of motor vehicle under Section 163-A of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 (pre-amendment i.e. 2019) is indicated in IInd Schedule of the Act whereby straight-jacket/structured formula has been applied as per the income, age of the victim only," the judge opined.

    Justice Sharma highlighted that as mentioned in pre-amendment Motor Vehicles Act, there were two provisions regarding the grant of compensation to the victims/claimants i.e. Sections 140 and 163-A and now after the 2019 amendment the amount of compensation is also increased and by combining both the Sections i.e. Section 140 and 163-A, there is only one Section i.e. Section 164.

    The Court concluded that, "the Appellate Court has power to convert the petition under Section 163-A to Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 to give justice to the claimants."

    Consequently, the Court converted Section 163-A to Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and enhanced the compensation from Rs.4,17,500 to Rs.4,53,100.

    Ms. Ekta Thakur, Advocate for the appellants.

    Mr. Paul S. Saini, Advocate with Mr. Vipul Sharma, Advocate for respondent No.3.

    Title: Mamta & Others v. Happy and Others

    Citation: 2024 LiveLaw (PH) 247

    Click here to read/download the order

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