The Madras High Court on Monday requested the Government and various insurance companies to consider withdrawing pending appeals against the awards passed by Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal (MACT), where disputed amount is less than Rs. 7,50,000/-.
The order has been passed by Justice N. Anand Venkatesh on noting the "astounding number" of pending motor accidents claims/ appeals.
The bench was hearing a batch of petitions whereby an insurer had sought transfer of 16 different Motor Accident Claim petitions pending before various tribunals in the State of Tamil Nadu to the High Court under Section 24 of CPC in order to facilitate a compromise arrived at in consultation with accident victims/families.
While the court allowed the petition in terms of a recent ruling whereby transfer of 23 claims pending against private insurer Cholamandalam MS General Insurance was allowed, it proceeded to record its "loud thinking" during the COVID crisis.
Justice Venkatesh noted that an "astounding" number of motor accident appeals were pending in various High Courts. For the period 2018-19 about 9,42,805 claims were pending in respect of the motor insurance companies at various levels, the High Court noted, and as for 2019-20, around 7,81,563 are pending.
In this backdrop Justice Venkatesh has "requested" the Central Government/Union Finance Ministry/IRDA/GIC/4 PSUs and nearly 21 private motor insurance companies and State Transport Corporations to consider the possibility of withdrawing Appeals against awards where the amounts in dispute is less than Rs.7.50,000/-, as a one off gesture in these Pandemic times.
"This court is only inspired to request the entities to consider its suggestion, in the wake of what this Court has been exposed to, in coming to the rescue of about hundred victims and enabling them to have the benefit of Rs. 4,19,57,324/- and closure of their claims too, before the Claims Tribunals and even this court .That experience has led this court to have a heart, and think of the victims and for them. Accordingly, this court with utmost regard and respect to the limits of its remit, is inclined to direct the Registrar-General of this Court to send a copy of this order, constituting a request being made to the Central Government and others on the suggestion made in this order, with regard to possible withdrawal of appeals before various High Courts in respect of those, where the amounts in dispute were less than, say, Rs.7,50,000/- all told, or such other amount as the entities consider feasible or possible in this regard," the order states.
The request is in an attempt to "strike a balance" between the motor accident victims and the insurers/STCs.
The court emphasized that compensation granted under the welfare legislation that the Motor Vehicle Act is, is essential for the victims to get their "lives back on track" after the traumatic accidents.
"…Lot of victims need a desperate rescue and recovery package. 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," the court said.
The court has however clarified that the same is not a compulsion or direction.
"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. Not even a direction to consider this suggestion," the court clarified while "fervently hoping" that the said entities will give due consideration to the suggestion made by it and will respond positively.
As regards the disputed amount so suggested by the court, it clarified that no statistical or numerical algorithms were contemplated before making the suggestion.
"This court is not suggesting this ball park figure upon any statistical or numerical algorithms. It is a mere speculative number. The concerned entities may hit upon any other number of their choice, if they agreed to this solution."
Case Title: M/s. Cholamandalam MS Genl Ins Co. Ltd. v. Anandan (and other connected matters)
Case No.: MCOP No. 54/2018
Quorum: Justice N. Anand Venkatesh
Appearance: Advocate N. Vijayaraghavan (for Petitioners)
Click Here To Download Judgment