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Motor Vehicles Act | Claim Petitions Filed Beyond 6 Months Cannot Be Dismissed By MACTs In Limine: Kerala High Court

Navya Benny
30 Jan 2023 7:42 AM GMT
Motor Vehicles Act | Claim Petitions Filed Beyond 6 Months Cannot Be Dismissed By MACTs In Limine: Kerala High Court

The Kerala High Court recently held that the claim petitions filed under the Motor Vehicles Act cannot be dismissed by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals (MACT) in limine, if the same have been filed beyond the period of six months.

The Single Judge Bench of Justice Amit Rawal, while setting aside the impugned orders of the MACT, observed that,

"The provisions of the Limitation Act would be applicable for entertaining the petitions for claiming the compensation even beyond the period of six months, for, by taking into consideration, Rule 17 of Annexure XIII framed under Rule 150A of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989. The limitation to entertain the claim petition cannot be restricted to six months as there is no provision in the Act excluding the applicability of provisions of Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act."

The Court in this case was dealing with a batch of petitions that dealt with common question of fact and law, involving motor accident claim petitions being dismissed by Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals (MACT) holding the same to be barred by limitation since the same were not preferred within 6 months of the date of occurrence of the accident as per Section 166(3) of the Motor Vehicles Act.

It was contended on behalf of the petitioner Akshay Raj in the lead petition that the manner and mode in which the MACT passed the order was "wholly alien to settled principles", as the tribunal had to frame the issues since the question of limitation is a mixed question of fact and law.

It was submitted by Advocate S. Sreekumar, the amicus curiae, that Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act does not specifically exclude provisions of the Limitation Act.

It was contended before the Court that Section 5 of the Limitation Act only dealt with the application and the appeals and not with the suit.

"The expression 'claim petition' is synonymous with 'the applications' and therefore an aggrieved person would mean – legal heirs or through agent and cannot be deprived of claiming the compensation if not preferred within a period of six months as has been done in the impugned order, because there is no specific ouster of the applicability of the provisions of the Limitation Act," it was contended.

The Court perused Rule 150(A) of the Central Motor Vehicles Act as well as sub Rule 6, 12, 13, 17 and 21 of Annexure XIII.

"On cumulative reading of the aforementioned Rules, Annexure XIII r/w sub Section 4 of Section 166, it is evident that it is not necessary for a claimant to institute claim petition either through himself, in case of death, legal representative or through agent, if incapacitated/disabled, but, even the investigating officer while conducting the investigation in respect of an accident involving the motor vehicle can also submit an Interim Accident Report (IAR) within a period of fifty days of the accident and Detailed Accident Report (DAR) within a period of ninety days and also seek “Extension” which can be granted by the MACT for the reasons stated therein," it said.

The court said once the legislature envisaged the extension of time to file the DAR for treating the same as a claim petition for compensation as per the provisions of Rule 21 of Annexure – XIII, there cannot be any discrimination against the claimants for filing the claim petition through either of the modes as referred above.

"In other words, there cannot be any bar for institution of the claim petition through any of the persons referred to, beyond the period of six months," it said.

The court noted that in Gohar Mohammed v. Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation & Ors. (2022), the Apex Court has held that an application under Section 166(4) of the Motor Vehicles Act can be treated as a claim petition to be adjudicated in accordance with law as the procedure prescribed under Section 149 of the Act is in addition to the proceedings of Section 166(4) of the Amendment Act.

Gohar Mohammed also dealt with the role of the Investigating Officer in preparing the Detailed Accident Reports and submissions to the claim Tribunal within the specified period and beyond.

The Court thus observed in the present case, on perusing the scheme of the Motor Vehicles Act and the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, read with Annexure XIII, the cumulative effect is that the applicability of the provisions of the Limitation Act isn't not ousted by the statute, particularly when submission of Detailed Accident Report filed by the investigating officer can be treated as a claim petition and the extension has been provided under Rule 17 of Annexure XIII.

The Court thus went on to hold that the MACTs cannot not dismiss the claim petitions in limine without issuing notice to the opposite sides.

"It would be a farcical exercise for this Court to refer back to the MACT for framing the issue for adjudication," it added.

The Court also requested the Judicial Academy to sensitize all the stakeholders as early as possible with respect to the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Amended Act and the Rules to ensure the mandate of law, so that the litigants are not made to suffer for not having filed claim petitions within the stipulated period of six months.

"All the MACTs are directed to entertain the petition and decide the same, in accordance with law. Registry is directed to circulate the copy of the judgment to all the MACTs to entertain and try the petitions under the Motor Vehicles Act in view of the observations aforementioned," the Court observed while allowing the petitions and setting aside the impugned orders.

Case Title: Akshay Raj v. Ministry of Law and Justice & Ors. and other connected matters

Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 50

Click Here To Read/Download The Judgment

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