"The Claims Tribunal shall arrange to deliver free copies of the award to the parties concerned within 15 days from the date of the award as contemplated by Section 168 (2) of the Act and Rule 20(6) of the Rules."
The Madras High Court on Monday held that the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal need not draw decrees like regular civil courts, for the same is not contemplated either under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 or under the Tamil Nadu Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal Rules, 1989.
"Tribunal cannot be equated to a Civil Court…Rules have only clothed the Tribunal with certain trappings of a Civil Court…The fiction extends to construing an award as a decree only for the purposes of execution. What is conspicuously absent in Rule 21 is the application of Order XX of the Code which contemplates the drawing up of a decree and furnishing of a certified copy of the judgment and decree to the parties. Consequently, neither the Act nor the 1989 Rules contemplates a procedure of drawing up of decrees by the Claims Tribunal," a bench of Justice N. Anand Venkatesh observed.
The bench was hearing a batch of petitions whereby an insurer had sought transfer of 18 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.
Notably, the High Court had allowed a similar petition last week on May 5, allowing transfer of 23 claims pending against private insurer Cholamandalam MS General Insurance.
While the court allowed the transfer of said 18 insurance claims on similar grounds as laid down in its order dated May 5, it also noted that the High Court Registry was being "saddled" with the task of drafting decrees in several thousands of appeals arising out of The Motor Vehicles Act.
Order XX CPC not applicable to Tribunals
It noted that since MACT are statutory Tribunals and not civil courts, there was a serious doubt as to the application of Order XX of CPC, which provides for drafting and preparation of a decree, to them.
"The form and contents of a decree are set out in Order XX Rule 6 read in tandem with Rule 84 of the Civil Rules of Practice. However, as Order XX has not been made applicable to the Claims Tribunal it follows that the Tribunal cannot pass a decree which is a power conferred on a civil court," the court held.
Rule 23 does not mandate presentation of decree for preferring an appeal
The court further held that Rule 23 of the MV Rules provides that an appeal against the award of the Claims Tribunal shall be accompanied by a "judgment and the award appealed against".
The Rule does not contemplate the filing of a decree but contemplates the filing of a judgment and award, the court noted. It thus observed,
"Since an appeal is a continuation of the original proceeding the requirement of a decree cannot be insisted upon for filing an appeal when the original proceeding itself does not contemplate the passing of any decree. It follows that the present procedure of Claims Tribunals passing "decrees", the High Court insisting on "decrees" for maintaining appeals and thereafter painstakingly drawing up "decrees" after disposal of the civil miscellaneous appeals can only be termed as an unfortunate comedy of errors."
Detailed Instructions for passing of awards and providing their copies to the parties
The court recalled the observations of Justice Bhagwati in Distributors (Baroda) Limited v. Union of India, AIR 1985 SC 1585- "To perpetuate an error is no heroism. To rectify it is the compulsion of judicial conscience" and accordingly held,
"It is palpably clear that the labouring process of drafting decrees for awards passed in motor accident cases, for the last 64 years, is totally misconceived."
Keeping this in mind, the bench issued the following directions:
Further it is directed that the following details shall be mandatorily incorporated into all awards passed by MACT in the state:
Further it is directed that:
Case Title: M/s. Cholamandalam MS Genl Ins Co Ltd v. Ayyannar S (and other connected petitions)
Case No.: Tr. CMP. Nos. 264 to 281/2020
Quorum: Justice N. Anand Venkatesh
Appearance: Senior Advocate R. Sankaranarayanan and Advocates N. Vijayaraghavan, V. Lakshminarayanan and NP Vijayakumar (for Petitioners)
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