"The provisions of section 166 of the 2019 Act has several implications which can be flagged, namely, limitation, which was not there, has been introduced. It appears that the Central Government with a purpose not decided the date for bringing in, has not brought the provisions of amended Sections 52 to 57 which relates to complete change to Chapter X, XI & XII and, therefore, the amended Act has not been brought on the statute book is very clear."
The Allahabad High Court on Friday made it clear that amendments proposed to Section 166 (Application for compensation) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 are yet to be notified. Thus, the proposed limitation period of six months for filing a claim petition before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal has not yet come into force.
"I have enquired from Sri Ojha, State Law Officer and the position is that 166 (3) has not been brought on the statute book. What is the position is that 166 of 1998 Act would still govern the litigation as of today," the Bench of Justice Dr. Kaushal Jayendra Thaker has held.
The Court clarified that Section 53 of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 which proposes to amend Section 166 of the principal Act and introduce a six months limitation period for filing a claim petition, was not notified by the Central Government on August 9, 2019 (date when major provisions of the Amendment Act were notified).
"It clearly appears that Sections 50 to 57 of the Amendment Act are yet to be notified…under Section 166 of the Principal Act, legal representative/s can continue to prefer any of the application mentioned hereinabove for compensation as Sections 140, 163-A and 166 of the Principal Act would continue to operate with full vigor till the time Section 51 to 57 of the Amendment Act are notified in the Official Gazette."
The Court was hearing an appeal against the order of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal which had dismissed the Petitioner's claim petition as time barred.
As per the facts of the case, the Petitioners sought compensation for death of their son who died in an accident on 24.12.2019. The claim petition was filed on 20.8.2020, and was dismissed by the Tribunal for having been filed beyond six months.
While setting aside the Tribunal's order, the High Court said,
"It is to be remembered that w.e.f. 14th November, 1994 Section 166(3) of the Principal Act, wherein the provision with respect to condonation of delay was made, has been omitted. Since now, there is no 6 provision which provides for seeking condonation of delay, if an application for compensation is filed beyond the period of six months from the date of the accident (Sub-section 3 of Section 166, as proposed to be inserted by way of the Amendment Act), till the time Section 53 of the Amendment Act is notified, claimant/s are not required to prefer an application for condensation of delay."
It also cautioned the Presiding Officer to be "more vigilant" while passing orders under the beneficial legislation— Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
Inter alia, the Court observed that the Tribunal could've given the benefit of omnibus order of the Supreme Court In Re : Cognizance For Extension Of Limitation, whereby the period of limitation, whether condonable or not, was extended due to lockdown.
The Appellant had contended that the pandemic struck in March, 2020 and the Apex Court by an omnibus order extended the period of limitation. This aspect should have also been looked into by the Tribunal.
Concurring with this submission, the High Court said,
"The alternative was also available to the learned Tribunal but in sheer haste of disposal of the matter, he lost sight of omnibus order of Apext court of extending the period of limitation. The other aspect was that the family was bereaved of young son and mother of one of the appellants passed away due to covid. All these aspects have not been looked into by the learned Judge."
Accordingly, the impugned order was set aside and the claim petition was restored to file of Tribunal with a direction to proceed as per Section 166 read with Section 168 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 as till date amended section dealing with Chapter X, XI XII of the act have not been brought on statute book substituting the earlier provision.
"The provisions of section 166 of the 2019 Act has several implications which can be flagged, namely, limitation, which was not there, has been introduced. It appears that the Central Government with a purpose not decided the date for bringing in, has not brought the provisions of amended Sections 52 to 57 which relates to complete change to Chapter X, XI & XII and, therefore, the amended Act has not been brought on the statute book is very clear. The scheme of the new regime would show that they have not been brought on the statute book by amending or repealing the earlier provisions of Chapter X, XI & XII," the High Court concluded.
Case Title: Shailendra Tripathi & Anr. v. Dharmendra Yadav & Ors.