The Supreme Court on Tuesday (October 5, 2021) criticized the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh for its failure to take action against advocates for filing fake claim petitions under Motor Accident Claims Tribunal and Workmen Compensation Act.
"It is very unfortunate that in such a serious matter, where the allegations are of filing of fake claim petitions in which the advocates are also alleged to have been involved, the Bar Council of U.P. is not giving instructions to their advocate. It shows the callousness and insensitiveness on the part of the Bar Council of U.P. Shri Manan Kumar Mishra, learned senior counsel and Chairman Bar Council of India to look into the same," bench of Justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna noted in their order.
The Apex Court took note of the Supplementary affidavit dated September 30, 2021, filed on behalf of the UP Government, stating that the Special Investigation Team ("S.I.T.") was constituted pursuant to Allahabad High Court's order dated October 7, 2015.
In the affidavit, it was stated that ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company Limited forwarded cases of suspicious claims related to various insurance companies forwarded by the learned District Judge, Raebareli, cases referred to the S.I.T. by various courts and the High Court of Allahabad, Lucknow Bench, cases of suspicious claims of Motor Accident Claims Tribunal and Workmen Compensation Act referred to by various Insurance Companies.
"The S.I.T. has received total 1376 complaints/cases of suspicious claims. It is stated that out of total 1376 cases of suspicious claims received by the Special Investigation Team, U.P., Lucknow, enquiry of 246 cases of suspicious claims has been completed till date and after having found prima facie offence of cognizable offence in nature against total 166 accused persons which includes petitioners/applicants, advocates, police personnel, doctors, insurance employees, vehicle owners, drivers etc. and total 83 criminal complaints have been registered in various districts. It is stated that the enquiry of remaining cases of suspicious claims is underway," the bench noted.
The division bench also took note of the submissions in the supplementary affidavit that out of total criminal complaints registered so far, an investigation of 33 criminal cases had been completed, and the legal process of submitting charge sheets against the accused persons was underway. Top Court further noted that the investigation in the remaining cases was in progress by the S.I.T.
Mentioning that the S.I.T. was constituted under Special Enquiry Headquarters, UP for conducting enquiry and investigation of the cases related to causing a loss in crores of rupees to the insurance companies by way of submitting fake claims under Motor Accident Claims Tribunal and Workmen Compensation Act as back from 2015, the bench said,
"Despite the same, the investigation/enquiry has not been completed till date and out of total 1376 cases of suspicious claims received by the Special Investigation Team, U.P., Lucknow, the enquiry has been completed only with respect to 246 cases of suspicious claims and only 83 criminal complaints have been registered in major districts."
Considering that even in those 33 criminal cases, the charge sheet had not been filed and that the legal process of submitting the charge sheet against the accused person was underway, the bench deprecated the manner and speed in which the enquiry was going.
The bench thereafter directed the State of UP/SIT to file an affidavit in a sealed cover with respect to complaints filed/enquiry completed, the names of the accused, where the criminal complaints are filed and in which criminal cases the charge sheets have been filed.
"It is the duty of the Bar Council of the State to take action against the advocates who are found to have been indulged in such unethical manner by filing the fake claims under the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal and Workmen Compensation Act,"
Top Court further directed the State of UP/SIT to forward the name of the advocates against whom prima facie cases of cognizable offences are disclosed in a sealed cover till November 15, 2021, so that the same can be sent BCI for further action.
"It appears that Bar Council of State is not interested in taking action and, therefore, now the Bar Council of India has to step in and take appropriate action against the erring advocates, who are found to have indulged into the filing of such fake claims," bench further noted in its order.
The matter is now slated to be heard on November 16, 2021.
Case Title: Safiq Ahmad v ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co. Ltd. . & Ors.| Special Leave to Appeal (C) No. 1110/2017