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Limitation Period For Filing Motor Accidents Claim Applicable Only Prospectively From April 1, 2022 : Kerala High Court

Athira Prasad
5 July 2022 9:43 AM GMT
Kerala High Court

The Kerala High Court on Friday while allowing an original petition, held that the limitation period for filing motor accident claims as per Section 166(3), which was introduced by Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019, only has a prospective effect.

Justice Amit Rawal remarked, "Otherwise, with the stroke of the amendment, the right available to the injured and the claimants of the deceased person would be taken away."

The Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 was amended by the 1988 Act, whereby a claim petition was to be filed within a period of six months. However, by way of the amendment in 1994, the time limit was removed for the filing of a claim petition in respect of the accident that occurred at any point of time. Legislature, with the introduction of Act 32 of 2019, which came into effect on 1.04.2022, brought back the old provisions of 166(3) restricted the entertainment of the application of compensation unless it is made within a period of six months from the occurrence of the accident.

Counsels appearing for the petitioner, Advocate A. R. Nimod and M. A Augustine, submitted that the accident occurred on 23.05.2019 and at the time of the accident and the claimants were entitled to file the claim petition untrammelled by any limitation period. However, the application for compensation filed by the petitioner on 23.04.2022 was dismissed for being barred by the law of limitation because, as per the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019, which came into effect on 1.04.2022, the claim petition should be filed within six months from the occurrence of the incident.

Advocate Lal George, counsel appearing for the respondent insurance company, submitted that in the absence of any provision in the repealing and saving clause, the order rejecting the claim petition is justifiable as a period of six months has passed since the occurrence of the accident and nothing had prevented the claimants form preferring the claim petition within the parameters of law which was then in vogue.

However, Justice Rawal observed that it is well-established law that if there is no provision protecting the rights of a litigant viz by causing amendment which inexplicably takes away exceptional rights, then the provisions of Section 6 of General Clauses Act, 1897 would come into play. When Section 6 applies, only an existing right is saved thereby and it does not create a right on its own. The existing right of a party has to be determined on the basis of the statute which was applicable and not under the new one. If a new Act confers a right, it does so with prospective effect when it comes into force, unless expressly stated otherwise.

Here since the introduction of the Act of 2019, which came into effect on 1.04.2022, the legislature has not caused any amendment in the repealing and saving clause specifying its applicability in respect of the accidents that occurred prior to the introduction of the amendment in view of the provision of section 6 of the General Clauses Act.

Referring to the Supreme Court decision in the case of State of Punjab and others v. Bhajan Kaur and others, where a similar issue was dealt with and the court, in this case, had held that when there is no introduction or omission of the provisions of the Act, there is no intention of the legislature to have its prospective or retro-active applicability and in such circumstances, the amendment caused in the new Act would have a prospective effect;

Justice Rawal observed that "I am of the view that the applicability of the Act, i.e., the introduction of the old provisions of subsection (3) of Section 166, would have a prospective effect and the limitation period of six months would apply after the introduction of the amendment i.e., post 1st April 2022. In other words, in any accident that occurred after 1.4.2022, provisions of the amendment caused in the Act prescribing the limitation to entertain a claim petition, the parties would be governed by the same but not in respect of the persons whom a right had already accrued and was available if the amendment had not been caused."

While setting aside the impugned order, the court directed the Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal to entertain the claim petition and try the case on merits and directed the parties to appear before the MACT on 7.07.2022.

Case Title: Sathy & Ors v. Dileep I.S & Ors.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 324

Click Here To Read/Download The Order

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