Transportation holds the core of our mode of social and commercial interactions and transactions, isn’t it? With advancing world, we are meant to deal with untoward road incidents. Some of the reasons for road accidents can be over speeding, drunken driving, distractions to driver, non-adherence to traffic rules, overtaking in wrong manner, jumping the red light etc. If someone, god forbids, meets with an accident, where is he supposed to go for seeking legal justice or what legal remedies are available to the victim? Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 comes to the rescue in such vulnerable picture.
Motor Vehicle Act, 1988
The Act, a comprehensive legislation with the purpose of enhancing road safety, serves the purpose of welfare legislation by providing for compensation in case of loss or injury caused due to accidents by vehicles. It came into force from 1st July, 1989 and replaced the erstwhile Motor Vehicle Act, 1914.
Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal provides for a forum to raise cases for cheaper and speedier remedy to the victims. A State Government takes the liberty of setting one more Tribunal for a specified area. [i] It covers up and substitute all the matters in the Civil Courts relating to the Motor Accidents.
A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a member of a Claims Tribunal unless he;
- is, or has been, a Judge of a High Court, or
- is, or has been, a District Judge, or
- is qualified for appointment as a High Court Judge or as a District Judge.
Appeals from Claims Tribunal lies with High Courts. The appeal is limited by time and has to be filed in the High Court within 90 days from the date of award of Claims Tribunal. The High Court may entertain the appeal after the expiry of the said period of ninety days only if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from preferring the appeal in time.[ii]
Claiming of compensation
An application for compensation was necessarily to be filed within the required period i.e., six months. The Tribunal can adjudicate upon claims for compensation (a) when the accident involves death of the person, or bodily injury to the person; or damage to any property of the third party; or both and (b) when the accident arises out of the use of motor vehicle.[iii] Though there lies no time limit for filing motor vehicle accidents claim, but an unusual delay will demand an explanation by the Tribunal.
A Claim Petition can be filed:
- to the Claims Tribunal having jurisdiction over the area in which the accident occurred.
- to the Claims Tribunal within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the claimant resides, or carries on business.
- within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the defendant resides.
Compensation can be claimed by:[iv]
- By the person who has sustained injury;
- By the owner of the damaged property;
- By all or any legal representative of the deceased who died in the accident;
- By duly authorised agent of the injured person or all or any of the legal representatives of the deceased who died in the accident.
The amount of compensation, as specified in the Act,[v] is
|Rs 25000 in cases of Death|
|Rs 12500 in cases of grievous hurt|
Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 provides for a rescue hand in cases on delay in filing the appeal. Such appeals can be admitted after the prescribed period stated by the Court, provided the appellant or the applicant satisfies the court that he had sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal or making the application within such period.
5th Law Commission Report on ‘Claims for Compensation under Chapter 8 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939’ by Justice P V Dixit gives a detailed understanding on the compensation procedure, bearing on the question of insurance of motor vehicles and adjudication of claims for compensation in respect of the accidents by motor vehicles.[vi]
Claims Tribunal can pass an award with regard to payment of just compensation only after ﬁnding that the accident of the nature speciﬁed in sub–section (1) of Section 110 was the result of the negligence on the part of the driver or owner of the vehicle.[vii]
Supreme Court has been suggesting since a long time with some persistence that the Motor Vehicle Act should be amended so as to incorporate in it the principle of “no fault liability” in road accidents.[viii]
Cases have been recently spurred to have directed to be settled between parties i.e. choosing the alternative mode of dispute resolution rather than choosing litigation.
“Discourage Litigation, persuade your neighbours to compromise whenever you can, point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real looser in fees, expenses and waste of time”
Settlement of cases by mutual compromise is quite often a better method of ending the dispute than the alternative of fighting the case to the bitter end by taking the matter in appeal from one court to another. The need for compromise is highly felt in the field of motor accidents claims. Social justice requires that a motor accident victim should get quick relief by way of compensation.
Instances such as death cases, cases involving minors and ‘Hit and Run ‘cases are outside the purview of this scheme. As amended, the new Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 creates no difficulty with regard to period of limitation. At any time, a claimant can take the advantage of the machinery. Since the time limit is now deleted, one can select his own convenient date for filing the same. Since it is a prelitigation scheme, it presupposes that no case is filed before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal. A settlement under this scheme is most advantageous to the claimant.
Further, there has been increase in the compensation amount, a 5% annual increase in compensation on the overall motor insurance premium payable for third party fatal accidents and injury claims. As per the notification dated May 22, 2018, the amount of compensation payable in case of death will be Rs five lakh. The amount payable as compensation has been decided keeping in view costs of living said the notification.
It is a settled law that the Motors Accidents Claims Tribunals have the trappings of the civil courts. For the purpose of recovery of the amount under inherent powers, it can pass an appropriate order for depositing the same or to protect the interest of the claimants by passing another order in favour.
Occurrence of motor accidents depends on many factors. The gravity of it is realised with its actual happening. If we are sincere enough to be careful while driving then we can definitely eradicate any mishap. Traffic management is not only the government’s job. We need to participate with compassion and responsibility. We can definitely see better and safe roads for ourselves and for other citizens.
“The views of the authors are personal“
[i] Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, Chapter XII, No. 59, Acts of Parliament, 2010 (India).
[ii] Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, § 173, No. 59, Acts of Parliament, 2010 (India).
[iii] Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, § 165, No. 59, Acts of Parliament, 2010 (India).
[iv] Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, § 166, No. 59, Acts of Parliament, 2010 (India).
[v] Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, § 161, No. 59, Acts of Parliament, 2010 (India).
[vi] United India Insurance Co. Ltd. V. Sunil Kumar & Anr., Civil Appeal No. 9694/2013 (India).
[vii] Sinu v. Ba Krishna, 1977 SCR.
[viii] Concord Insurance Company Vs. Nirmala Devi 1979 (3) S.C.R. 694; Rattan Singh Vs. State of Punjab S.C.W.R. (1980).