SC: Claims under MVA not to be rejected due to procedural lapses.

Today, i.e. on 16th November 2018, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the matter of Vimla Devi & Ors. v. National Insurance Company Limited & Ors., pronounced that while claiming compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act, if the claimant has referred documents at the time of recording evidence but such documents haven’t been exhibited, then the non-exhibition of documents cannot be made basis to reject the claim petition as it is just a procedural lapse.

The Hon’ble Apex Court also observed that:

The Motor Vehicles Act is a beneficial piece of legislation enacted to give solace to the victims of the motor accident who suffer bodily injury or die untimely. The Act is designed in a manner, which relieves the victims from ensuring strict compliance provided in law, which are otherwise applicable to the suits and other proceedings while prosecuting the claim petition filed under the Act for claiming compensation for the loss sustained by them in the accident.  (Para 16)

Section 158 of the Act casts a duty on a person driving a motor vehicle to produce certain certificates, driving licence and permit on being required by a police officer to do so in relation to the use of the vehicle. Sub­section (6), which was added by way of amendment in 1994 to Section 158 casts a duty on the officer in­charge of the police station to forward a copy of the information (FIR)/report regarding any accident involving death or bodily injury to any person within 30 days from the date of information to the Claim Tribunal having jurisdiction and also send one copy to the concerned insurer. This sub­section also casts a duty on the owner of the offending vehicle, if a copy of the information is made available to him, to forward the same to the Claims Tribunal and the insurer of the vehicle. (Para 17)

The Claims Tribunal is empowered to treat the report of the accident on its receipt as if it is an application made by the claimant for award of the compensation to him under the Act by virtue of Section 166 (4) of the Act and thus has jurisdiction to decide such application on merits in accordance with law. (Para 18)

The object of Section 158(6) read with Section 166(4) of the Act is essentially to reduce the period of pendency of claim case and quicken the process of determination of compensation amount by making it mandatory for registration of motor accident claim within one month from the date of receipt of FIR of the accident without the claimants having to file a claim petition. (Para 19)

There are three Sections, which empower the Claims Tribunal to award compensation to the claimant, viz., Section 140, Section 163­A and Section­166 of the Act.  (Para 20)

So far as Section 140 of the Act is concerned, it deals with the cases for award of compensation based on the principle of no fault liability. (Para 21)

So far as Section 163A of the Act is concerned, it deals with special provisions as to payment of compensation and is based on structured formula as specified in Second Schedule appended to the Act. (Para 22)

While claiming compensation payable under Section 140 and Section 163A of the Act, the claimant is not required to prove any wrongful act, neglect or default of the person concerned against whom the claim is made by virtue of Section 140 (4) and Section 163A (2) of the Motor Vehicles Act. (Para 23)

 So far as Section 166 of the Act is concerned, it also deals with payment of compensation. Section 168 of the Act deals with award of the Claims Tribunal whereas Section 169 of the Act provides procedure and powers of the Claims Tribunal. (Para 24)

In a claim petition under the Motor Vehicles Act, If the Court does not exhibit the documents despite the claimant(s) referring them at the time of recording evidence, then in such event, the claimant(s) cannot be denied of his/her/their right to claim the compensation on such ground as it is just a procedural lapse, which cannot be made basis to reject the claim petition. (This inference has been drawn on the basis of Para 33)

Copy of the judgement: Judgement 16-Nov-2018

-Tushar Kaushik

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