The Madras High Court yesterday held that the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal need not draw decrees like regular civil courts, as it is not contemplated neither under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 nor the Tamil Nadu Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal Rules, 1989.
A bench of Justice N. Anand Venkatesh observed,
“Tribunal cannot be equated to a Civil Court…Rules have only clothed the Tribunal with certain trappings of a Civil Court…The fiction extends to construing an award as a decree only for the purposes of execution. What is conspicuously absent in Rule 21 is the application of Order XX of the Code which contemplates the drawing up of a decree and furnishing of a certified copy of the judgment and decree to the parties. Consequently, neither the Act nor the 1989 Rules contemplates a procedure of drawing up of decrees by the Claims Tribunal.“
The bench was hearing a batch of petitions whereby an insurer sought transfer of 18 different Motor Accident Claim petitions pending before various tribunals of Tamil Nadu to the state High Court under Section 24 of CPC so as to facilitate a compromise arrived at in consultation with accident victims/families.
Notably, the Court had allowed a similar petition last week on May 5, allowing transfer of 23 claims pending against private insurer Cholamandalam MS General Insurance.
While the court allowed the transfer of said insurance claims on similar grounds as laid down in its order dated May 5, it also noted that the High Court Registry was being “saddled” with the task of drafting decrees in thousands of appeals of The Motor Vehicles Act.
Order XX CPC not applicable to Tribunals
While noting that MACT are statutory Tribunals and not civil courts it held that Order XX of CPC, was not applicable to these and stated,
“The form and contents of a decree are set out in Order XX Rule 6 read in tandem with Rule 84 of the Civil Rules of Practice. However, as Order XX has not been made applicable to the Claims Tribunal it follows that the Tribunal cannot pass a decree which is a power conferred on a civil court,” the court held.
Rule 23 does not mandate presentation of decree for preferring an appeal
While clarifying that Rule 23 does not contemplate the filing of a decree but contemplates the filing of a judgment and award, the court noted,
“Since an appeal is a continuation of the original proceeding the requirement of a decree cannot be insisted upon for filing an appeal when the original proceeding itself does not contemplate the passing of any decree. It follows that the present procedure of Claims Tribunals passing “decrees”, the High Court insisting on “decrees” for maintaining appeals and thereafter painstakingly drawing up “decrees” after disposal of the civil miscellaneous appeals can only be termed as an unfortunate comedy of errors.“
Rule 23 of the MV Rules provides that an appeal against the award of the Claims Tribunal shall be accompanied by a “judgment and the award appealed against”.
Detailed Instructions for passing of awards and providing their copies to the parties
While recalling the observations of Justice Bhagwati in Distributors (Baroda) Limited v. Union of India, AIR 1985 SC 1585– “To perpetuate an error is no heroism. To rectify it is the compulsion of judicial conscience” it held,
“It is palpably clear that the labouring process of drafting decrees for awards passed in motor accident cases, for the last 64 years, is totally misconceived.“
Keeping this in mind, the bench issued the following directions:
- The process of drafting decrees for awards passed in motor vehicles cases, both at the level of the Claims Tribunal throughout the State of Tamil Nadu and at the appellate level, shall cease forthwith.
- The Claims Tribunal shall arrange to deliver free copies of the award to the parties concerned within 15 days from the date of the award as contemplated by Section 168 (2) of the Act and Rule 20(6) of the Rules.
- The Claims Tribunals in the State shall not insist on parties filing copy applications for the purpose of receiving their respective free copies. A copy of the award, duly authenticated by the Presiding Officer of the Tribunal, will suffice for the purposes of an appeal under Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act, and Rule 23 (2) of the Rules. The Registry of the High Court need not insist on separate certified copies to be filed along with the memorandum of appeal under Section 173 of the Act.
Further it is directed that the following details had to be mandatorily incorporated into all awards passed by MACT in the state:
- Name and address of the claimant(s)
- Name and address of the respondent(s)
- Name and address of the Insurance company
- Name and address of the Transport Corporation or such other respondents who are held liable to pay.
- Date of filing of the claim petition.
- Date of award
- The Claims Tribunal shall upload the award contemporaneous with the date on which the award is passed and the uploaded award copy shall also be construed as an authenticated copy of the award and it will also suffice for the purposes of filing an appeal or for the purposes of execution of the award.
- Amount of award
- Interest rate applicable
- Date(s) from which interest is payable
- Costs, if any
- In cases where the compensation, interests and costs are directed to be paid proportionately, the award should also specify who shall pay which portion of award, interest and costs. m. In cases where there are several claimants, the shares and amounts payable to each of them shall be specified.
- The mode and manner of deposit of compensation
- The mode and manner of disbursement
It further directed that:
- In cases where the claimants have availed exemption from payment of Court fee under Rule 24(3) at the time of making an application under Section 166 or under Section 163A of the Act, the award shall also specify the time within which the claimants shall deposit the balance of Court fee. The award shall also specify that the claimants shall not be entitled to withdraw the sum deposited pursuant to the award, with or without cost, unless the balance of Court fees is deposited as directed.
- In the event of the claim petition being dismissed for default, the period between the date of dismissal of the claim petition and the date of the restoration of the same shall be dealt with by the Tribunal at its own discretion, depending upon the facts and circumstances of each case, for grant of interest.
- The Registry of the High Court shall ensure that the aforesaid details are also incorporated in every case where the award of the Tribunal has been varied or modified by the High Court in an appeal under Section 173 of the Act.
Case Title: M/s. Cholamandalam MS Genl Ins Co Ltd v. Ayyannar S (and other connected petitions)
Case No.: Tr. CMP. Nos. 264 to 281/2020
Quorum: Justice N. Anand Venkatesh
Appearance: Senior Advocate R. Sankaranarayanan and Advocates N. Vijayaraghavan, V. Lakshminarayanan and NP Vijayakumar (for Petitioners)
Read the Order here: