This article is written by Prashant Singh, a student of Campus Law Center, University of Delhi. He explains how and when to file claims with the motor accidents claim tribunal.
In present times, the role of transportation, be it public or private, has become essential for our social interactions and commercial transactions. Transportation is getting technologically more advanced every other day. There is a huge expansion in use of motor vehicles, be it for the purpose of businesses or for private purposes.
Even with the advancement of technology we have to deal with untoward incidents of road accidents. Some of the reasons for road accidents are-overspeeding, drunken driving, distractions to driver like smartphones, non-adherence to traffic rules, overtaking in wrong manner and jumping the red light.
Every other day there is an increase in number of vehicles on the road across India. For Example-According to Economic Survey of Delhi-‘ The total number of motor vehicles on road in Delhi as on 31st March, 2015 touched the 88.27 lakh, showing an increase of 6.4 per cent over previous year.’1 With such large number Vehicles in the city one can imagine that there is large probability of occurrence of motor vehicle accidents in some form or the other. Although there has been a decrease in number of road accidents in Delhi city-Thanks to Delhi Metro which provides an alternative to commuters and thanks to strict(sometimes aggressive) implementation of traffic rules.2
Now if someone unfortunately meets an accident then what are the remedies available to the injured victim by the law? There is a remedy i.e. the Right to Compensation under Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
Let us briefly familiarize ourselves with the various aspects of Indian law dealing with claims in relation to accidents by motor vehicles (primarily Motor Vehicles Act,1988).
Motor Vehicles Act,19883 (from now on referred to as ‘the Act’)
- This Act is a comprehensive legislation with the purpose of enhancing road safety.
- It also serves the purpose of welfare legislation by providing for compensation in case of loss of life or limb because of accidents by motor vehicles.4
- Section 2(30) of the Act defines who is the ‘owner’. “Owner” is-
- a person in whose name a motor vehicle stands registered, and where such person is a minor, the guardian of such minor, and
- in relation to a motor vehicle which is the subject of a hire-purchase, agreement, or an agreement of lease or an agreement of hypothecation, the person in possession of the vehicle under that agreement
- In Chapter II of the Act(LICENSING OF DRIVING OF MOTOR VEHICLES) various provisions discuss the qualification, disqualification, grant, cancellation of driving licences. The Act makes it compulsory for the driver to have driving licence (Section 3).The Act prescribes minimum age for holding a driving licence(Section 4).The Act asks for maintaining of registers for Driving Licence by the State Governments(Section 26).
- Chapter IV of the Act(REGISTRATION OF MOTOR VEHICLES) lays down provisions for registration of motor vehicles, cancellation of registration, renewal of registrations, transfers Under the Act registration of Motor Vehicle is compulsory(Section 39).
- Chapter VIII of the Act(Control of Traffic) achieves the purpose of controlling traffic by putting a limit to the maximum permissible speed of motor vehicle(Section 112),by putting a limit on weight and limitation of use (Section 113),by laying provisions for traffic lights, parking places, halting stations, signals, signalling devices and other driving regulations.
- Chapter IX of the Act (INSURANCE OF MOTOR VEHICLES AGAINST THIRD PARTY RISKS) lays down provisions which makes it compulsory to have insurance of a motor vehicle against third party risk# (Section 146).Other provision of this chapter discuss the limit on liability and other requirements of the insurance policy.
- Chapter X of the Act(LIABILITY WITHOUT FAULT IN CERTAIN CASES) elaborates on cases where accident causes death or permanent disability. In such cases the victim has right to compensation even if there was no fault of the defendant.(Section 140). The principle laid down by Section 140 is termed as ‘no fault liability’.
- Chapter XII of the Act(CLAIMS TRIBUNAL) gives us the compositions, powers, appellate and procedures of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal.
- Chapter XIII of the Act lays down provisions regarding offences arising in contravention of this Act and procedure and penalty for the same.
# Third Party Risk-The expression ‘third party risk’ is used because the Claimant is the third party as he is neither First Party i.e. the Insurer(the Insurance Company) nor he is Second Party i.e. the Insured(Owner of the Motor Vehicle).
Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal (referred as ‘Claims Tribunal’ in this article)
- Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal has been created by the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.It has been constituted to provide speedier remedy to the victims of accident by motor vehicles.
- The Tribunals takes away jurisdiction of Civil Courts in the matters which concerns the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal.
- A State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitute one or more Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals for such area as may be specified in the (Section 165).’
- It is for the State Government to decide the number of members of a Claims Tribunal. If there are two or more members then one has to appointed as Chairman(Section 165). ‘A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a member of a Claims Tribunal unless he –
(a) is, or has been, a Judge of a High Court, or
(b) is, or has been, a District Judge, or
(c) is qualified for appointment as a High Court Judge or as a District Judge.’ 8
- 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, if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from preferring the appeal in time.’ (Section 173)
When can compensation be claimed
Limitation-There is no time limit for filing motor vehicle accidents claim. But an unusual delay will demand an explanation by the Tribunal.
According to Section 165 of the Motor Vehicles Act,1988 – ‘claims for compensation in respect of accidents involving the death of, or bodily injury to, persons arising out of the use of motor vehicles, or damages to any property of a third party so arising, or both.’5
In other words, the Tribunal can adjudicate upon claims for compensation –
- 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.
- When the accident arises out of the use of motor vehicle
Who can claim the Compensation
According to Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act,1988 6 ,compensation can be claimed –
- 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.
How and Where can compensation be claimed
Claim Petition can be filed –
- to the Claims Tribunal having jurisdiction over the area in which the accident occurred or,
- to the Claims Tribunal within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the claimant resides, or carries on business or,
- within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the defendant resides12
Here is the prescribed format of the Claims Petition by Courts of Delhi and documents required while filing Claim Petition 7
Insurer is also a party to the Claims case. Section 146 of the Act makes it compulsory for the owner of the vehicle to get his vehicle insured against third party risk. The expression ‘third party risk’ is used because the Claimant is the third party as he is neither First Party i.e. the Insurer(the Insurance Company) nor he is Second Party i.e. the Insured(Owner of the Motor Vehicle).
Insurance has been made compulsory and non-compliance with Section 146 has been made punishable with imprisonment, or fine, or both(Section 196).Primary object of compulsory insurance of motor vehicle is for the benefit and monetary security of the victim.
‘No Fault Liability’
Chapter X of the Act deal with such cases. It imposes no fault liability on the owner of the motor vehicle. Though such liability arises only in the case of accidents which leads to death or permanent disability of the victim.
‘no fault liability’-Section 140 of the Act lays down the principle of no fault liability. According to this principle the liability of paying compensation is imposed on the owner of the motor vehicles even if no fault exists in relation to the accident being examined by the court.
The compensation to be paid in case of no fault liability is(Section 140(2))-
- Rs 50000 in case of Death.
- Rs 25000 in case of permanent disablement.
‘Hit and Run motor accident’
The term ‘Hit and Run motor accident’ has been defined in Section 161(1)(b)- “hit and run motor accident” means an accident arising out of the use of a motor vehicle or motor vehicles the identity whereof cannot be ascertained in spite of reasonable efforts for the purpose.
Thus one of the essential of ‘hit and run motor accident’ is that the vehicle which caused the accident is untraceable. Even though positive efforts have been put in to ascertain the identity of the vehicle yet it is untraceable.
According to Section 161 the amount of compensation is-
- Rs 25000 in case of death
- Rs 12500 in case of grievous hurt@.
@ Here ‘grievous hurt’ has same meaning as in the Indian Penal Code,1860(45 of 1860)
Section 163 – A. Special provisions as to payment of compensation on structured formula basis
- The owner of the vehicle shall be liable to pay in case of death and permanent disability caused because of accident by the motor vehicle of the owner.
- The claimant who is seeking compensation in case of death or permanent disability caused by motor vehicle, is not required to plead or establish that the death or permanent disablement* in respect of which the claim has been made was due to any wrongful act or neglect or default of the owner of the vehicle or vehicles concerned or of any other person.
* Here Permanent Disablement shall have the same meaning and extent as in the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923.(Section 163-A(1)-Explanation)
‘Where a person is entitled to claim compensation under section 140 and section 163-A, he shall file the claim under either of the said sections and not under both.’(Section 163-B)
Some Relevant Case Laws
- National Ins. Co. Ltd. Vs R. K Pasawan(AIR 1997 Pat. 236) .The onus of proving whether a motor vehicle is insured with a particular company is on the owner of the motor vehicle.
- Skandia Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Kokilaben Chandra Vadan( AIR 1987 SC 1184)- In this case the driver had no driving licence when he met an accident with the motor vehicle he was driving. The right of compensation of victim is not affected by the fact that motor vehicle was driven by a man who was not having driving license to do so. Even if the insurance policy mentions something contrary to this rule.
- ‘If the vehicle is not insured any legal liability arising on account of third party risk will have to be borne by the owner of the vehicle.’ ( Iyyapan vs M/s United India Insurance Co. Ltd. and another ,2013)10
- Rajasthan Road Transport Corpn. vs Kailash Nath Kothari(AIR 1997 SC 3444) – Kailash Nath Kothari was the registered owner of the bus which met an accident. At the time of accident the vehicle was driven by a driver who was employed by the registered owner of the vehicle. At the same time the registered owner was not in possession of the bus. He had rented it to the Corporation. Court held in this case that the Corporation was liable to pay compensation and not the registered owner. This was in accordance with Section 2(30) of the Motor Vehicles Act,1988 which defines ‘owner’ for the interpretation of the Act.
Occurrence of motor accidents depends on many factors. If we are sincere enough to be careful while driving then we can definitely eradicate any mishap. Traffic management is Government’s job and if we participate in it with compassion and responsibility then we can definitely see better and safe roads for ourselves and for other citizens.