Madras HC: Limitation Doesn’t Apply if Report Filed Within 6 Months in Motor Vehicle cases

LI Network

Published on: 11 September 2023 at 11:17 IST

The Madras High Court has made a significant ruling regarding claims related to motor accidents.

Court stated that under the Motor Vehicle Act, the limitation period does not apply to claims made when the police have already filed a report under Section 159 of the Motor Vehicle Act.

Section 159 of the Act mandates that during an investigation, a police officer shall prepare an accident information report to facilitate the settlement of claims and submit it to the Claims Tribunal.

Justice V Lakshminarayan highlighted that when an FIR (First Information Report) has already been registered concerning a motor accident, and its details have been sent to the relevant Tribunal, any claim petition should be treated as a reminder to the court to retrieve the FIR and register it as a Claim Petition.

The court asserted, “On registration of an FIR, a claimant is entitled to present the petition without the fear of it being thrown out on the ground of limitation.”

This ruling clarified that claims related to accidents that occurred after April 1, 2022, are not subject to the usual six-month limitation period, provided the FIR is registered within six months.

The case in question involved a petitioner named Malaravan, who had an accident on October 11, 2022, and filed a Claim petition on April 19, 2023. The Tribunal initially returned the petition, deeming it time-barred.

Malaravan explained that his health had deteriorated due to the accident, leading to the delay in filing the claim. He requested the court to accept his claim petition.

The court’s amicus curiae, Advocate N Vijayaraghavan, presented detailed submissions on the history of limitation concerning compensation decisions. He pointed out that while the 1939 Act originally had a six-month limitation, it allowed for condonation of delay if sufficient cause was shown. Subsequent amendments and repeals changed this framework.

As per the recent amendment that came into effect on April 1, 2022, the limitation period was reintroduced, and no claims could be entertained beyond six months from the date of the accident.

The court highlighted the digitization of documents related to motor vehicle accidents in Tamil Nadu and their submission to the Claims Tribunal digitally. It noted that the police had a duty to file various reports, and the duty to process this information rested with the Tribunal, relieving claimants from the burden of gathering necessary documents.

The court emphasized that the duty of the Claims Tribunal was to access the information and proceed with the claim, rendering the issue of a six-month limitation irrelevant in such cases.

In this particular case, as the FIR was filed within two days of the accident, the claim petition was treated as a reminder to the court to retrieve and register the FIR, and the court allowed the criminal revision.

This ruling has significant implications for claimants involved in motor accidents in Tamil Nadu, particularly those where the FIR is registered within six months of the accident date.

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