Published on: 01st January 2023 at 22:38 IST
While ruling on a very significant point pertaining to motor accidents, the Apex Court in a most commendable, cogent and creditworthy judgment titled Gohar Mohammed vs Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation & Others in Civil Appeal No. 9322 of 2022 [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (C) No. 32448 of 2018] that was finally pronounced on December 15, 2022 has ordered that in a motor accident case having multiple claimants, if the claimants file separate claim petitions in tribunals in the territorial jurisdiction of different High Courts, then the first claim petition should be maintained and the subsequent claim petitions should be transferred to the tribunal where the first petition was filed.
No transfer petition is required to be filed in the Supreme Court for the transfer of such subsequent claim petitions. The Court further directed the Registrar Generals of all High Courts to pass appropriate directions in this regard.
At the very outset, this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment authored by Hon’ble Mr Justice JK Maheshwari for a Bench of the Apex Court comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice S Abdul Nazeer and himself sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 2 that, “The instant appeal has been filed assailing the final order dated 06.09.2018 passed by the High Court of Allahabad in First Appeal from Order No. 3303 of 2018, vide which the appeal preferred by the appellant against the award dated 04.05.2018 passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (for short ‘MACT’) in MACP No. 1107 of 2012 has been dismissed,”.
“MACT allowed the claim petition and awarded a compensation of Rs. 31,90,000/ (Thirtyone lacs and ninety thousand only) in favour of respondent Nos. 6, 7 and 8 (legal representatives of deceased and hereinafter referred to as ‘claimants’) to be paid by respondent No. 5 (Insurance Company), with further direction to recover the same from appellant (hereinafter referred as owner) who was saddled with liability.”
To put thing in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 3 that, “Facts briefly put are that, on the date of accident, i.e., 29.07.2012, the deceased was 24 years old and working as Managing Director at DRV Drinks Pvt. Ltd. While he was returning from factory to residence, his car was hit from behind by a bus owned by appellant on the bypass road near Sanhwali village (U.P.),”.
“The deceased sustained severe injuries and died on the way to hospital. FIR was lodged against the driver as well as owner of the offending vehicle and on 19.01.2012, claim petition was filed by claimants before MACT seeking compensation of Rs. 4,19,00,000/ (Four crores and nineteen lacs only) under various heads.”
As it turned out, the Bench then discloses in para 4 that, “The MACT vide order dated 04.05.2018, allowed the claim petition and awarded a total sum of Rs. 31,90,000/- alongwith 7% interest,”.
“While computing the loss of dependency, the annual income of the deceased was accepted as Rs. 3,09,660/- after making deduction towards personal expenses, multiplier of 18 was applied. It was held that the vehicle was not being operated as per the terms of permit and was in violation of terms and conditions of insurance policy, therefore the owner of the offending vehicle was held liable to pay compensation.”
As we see, the Bench then reveals in para 5 that, “Appellant filed appeal before the High Court assailing the issue of liability contending, inter alia, no violation of guidelines as such was there and submitted that the offending vehicle was insured with insurance company indemnifying the liability,”.
“Appellant further contended that he had Special Temporary Authorization (in short ‘permit’) to operate the bus on the route for which the fee was paid. The High Court vide impugned order affirmed the findings of MACT and held that the vehicle owner failed to produce the original permit and also could not get the same proved calling the person from the Transport Department, in absence, the Claims Tribunal rightly decided the issue of liability against the owner.”
Furthermore, the Bench then states in para 6 that, “Challenging the concurrent findings of the Courts below, the appellant contested the instant appeal largely on the ground that failure to produce the original permit cannot lead to an inference against him, especially when such permit has been duly issued by Transport Authority and confirmed in the reply under Right to Information Act (for short ‘RTI Act’),“.
“It was further contended that the appellant had valid permit as he deposited the due fee on the next day after the date of issuance of permit and hence, the finding of Courts below that the appellant did not have a valid permit, as such fastened the liability for payment of compensation is unjust.”
Most significantly, we must note the most relevant para 62 and most relevant sub-clause wherein it is stated that, “Accordingly, this appeal is decided with the following directions:
xii) In case the claimant(s) or legal representative(s) of the deceased have filed separate claim petition(s) in the territorial jurisdiction of different High Courts, in the said situation, the first claim petition filed by the claimant(s)/legal representative(s) shall be maintained by the said Claims Tribunal and the subsequent claim petition(s) shall stand transferred to the Claims Tribunal where the first claim petition was filed and pending.
It is made clear here that the claimant(s) are not required to apply before this Court seeking transfer of other claim petition(s) though filed in the territorial jurisdiction of different High Courts. The Registrar Generals of the High Courts shall take appropriate steps and pass appropriate order in this regard in furtherance to the directions of this Court.”
In conclusion, we thus see that the Apex Court has made it pretty clear that in cases of motor accidents if multiple claims are filed in different states, the subsequent petitions must be transferred to Tribunal where the first claim was filed.
So, it thus merits no reiteration that in all such similar cases the High Courts and the Trial Courts must pay heed to what has been laid down so very clearly, cogently and convincingly by the Apex Court in this leading case. No denying it!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate