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A mistake by a lawyer cannot work to the detriment of the client: High Court of Delhi

The provision for territorial jurisdiction has to be interpreted consistent with the object of facilitating remedies for the victims of accidents. Hyper technical approach in such matters can hardly be appreciated. This was held in the case of Saddam Hussain v Ram Prasad and Ors, [CM (M) 81/2021] by Hon’ble Justice Prathibha M singh in the High Court of Delhi.

The mother of the Petitioner met with an accident while she was traveling by bus in Uttar Pradesh. The Petitioner then filed the claim petition before the Presiding Officer, MACT on 19th March 2016. The Respondents filed their written statements before the MACT in which they took the plea that the insurance company i.e. United Indian Insurance Company Limited, is liable to pay the compensation. The insurance company objected to the jurisdiction of the MACT in Saket Courts, New Delhi. An application was filed raising the issue of maintainability, by the insurance company to which a reply was also placed. Counsel for the Petitioner, however, withdrew the said petition under the impression that the MACT in Delhi would not have jurisdiction to hear the claim petition.

Petitioners placed their reliance on Malati Sardar v. National Insurance Company Ltd., (2016) 3 SCC 43, and was stated to have been advised to file an application for restoration, relying upon this judgment of the Supreme Court. The MACT refused to restore the claim petition of the Petitioner. Hence, the petition was filed under Article 227 of the Constitution of India. Counsel appearing for the insurance company submits that once the lawyer has withdrawn the petition, there is always an option to file a fresh petition before the appropriate jurisdiction.

The Court observed that It is a settled position in law that a litigant cannot be made to suffer due to the mistake of a lawyer. In Malati Sadar (supra), the Supreme Court has held that “The provision in question, in the present case, is a benevolent provision for the victims of accidents of negligent driving. The provision for territorial jurisdiction has to be interpreted consistent with the object of facilitating remedies for the victims of accidents. Hyper technical approach in such matters can hardly be appreciated. There is no bar to a claim petition being filed at a place where the insurance company, which is the main contesting party in such cases, has its business. In such cases, there is no prejudice to any party. There is no failure of justice.”

The Court also opinioned that the clear legal position is that the claims against the insurance company can be filed where the company has its office or carries on business. The petition need not be filed only at the place where the accident took place. The withdrawal of the petition was thus a genuine mistake, may be based on legal advice received the Petitioner. The petition was allowed in favour of the petitioner.

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