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Section 173 Motor Vehicles Act, 1988- Amendment Proposed to curtail pendency of appeals before High Courts: Supreme Court of India

Since there are a number of appeals filed under Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 against the awards of the Tribunals before the relevant High Court, it leads to accumulation of a large number of pending appeals before the High Courts, and therefore, in order to curtail the pendency before the High Courts and for speedy disposal of the appeals concerning payment of compensation to the victims of road accident, it would be just and proper to consider constituting ‘Motor Vehicle Appellate Tribunals’ by amending Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act so that the appeals challenging the award of a Tribunal could be filed before the Appellate Tribunal so constituted. This was observed by Hon’ble S. Abdul Nazeer, J while deciding the matter of Rasmita Biswal & Ors. v. Divisional Manager, National Insurance Company Ltd. and Anr. – [Civil Appeal No. 7549 of 2021].

In this case, there is an appeal directed against the judgment passed by the High Court of Orissa at Cuttack, whereby the High Court reduced the compensation payable to the appellants. The appellant is the wife of the deceased who had died in a motor vehicle accident. She had filed a claim petition before the Additional District Judge-cum-Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Talcher District (for short ‘the Tribunal’), seeking compensation. The Tribunal, had held that the cause for the accident was the rash and negligent driving of the offending truck by its driver and awarded a total compensation of Rs.12,90,064/- along with interest at the rate of 6% per annum. The claimants as well as the insurer challenged the award of the Tribunal before the High Court. The High Court set aside the award and remitted the matter back to the Tribunal for fresh disposal. The Tribunal once again considered the matter and awarded a total compensation of Rs.22,60,000/-. The insurer challenged the award of the Tribunal before the High Court by filing an appeal in which, the High Court modified the award of the Tribunal and awarded compensation of Rs.17,00,000/- with interest at the rate of 7.5% per year from the date of claim petition till the date of realization.

The learned Advocate appearing on behalf of the appellant contended that the High Court was not justified in reducing the compensation without assigning any reason and contended that the appellant was earning Rs.15,000/ and had a permanent job. The Courts below have not awarded any compensation towards loss of future prospects. It was argued that the compensation awarded was not in accordance with the judgment of the Supreme Court in National Insurance Company Limited v. Pranay Sethi and Others. On the other hand, the learned advocate appearing for the respondent-insurer supported the judgment of the High Court.

Supreme court after perusing the facts and arguments presented, held that the appellant was entitled to compensation of 31,01,000/- and disposed the present appeal. Before parting with the judgement, this Court also observed that– “We may notice that a large number of claim petitions, under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 being filed before the various Claims Tribunals established thereunder throughout the country. Against the awards of the Tribunals, appeals are filed under Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 before the relevant High Court, either by the claimants or by the insurers and owners of the offending vehicles. Large number of such appeals are pending before the various High Courts. Having regard to the above, we are of the view that in order to curtail the pendency before the High Courts and for speedy disposal of the appeals concerning payment of compensation to the victims of road accident, it would be just and proper to consider constituting ‘Motor Vehicle Appellate Tribunals’ by amending Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act so that the appeals challenging the award of a Tribunal could be filed before the Appellate Tribunal so constituted. The various Benches of such an Appellate Tribunal could consist of two Senior District Judges. To ensure access to justice and to avoid pendency, it is also proper to consider setting up Benches of the Appellate Tribunal in various regional cities, in addition to the capital city of each State as may be indicated by the relevant High Court. For this purpose, appropriate rules governing the procedure of the Appellate Tribunal may also be framed. No further appeal against the order of the Appellate Tribunal need be provided. If any of the party is aggrieved by the order of the Appellate Tribunal, he can always invoke the writ jurisdiction of the concerned High Court for appropriate reliefs.” and requested the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, to examine this matter.

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Judgement reviewed by Mehvish Alam

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