Indigency Status Misjudged: Supreme Court Sets Aside High Court Order; Urges Quick Appeal Decision.


CASE NUMBER – (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 457)

DATED ON – 27.05.2024

QUORUM – Justice J.K. Maheshwari & Justice Sanjay Karol



The appellant, who was the original claimant before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, [Court of Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (Auxiliary) & 10th (Adhoc) Addl. District Court Jude, Jamnagar] in M.A.C.P.No.255 of 2011, was injured in an accident on 4th July 2010, while riding pillion on a bike, which was hit by a truck. Having sustained injuries, she was admitted for medical treatment at a hospital for a period of fourteen days and subsequently she underwent plastic surgery. At the time of the accident, she was earning Rs.3,000/- per month, but, post the accident, she sustained permanent disablement, and hence had not been able to work thereafter. A claim was filed for Rs.10 lakhs with 18% interest and costs. The Tribunal vide Award dated 17th October 2016, awarded a sum of Rs.2,41,745/- with 9% interest from the date of claim petition till the date of realization and proportionate costs. Dissatisfied thereby, the claimant-appellant approached the High Court of Gujarat by way of Regular First Appeal No.2611/2017. Misc. Civil Application No.3/2018 was filed therein by which the claimantappellant prayed for permission to file the said First Appeal as an indigent person. The High Court vide judgment and order dated 7th August, 2018 dismissed the Misc. Civil Application



Whether the High Court of Gujarat had erred in it’s judgement and the Appellant should be recognized as an Indigent Person.



Order XLIV Rule 3(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, deals with determining the financial status of someone seeking to appeal as an indigent person.



The High Court of Gujarat whose order has been impugned stated that “the applicant– appellant cannot be considered to be indigent person and therefore, he has to pay court fees first. The Learned counsel for the applicant, however, submitted that, till date, no amount is received by the applicant. It is open for the applicant to pursue the said remedy before appropriate forum. Present application cannot be entertained.” The Hon’ble  Supreme Court upon viewing this chose to first refer to one of it’sprevious judgements, where the definition of an Indigent Person was prescribed, “A person may proceed as poor person only after a court is satisfied that he or she is unable to prosecute the suit and pay the costs and expenses. A person is indigent if the payment of fees would deprive one of basic living expenses, or if the person is in a state of impoverishment that substantially and effectively impairs or prevents the pursuit of a court remedy.” The ground, upon which the claimant-appellant’s application to file the appeal as an indigent person was rejected, was that she had received compensation by way of the Award of the Tribunal, and therefore, she was not indigent. The Hon’ble Supreme Court found this observation to be belied by the impugned order itself as the learned Single Judge had recorded the submission of the counsel for the claimant-appellant that no money stood paid to her at that point in time. So even though she had been awarded a sum, her indigency was not extinguished thereby. And thereby, held that the High Court was incorrect in rejecting the Misc. Application. They further viewed Order XLIV Rule 3(2), of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, where it states that the inquiry into the question whether or not he is an indigent person shall be made by the Appellate Court. And noted that The Appellate Court, in accordance with the above, did not conduct any inquiry. The same was necessitated since nothing on record speaks of the claimant-appellant having filed the claim before the learned Tribunal as an indigent person. The Hon’ble Supreme Court stated that she had not yet received the money and, therefore, at the time of filing the appeal she was arguably indigent. And second, that the statutory requirement under the C.P.C., as described above, was not met , therefore, held that the order of the learned Single Judge has to be set aside, and allowed the Appeal. They also stated that since the Award was given in 2016, and the appeal to be recognized as an Indigent was rejected in 2018, the Hon’ble Supreme Court instructed the High Court that the appeal filed by the claimant-appellant be decided expeditiously, and preferably within a period of six months from the date of receipt of the copy of this judgment.


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Judgement Reviewed by – Gnaneswarran Beemarao

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