Tuesday, February 15, 2011


2000 ACJ 302
(Civil Application No.991 of 1998; decided on 1.7.1998)


New India Assurance Co. Ltd.                                              Petitioner


Vijaybhai Laxmanbhai Solanki and others                           ... Respondents

Case referred:
Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. V. Sunita Rathi, 1998 ACJ 121 (SC).

Important point:
Delay condonation in appeal


Keshote, J.- By this civil application prayer has been made by the applicant to condone the delay of 182 days caused in filing appeal against the judgment and order dated 13.2.1997 passed by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal (Main), Jamnagar in M.A.C.P. No.286 of 1996 under which Rs. 25,000 were awarded to the claimant as interim compensation with interest at the rate of 12 per cent. Learned counsel for the petitioner relied on the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Oriental insurance Co. Ltd. V. Sunita Rathi, 1998 ACJ 121 (SC) and contended that the applicant has strong case in its favour and as such the delay in filing of the appeal may be condoned.

2.   The sum and substance of the contention of the learned counsel for the applicant is that even if the applicant is unable to make out any cause, much less sufficient cause, by which it has been prevented from filing appeal within the period of limitation, it is a strong case on merits and the delay has to be condoned. That appears to be a fallacious contention. Whatever may be the merits of the matter, the delay in filing the appeal can be condoned by this court only if it is satisfied that the applicant has been prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal within the limitation.

3.   Learned counsel for the opponent-claimant has strongly opposed the civil application. He contended that it is a rule for the insurance company to file appeal beyond limitation. It is understandable that out of hundreds of cases in one case delay is made, where the court may take liberal view. But where rule is to file appeal beyond limitation, this court may not condone the delay. Carrying the matter further, learned counsel for the respondent urged that taking liberal view in such matter by the courts has two fold effect. Firstly, a valuable right which has accrued in favour of the claimants is affected. Secondly, because of the liberal view, the officers of the company take the matter casually and in an irresponsible manner. When delay is condoned, there remains no accountability to the officers. Learned counsel for the respondent submitted that the applicant is free to state any ground for condonation of delay in this application, but the delay is culpable. It is as a result of negligent act on the part of the officers in the matter. Lastly, it is contended that this appeal has been filed against the order of the M.A.C.T. (Main), Jamnagar, in which, under section 140 of the Motor Vehicles Act, Rs. 25,000 has been awarded to the claimant as interim compensation. It is not final adjudication of the matter. Otherwise also, at this stage this court may not interfere with the matter. In case, ultimately in the main case the insurance company is found not liable to pay any compensation to the claimant, then the Tribunal can take note of the situation and pass appropriate order for reimbursement to the insurance company of the amount which has been paid by it under the impugned order of the Tribunal by the owner of the vehicle.

4.   I have given my thoughtful consideration to the submissions made by the learned counsel for the parties. It is not in dispute that section 140 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 is a benevolent pro vision made by Parliament to provide for immediate financial relief to the victims affected by motor vehicle accidents. This liability is based on the basis of 'no fault'. So at this stage, when the claimant prays for grant of interim compensation under section 140 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 the Tribunal has to satisfy whether a case has been made out where negligence rests with the vehicle involved in the accident. At the stage of passing of order for payment of interim compensation to the claimant, merits of the matter need not be gone into as the matter has to be adjudicated finally by the Tribunal. The application for interim compensation has to be decided at the earliest and at this stage there is no question of the parties leading evidence. So keeping in view this aspect of the matter and the benevolent nature of the provision I may now deal with the merits of this application.

5.   The impugned judgment was pronounced by the Tribunal on 13.1.1997. Certified copy of the same has been applied for by the advocate on 1.4.1997. So for the certified copy of the order, application was submitted by the applicant after more than 2 months and 17 days. There is no explanation worth the name by the applicant for this delay in applying for certified copy of the order even in case where the company considered it to be a case wherein an important question is involved. Certified copy of the impugned order was received by the advocate of the applicant on 19.7.1997. The copy has been sent by the advocate to the Divisional Office of the company on 25.8.1997. For the delay in filing of the application for certified copy of the impugned order, the learned counsel for the applicant has submitted that through oversight application could not be submitted in time. But it is difficult to accept such a contention. Affidavit of the advocate has not been produced. What was the inadvertent error has also not been disclosed. Similarly, in support of the fact that the advocate sent certified copy to the company on 25.8.1997 there is no evidence on record. The applicant has not produced the affidavit of the advocate or any other evidence in support of this averment. The applicant has utterly failed to produce any explanation for this long delay of 2 months and 17 days in submitting application for certified copy of the award and more than one month in sending the certified copy by the advocate to its Divisional Office.

6.   The applicant has conveniently remained silent on which date the original policy along with the papers was called for from the advocate. However, these papers were stated to have been received on 29.9.1997 from the advocate by the Divisional Office of the applicant. On 2.9.1997 the Divisional Office has sent the papers to the Regional Office of the applicant. There appears to be some mistake in these two dates, because when the papers were received from the advocate on 29.9.97 there is no question of sending the papers to the Regional Office on 2.9.1997. The applicant has not clarified this position. However, this date, in the facts of this application, appears to be 29.8.1997.

7.   As usual a plea has been taken, which I find in other appeals also of the insurance company dealt with today, that the officer responsible for taking decision at the Divisional Office was on leave for about 15 days and he resumed duty on 15.9.1997. At this stage it is significant to note that conveniently the applicant has not disclosed the name of the responsible officer. Even if it is assumed that the responsible officer was on leave, looking to the fact that the limitation for filing has already expired, some other officer should have taken the decision. The Regional Manager is there, who could have taken decision. Even the responsible officer has to approach the Regional Manager also in the matter of his approval. So when the superior officer was already there, the matter should have been taken care of, more so when the limitation for filing appeal has already expired. Be that as it may. Even after resuming his duties on 15.9.1997 the responsible officer has sent the matter for expert opinion on 27.9.1997. The expert has taken long time in the matter. Under his letter dated 18.10.1997 the expert asked for complete record of the matter including the original policy. Then the Regional Office has called for the papers from its Jamnagar office, which were received on 24.10.1997.1 may pause here for a moment. This plea taken by the applicant seems to be manufactured one. Divisional Office at Jamnagar has called for the papers of the matter along with original policy from the advocate. The papers, along with the policy, were received on 29.9.1997 (sic. 29.8.1997). Expert opinion was received on 18.11.97. The matter was sent to the Head Office. The Head Office has taken almost two months for giving approval in the matter. The time taken by the Head Office for giving approval has not been explained satisfactorily. In the facts and circumstances of this case it is a clear case of dealing with the matter leisurely, carelessly and in casual manner, and such delay cannot be condoned. From the facts aforesaid it is clear that concerned officers at Divisional Office, Regional Office and Head Office were grossly negligent in dealing with this file. When the file came to Divisional Office limitation for filing appeal had already been expired and it is expected of these officers to act promptly in the matter.

8.   Howsoever strong may be the case on merits, the applicant has taken the matter so casually and carelessly that the delay cannot be condoned. Even if the time taken by the expert in giving his opinion is excluded, still there is carelessness and negligence on the part of the officers of the applicant who dealt with the matter for the purpose of filing appeal against the impugned order. In the result, this civil application is dismissed.

 9.  The company has employed highly paid officers both at the Divisional and Regional Offices as well as at the Head Office. The company has its own legal cell, i.e., legal department. Still it is a case where at all levels the matter has been taken casually and leisurely. The Managing Director/Chairman of the applicant company is directed to hold an inquiry in the matter and fix the responsibility of concerned officers of the company and whosoever is found responsible in dealing with this matter which has resulted in delay in filing of the appeal should be dealt with according to law and the loss suffered by the company because of the dismissal of the appeal should be recovered from the officer/officers concerned. This exercise has to be completed by the Managing Director/Chairman of the company within a period of six months from the date of receipt of copy of this order and result thereof should be reported to this court.

Application dismissed.

302_2000 New India Assurance Co. Ltd. V. Vijaybhai Laxmanbhai Solanki

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