Monday, June 14, 2021

MACT cannot reject accident claim petitions citing failure to implead owners or insurers of all vehicles involved in accident: Madras High Court

The claimant is entitled to sue both or any one of the joint tortfeasors to recover the entire compensation for the accident because the liability of joint tortfeasors is joint and several, the Court ruled.

Relying on the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling in Khenyei v. New India Assurance Company Ltd, Others, Justice K Murali Shankar noted that in cases of composite negligence, the claimant is entitled to sue both or any one of the joint tortfeasors to recover the entire compensation for the accident. This is because the liability of joint tortfeasors is joint and several.

"No doubt, if all the parties, the owner and insurer of both the vehicles involved in the accident are parties to the claim petition, then it will be convenient for all and also for the Tribunal to decide the liability. But, the claimant, being the dominus litis cannot be compelled to add other parties, who are not impleaded earlier and it is for the claimants to decide and in case, if the case put forth by the claimants as against the impleaded parties is not true, then they have to suffer the dismissal of the petition," the judgment explained.

The judge also found that a 2018 Division Bench decision of the Madras High Court in The Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., Kumbakonam v. Thirugnanasambandam was passed without considering the Supreme Court's ruling in Khenyei's case. Therefore, the 2018 High Court ruling was held to be per incuriam and not having binding effect.

The May 8 ruling was passed while allowing two revision petitions against the MACT's return of motor accident claims citing the failure to implead the owner and insurer of two-wheelers involved in motor accidents. 

In one case, a lorry was alleged to have caused the accident by hitting the two-wheeler from behind. In the another case, a car was alleged to have caused an accident through a similar collision with a two-wheeler. In both cases, the owner and insurer of the two-wheelers were not impleaded, whereas the owner and insurer of the allegedly offending vehicles were impleaded. 

The MACT cited the Madras High Court's 2018 ruling to return the claim petitions while directing the claimants to first implead the owner and insurer of the two-wheelers.

In the 2018 ruling, the High Court had directed tribunals in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry not to number any claim petitions without impleading the other vehicle which was also involved in the accident, although the direction was not applicable to hit-and-run cases where the tortfeasor could not be identified. 

Justice Murali Shankar in the present case concluded that this 2018 ruling was rendered without taking into consideration the Supreme Court's binding judgment in Khenyei's case. 

It was also noted that the Khenyei judgment was subsequently followed by another Division Bench of the High Court in United India Insurance Company Limited v. D.Hemavathi and others (2017). 

Further, in Tata AIG General Insurance Company Limited v. Kaveri and others (2020), a High Court Division Bench had observed that not impleading the owner or insurer of the other vehicle will not dis-entitle the claimants from getting compensation from the insurance company. The insurance company can recover the compensation paid to the claimants by initiating separate legal proceedings against the negligent driver, the High Court had added, relying on the Supreme Court's Khenyei ruling. 

In this backdrop, the High Court clarified:

"In view of the law laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court, the Tribunal has no power or authority, directing the claimants to implead the owner and insurer of the other vehicle. Hence, the order returning the claim petitions is not proper and is very much against the legal dictum laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court and hence, the same are set aside and the Tribunal is directed to take the claim petitions on file, if they are otherwise in order."

The criminal revision petitions before the Court were allowed and the MACT was directed to take on file the claim petitions earlier returned, if they are otherwise in order. 

Justice Shankar also directed that the May 8 ruling be placed before the High Court Chief Justice so that it may be circulated to tribunals in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. 

"It is brought to my notice that Motor Accidents Claims Petitions are being returned by several Courts in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry citing the (2018) decision of the Division Bench. In order to clarify the position of law, thereby refrain the claimants from filing revisions and thereby save the time of the High Court, as well be of reprieve to all concerned, this order may be circulated to all the Tribunals. Hence, the Registry is hereby directed to place the same before The Hon'ble Chief Justice for appropriate orders, for circulation to all the Tribunals in the State of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry," the Court said. 

No comments:

Post a Comment