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Saturday, December 1, 2018

road accidents - compensation - MACT - bogus petitions and sad state of affairs !

5922 is a random number – but is creating more than ripples in legal circles.  It is not an even number or a prime number.  It is not a perfect square number as its square root is not an integer.  The square no. of 5922 is 35070084 ! ~ this is no post on Mathematics but on a MACT petition !

As it rained heavily this morning in Chennai, there was water logging at some places, the there were traffic-jams – all city roads are clogged with traffic – with so many two-wheelers, autos, cars, trucks, buses and more  .. .. as the no. of vehicles on road grow there are accidents as well – people sadly are injured and unfortunate few lose their lives.

The usage of automobiles on any Public place is regulated by statute.  One would be surprised to know that such regulations have been in place more than a century ago – the "Indian Motor Vehicles Act, 1914" was a central legislation passed and applicable in British India. Some princely states followed suit, with local modifications.  It had 18 sections, and gave local governments the responsibility of registering and licensing vehicles and motorists, and enforcing regulations.  It was replaced by the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, which came into force in 1940.  More was to happen with the passage of ‘The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988’,  an Act of the Parliament of India that  came into force from 1 July 1989. For exercising the legislative provisions of the Act, the Government of India made the Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989.

There are Motor Accident Claims Tribunals [MACT] set up at every district level for dealing with   matters related to compensation of motor accidents victims or their next of kin .The Tribunal deal with claims relating to loss of life/property and injury cases resulting from Motor Accidents.  There are innumerable petitions filed in various MACTs all over India – and every day Insurers are satisfying awards of lakhs of crores of rupees to victims of motor vehicle accidents that spilled blood on roads.   

MACT OPs (petitions) are but gory details of road accidents, listing out the penury and suffering of victims, seeking monetary compensation – though human life, as they say, is invaluable.  OP 5922 of 2018 is not just another petition, but is shaking the legal corridors.

                                Taking strong exception to the failure of the Inspector of Police, High Court Police Station, to comply with his orders dt.19.7.2018,  to hand over the case diary to SP  relating to a complaint of 56 Court bundles- filed by an Advocate   missing from Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals, Chennai- Hon’ble Justice P N Prakash had called upon the Inspector of Police to be present in Court on 10th Oct,2018, at 14.15 hrs to explain the delay, by his orders dt.3rd Oct.  The Inspector of Police   presented himself in person and sought excuse for the delay. The Court was told that the case diary was since handed over to CB CID (Metro)  & an Investigation Officer was also appointed to take over the complaint.

Learned Judge expressed shock that in a serious crime as this, where court bundles of innocent motor accident victims/litigants had gone missing that no serious attention was bestowed and therefore expressed his hope that at least now they would apprehend the culprits and bring them to book. The learned judge felt that if court bundles could be stolen from a court of law out of  possible rivalry between advocates, it was a dangerous trend which needed to be put an end to as quickly as possible.  These observations were made  in the course of his hearing the case filed by a private insurance company   on whose complaint  relating  to FIRs being tampered with and Double/Treble  Claims being  filed for the same accident, Justice K.Chandru (Retd) was appointed as Expert Body to examine the issues arising in this regard.  It was noted by the Court that out of 353 double claims, for which Expert Body had sent notices to advocates/claimants – nearly 111 of them appear to have been withdrawn or allowed to be dismissed for default, which was proof of the taint in this   accidents  claims jurisdiction.
Sad is the state of affairs or what has surfaced, while many fear that there could much under the carpet.  The reported 356 bogus cases relating to 5 private Insurers are valued at Rs.60.71 crores approx. – the value is threatening and the fact that case bundles went missing from Small causes court Chennai is bemusing.  The Court appointed a Retired Judge to examine this and suggest remedial measures.  At the interim stage itself, around 72 Ops valued at 8.90 crores have been either withdrawn or dismissed as not pressed.
What should surprise the legal fraternity is that the Expert panel suggested suspension of 7 advocates (named in the interim report), though the Court wants to refer the matter to Bar Council affording opportunity to explain their stance.  The learned Judge has framed Qs required to be answered by each of the mentioned advocates, who have been called upon to appear in person or through pleader before the Court on 13.12.2018.  The Court Order also lists out 76 MCOPs as duplicate claims requiring to be stayed. 

On instructions from the Private Insurer, Mr N Vijayaraghavan, learned standing counsel, submitted that 4 PSU Insurers were informed about the proceedings pending before the Expert body pursuant to the directions of the Court and they were also advised to conduct enquiries on duplicate claims pending against them and submit their responses to the Expert body, despite which none of the Insurers approached the body, which is recorded as indeed strange.  In fact, the Expert body had sent notices for responses to the 4 PSU Insurers.. .. .. in a strong noting the order of 15.11.2018 passed by Hon’ble Justice Mr PN Prakash observed that ‘perhaps they too have enough skeletons in their cupboard, which they do not want the World to know.  It should be borne in mind that they are custodians of public wealth and they cannot be permitted to sweep the dirt  under the carpet and sleep as if nothing is affecting them’.

The order records that in such perspective of the matter, the interests will be served if a copy of the order is sent to four PSU for them to wake up at least now and conduct inhouse enquiries to unearth duplicate claims.  It further stated that if they still stand to continue to be a Rip van winkle, Court may have to draw an inference that officials of public sector are in league with bogus claimants and appropriate criminal action be initiated against them too.

Strong words indeed – and the situation is really alarming.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
20th Nov. 2018.

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