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Sunday, September 1, 2019

MACAD ~ Court directive on Annuity in MACT claim payments !!

Behind every petition filed before Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal (MACT) – there is real life  incidence of blood spilt on road, broken bones, loss of breadwinner, mental agony and abject penury.  So never look at the value of a petition or that award – it would perhaps still be no compensation for the human life lost or for the injuries sustained in that gory accident involving a Motor vehicle. Do you have any fixed deposits ? – any deposit with a Bank in particular and have you ever heard of a type of Scheme - Fixed Deposit product named as ‘Motor Accident Claims Annuity Deposit (MACAD) product’

Not everything is holy and fair .. .. not the road accident and the money in MACT claims – in an attempt to cleanse the motor accident claims jurisdiction fraught with an unholy nexus between lawyers, police and others much to the disadvantage of the victims, the Madras High Court on Wednesday ordered that henceforth compensation awarded by motor accident claims tribunals in Tamil Nadu as well as Puducherry should be deposited only in annuity schemes but for exceptional circumstances.Justice P.N. Prakash directed the Registrar General of the High Court C. Kumarappan to issue a circular to all tribunals within two weeks for implementation of the recommendation made by an Expert Body headed by Justice K. Chandru, a retired judge of the court. He made it clear that the Motor Accidents Claim Annuity Deposit Scheme (MACAD) should become operational in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry from October 1.

Even the quantum agreed upon through alternate dispute resolution mechanisms such as Lok Adalat and Mediation should get deposited only in the annuity scheme, the judge ordered. He further directed the State Crime Records Bureau as well as the station house officers of all police stations in the State to continue to upload online the First Information Reports (FIRs) and connected documents related to motor accidents cases.

For the record, it all began with a Criminal OP involving a Private Insurance Company vs. Inspector of Police. That was a case filed by the insurer seeking re-investigation of a motor accident claim, alleging false implication of an insured vehicle.  There were direct references to Detailed Accident Report (DAR) of the Court  made in National Insurance Co. Ltd., vs. The Director, CBI.  Madras High Court, in their own words, considered it a duty to carry it forward as law of the land under Article 141 of the Constitution of India. It ordered notice to the Office of the Director General of Police, who to their lasting credit, readily responded and offered their fullest cooperation. The  State Crime Records Bureau (S.C.R.B.), Chennai, also pitched in, having created a  digital platform on the CCTNS network for the Tamil Nadu Police website. Not merely the matter of uploading FIR,  they were exploring the possibility of uploading all related documents relating to motor accidents claims as well, for access to all stakeholders. The DAR regime has been implemented in Tamil Nadu and statistics, vindicate its efficacy.

The Court was aghast at the exposure of insurer  confronted by 3 separate and independent motor accident claims for the death of one person,  two in Chennai and one in Thiruvallur, totaling more than a crore of rupees in all. It was further noticed that the FIR may have been tampered with, to falsely implicate an insured lorry. The DAR platform revealed that the details of an earlier accident involving the same lorry were deviously deployed by mischief makers, which included a tout or a broker masquerading as an advocate clerk too, one Stephen.

            Then began the search by insurer for similar double/duplicate or as in this instance, triple claims too, for the same victim. They came up with 353 MCOPs of such genre, associated with just 5 private insurers out of 19 licensed motor insurers in Tamil Nadu, including 4 Public Sector entities. The matter was referred to the CB-CID as sought by the insurer. Devastating facts tumbled out on the nefarious practices in this beneficial jurisdiction, tarnishing the very purity of administration of justice. The conscience of this Court was shocked and, on an application filed by the insurer, by order dated 19.07.2018, Justice K. Chandru (Retd.) was appointed as the Expert Body with specific Terms of Reference as follows.:

1.      to examine duplicate claims from the same accident – and is there   any evidence to suggest that briefs are sold to counsel for monetary consideration?
2.      To suggest means of securing better access to info reg motor accidents by auto upload of info reg regn of FIR and all relevant records
3.      To suggest ways to promote settlement culture in Insurance companies towards compensation and voluntary deposit of compensation with Tribunals obviating need to litigate
4.      To devise ways of eliminating middlemen and ensure in-built mechanism for making the compensation easily available to the family of the victim of a road accident, such as annuity scheme
5.      To suggest proforma for application in helping MACT to elicit requisite details with minimal needs for oral evidence
6.      To prepare templates for shorter judgements and quicker disposal with just adequate details with standardized formats for death & injury cases.

The judgement of Honble Justice PN Prakash reads :  Be that as it may, Justice K. Chandru (Retd.) as the Expert Body, with the able assistance from a Junior Advocate in Mr. J. Narayanasamy and Liaison Officer in Mr. P. Premanand, an enthusiastic official with the petitioner insurer, has turned out as comprehensive a report as one anticipated from this conscientious Judge. The Report radiates with diligence, dedication and illuminating analysis. Painstakingly and laboriously, the Expert Body has compiled and collated the gathered materials from correspondences with claimants, advocates, insurance companies and Claims Tribunals too, and deciphered the contained content and submitted a report for posterity, one would unhesitatingly opine. Kudos are due to the retired Judge and his small team. This Court and the purity of this jurisdiction owe a huge sense of gratitude to the Expert Body for its service. It is fervently hoped that the powers that be would do well to take this service on a platter and come up with measures to cleanse the dirt from this critical jurisdiction and change the face of it, for the lasting benefit of all the stakeholders. Too much has gone wrong for too long and the final report of the Expert Body dated 05.08.2019 should be latched on to by the State of Tamil Nadu and it is requested the learned Advocate General may take personal interest and see that the Report’s findings are implemented on the ground in a manner befitting its credibility.

            Out of the 6 specific Terms of Reference, one became a fait accompli as the Expert Body has gracefully admitted. That is the reference relating to protection of just compensation in the hands of victims by providing for an Annuities Scheme. This would ensure that the victims would have total control over the compensation and fate and not suffer leakage. The Expert Body's extract from the decision of the Supreme Court dated 05.03.2019 in M.R.Krishnamurthy vs. New India Assurance Co. Ltd. may be apt. “The Supreme Court in its order had directed introduction of Annuity Scheme so as to ensure receipt of compensation in safe hands of victim and / or kids and kins of victims. Vide order dated 6th November, 2017 in Jaiprakash case (SLP (Civil)No.11801-11804), this Court modified its order dated 13th May, 2016 and directed all States to implement the Modified Claims Tribunal Agreed Procedure formulated by Delhi High Court on 12th December, 2014. The copy of the Modified Claims Tribunal Agreed Procedure was directed to be circulated to the Registrar General of each High Court for necessary compliance.

In taking this forward, the  Expert Body had a detailed discussion with the officials of the Indian Bank. All nationalised banks, forming part of the list and letter dated 05.01.2019 from IBA were bound, ready and willing, too fulfil their obligations in Tamil Nadu also. It was pointed out that already the Indian Bank, had a Branch inside the High Court compound and had a vast network in Tamil Nadu, as well as in India. The other nationalised banks are also equally well placed to carry out the “MACAD – MACT SB”, Scheme in Tamil Nadu where thousands of claims are pending before various claims tribunals. Once Indian Banks’ Association committed itself for implementation of MACAD Scheme on PAN India basis, EB is satisfied that it would suffice to meet the requirements, to issue a direction to all Claims Tribunals in Tamil Nadu. MACAD scheme as conceived and put in place is to protect the interest of innocent motor accidents victims. Implementation of MACAD Scheme would prevent and avoid leakage and would  also ensure that investments being made by practitioners to catch clients and interact with touts/ brokers and even pay advances as emergency funds to victims, may cease. If compensation amount is protected, preserved and paid under MACAD Scheme, lumpsum payment would be avoided.  

Do read this interesting EPILOGUE also :
                                                                  Before parting with these proceedings, a few observations may be appropriate. This Court is aware that all is not well with this jurisdiction. It is a matter of common knowledge. But, it now stands exposed thanks to these proceedings. Whatever little efforts could be taken to cleanse the systemic faults have been taken. It appears that there  are perceptible changes on the ground. It augurs well for the future. Miracles do not happen overnight. Change is always slow. It is a long winding process. We all belong to a noble profession to which several freedom fighters belonged. They sacrificed their professional and personal interest for the cause of the nation. Now, if we choose to sully the purity of administration, for our commercial self, pelf and aggrandizement, it would be a lasting blot on the nobility in the profession. Time to pivot from the bad. The final report dated 05.08.2019 of the Expert Body is a huge opportunity on offer.

Before bringing down the curtain, this Court deems it necessary to accept the explanation and accede to the request of Mr. S. Arunkumar, learned Standing Counsel for National Insurance Company Ltd. and United India Insurance Company Ltd. and Mr. S. Manohar, learned Standing Counsel for New India Assurance Company Ltd. and The Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., to expunge the remarks made against them in the order dated 15.11.2018.  It is their apologetic explanation that the local office in Chennai had failed to apprise the Head Office of the notice ordered to them, which is accepted and the remarks expunged.  This order will stand inchoate if this Court fails to place on record its gratitude and deep appreciation for the assistance rendered by Mr.N.Vijayaraghavan in the navigation of these proceedings.  This Court is informed that he had also assisted the Expert Body and the State Government, including the police, with his valuable inputs.  Indubitably, he stands as a beacon light in the Motor Vehicles jurisdiction, offering his services, pro bono, to every seeker.  His indefatigable energy and commitment to the cause deserves commendation.

So here comes the – MACAD (Motor Accident Claims Annuity Deposit) with the purpose that one time lump sum amount, as decided by the Court / Tribunal, deposited to receive the same in Equated Monthly Instalments (EMIs), comprising a part of the principal amount as well as interest.  It would apply to all individuals including minors; no Maximum limit of deposit – based on min monthly annuity of Rs.1000/- ; Tenure is 36 to 120 months @ rates of interest prevalent as on the date of receipt of funds for booking and as per tenure. No loan or advance would be allowed nor premature closure unless permitted by Court.   In case of death of the claimant, payment to be given to the nominee. The nominee has an option to continue with the annuity or seek pre-closure. Interest payment is subject to TDS as per Income Tax Rules. Form 15G/15H can be submitted by the Depositor to get exemption from Tax deduction.

~ and before we read this, Law Association at Chennai has unanimously resolved not to participate in the ADR settlement process, Lok Adalat  and the like in view of the proposed implementation of annuity scheme from 1.10.2019 as per the judgment  of Hon’ble High Court in the impugned case.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
22nd Aug 2019.

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