Form separate tribunals to hear motor accident claims: Madras High Court
Chennai, March 18 (PTI): A special bench of the Madras High Court has suggested to the state and central governments to constitute tribunals exclusively to deal with motor accidents claims cases.
There are 322 Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals (MACTs) in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry dealing with 1,57,719 motor claims original petition (MCOP) cases as on January 31 this year involving thousands of crores of rupees.
The bench of Justices P N Prakash and Abdul Quddhose gave the suggestion, while passing orders on a suo motu taken up writ petition praying for a direction to the authorities concerned to audit the motor accident case funds in all districts, lodge criminal complaints against recalcitrant officials and monitor the investigation in the matters till filing of charge sheets.
“We have not yet opened the Pandora’s box but have only scratched the surface of the MCOP jurisdiction and that itself shows the existence of a cancerous tumour beneath, which is corroding the vitals of the civil and criminal courts, which are vested with MCOP jurisdiction. It is, therefore, imperative that honest judicial officers and staff are protected from contamination,” the bench said.
In this connection, the bench referred to the recent ruling of the Supreme Court in Rasmita Biswal case in which it had suggested that the appellate jurisdiction of the High Courts regarding MCOP cases should be taken away and conferred on separate appellate tribunals so that the High Courts could concentrate on constitutional matters.
Taking a cue from the aforesaid suggestion of the apex court, the bench suggested that the civil and criminal courts could also be divested of the powers to try MCOP cases and instead, like the District Consumer Commission, separate tribunals manned by retired district judges can be established for dealing with such cases in all the districts.
“The awards of such tribunals can be appealed against in the Appellate Tribunal that has been suggested by the Supreme Court,” the bench said.
The bench also noted that a new dispensation under Chapter 11 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, read with the amended Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, is taking effect from April 1 this year. There is going to be a tectonic change in the practice and the procedure in the maintenance
registers, conduct of cases, maintenance of bank accounts, receiving award amounts, investing them and disbursement of the same.
“In the light of this new dispensation from April 1 and the Motor Accident Claims Annuity Deposit (MACAD) scheme, the existing Rule 20 of the TNMVACT Rules, necessarily requires amendment,” the bench said.
It suggested the Chief Justice to direct the Registrar-General to address the government to make necessary amendments to the TNMVACT rules in sync with the amended Central Motor Vehicles Rules.
The bench was specially constituted by the then Chief Justice in June last year to audit’ this jurisdiction, in the wake of misappropriation of over Rs 1.51 crore by a court official (now retired) in Pattukottai MACT in Thanjavur district.
Three internal committees were constituted to inspect the MACTs in the handling of compensation deposited in MACTs by insurance companies and transport corporations and it was found that there were over 2.25 lakh cases pending that involved more than Rs 3,524 crore in fixed deposits. Accrued interest to the extent of Rs 40 crore were lying with the MACTs, belonging to thousands of accident victims, for several decades.
The bench also noted that there were frauds committed in Chennai, Virudhunagar, Pudukottai, Villupuram, and Tiruppur. Criminal cases had been registered against the court officials, law practitioners (advocates) and referred to the CB-CID. Arrests had also been made.
Among other things, the bench suggested to the Chief Justice, being the administrative head of the state judiciary, to direct the Registrar-General to issue a circular to all the MACTs for lapsing the accrued interest in various banks in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, to the respective governments in terms of the extant rules.
In addition to this, the RG shall direct all the principal district judges (PDJs) to conduct inspection of office records of Additional District Judges and Special Judges appointed under various special enactments.
The PDJs shall conduct inspection of records of their own courts periodically. They shall issue a direction to all the Additional District Courts, Additional Sub Courts and Special Courts, which are designated as MACTs, to open separate bank accounts for themselves (be it savings or current accounts) depending upon the direction of the Supreme Court in Bajaj Alliance General Insurance Co Ltd and maintain the said accounts together with the relevant registers.
The presiding officers of all the MACTs shall avail the online account viewing facility by giving their mobile numbers and KYC particulars and on their transfer, the new incumbents shall furnish the details and continue with the process, the bench added.