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Report No. 119

1.5. One other ugly feature of the legal system was also sought to be cured by making 'Third Party Risk Insurance' compulsory. Earlier, cases came to light where an owner of a motor vehicle, with a view to avoiding his liability in the event of an accident, either registered a vehicle in the name of a driver or a man of no means with the result that an award of compensation may become infructuous. To avoid this contingency, section 94 of the Motor Vehicles Act provided that no person shall use, except as a passenger, or cause or allow any other person to use a motor vehicle in a public place, unless there is in force in relation to the use of the vehicle by that person or that other person, as the case may be, a policy of insurance complying with the requirements of chapter VIII of the Act.

It was assumed that on account of the combined operation of the provisions prescribing compulsory third party risk insurance and a special forum like the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, claimants will be able to expeditiously obtain compensation where it is due and where it is just and fair to be awarded. Once a policy of insurance as provided by section 94 is in force, it was assumed that the recovery would be as well easy in that the Insurance Company would satisfy the award as provided in section 96 of the Motor Vehicles Act. The assumption, of course, by subsequent events stands badly belied.

1.6. The Law Commission of India recommended insertion of section 109A(1) in the Motor Vehicles Act to extend protection to victims of 'hit and run' accidents, where the person liable to pay such compensation or his whereabouts cannot be ascertained after reasonable effort by providing that in such an event, the person entitled to such compensation shall be entitled to receive it from the State.1 This recommendation like many others has not found favour with the Government but solatium fund has been set up under section 109A of the Motor Vehicles Act, from which compensation can be paid to the victims of 'hit and run' accidents.

1. LCI, 51st Report.

1.7. By 1980, a wind was blowing that compensation to the victims of motor accidents should be by way of social security and the liability to pay the same must be 'No-fault' liability. The law, as it stands at present, save the provision in Chapter VIIA, inserted by the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 1982, enables the victim or the dependants of the victim in the event of death to recover compensation on proof of fault of the person liable to pay compensation and which fault caused the harm such as bodily injury or death. In the event of death of a victim of a motor accident and the consequent harm caused to his dependants, the question whether the person responsible for the action causing harm had committed a fault or it was an inevitable accident, is hardly relevant from the point of view of victim or his/her dependants.

The expanding notions of social security and social justice envisaged that the liability to pay compensation must be a 'No-fault' liability. The Law Commission of India undertook an examination of this concept and submitted its report in May, 1980.1 The Law Commission recommended that a new section 92A should be inserted in the Motor Vehicles Act, by which the doctrine of liability without fault should be introduced in the Act and strict liability imposed in regard to death or bodily injury caused by an accident of the nature specified in section 110(1) with the ceiling on 'No-fault' liability of Rs. 1,00,000.

It appears that this recommendation was accepted with a modification by providing 'No-fault' liability in the event of death in the amount of Rs. 15,000 and in respect of permanent disablement of any person, upto Rs. 7,500. It appears that the recommendation as to strict liability does not appear to have been accepted. There were some other recommendations, but while dealing with the question of jurisdiction of Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, an observation has been made which needs to be examined in the light of the present-day situation. In Chapter XVI bearing the heading, "Jurisdiction and limitation" under the subtitle 'Limits of Jurisdiction', paragraph 16.2 reads as under:-

"As to territorial jurisdiction, section 110A(2) provides for the filing of an application in a tribunal within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the accident occurred. This sub-section has raised no problem so far."2

It would be pointed out that this provision works hardship and blocks access to justice. Section 110A(2) reads as under:-

"Every application under sub-section (1) shall be made to the Claims Tribunal having jurisdiction over the area in which the accident occurred, and shall be in such form and shall contain such particulars as may be prescribed."

There is a proviso which is not material for the present purpose. The present report concerns itself with the impact of this section. It would be pointed out in the course of the report that it has proved to be both a geographic, economic and psychological barrier to access to justice, and these barriers need to be removed.

1. LCI, 85th Report.

2. LCI, 85th Report, Chapter XVI, para. 16.2

Access to Exclusive Forum for Victims of Motor Accidents under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 Back

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