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Samati Deb Barma and ors. Vs. State of Tripura and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Subject;Motor Vehicles
CourtGuwahati High Court
Decided On
Case NumberM.A. (F) Nos. 26 to 28 of 1984
Judge
ActsMotor Vehicles Act, 1939 - Sections 92A, 92B, 110A and 92A(3)
AppellantSamati Deb Barma and ors.
RespondentState of Tripura and ors.
Appellant AdvocateS. Deb and S. Dutta, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateA. Chakraborty, Adv.
DispositionAppeals allowed
Excerpt:
.....the claim has been made nor shall the quantum of compensation recoverable in respect of such death or permanent disablement be reduced on the basis of the share of such person in the responsibility for such death or permanent disablement. we also see no reason to hold that the owners of both the motor vehicles involved in the accident ought to have been impleaded and failure to implead one would be fatal, because, as alluded, the liability under section 92a is joint and several. 26 and 28 of 1984, which must be satisfied by the first respondent as the owner of one of the offending vehicles......point of law is involved in all these appeals bearing on the interpretation of section 92a of the motorvehicles act, for short ' the act ', inserted by the amendment act no. 47 of 1982. 2. the appellant in appeal no. 27 of 1984 was permanently disabled as a result of the accident while in the other two appeals, the legal representatives of the deceased have come to this court. in one case, the deceased was sadhan debnath and in the other case bishu kumar deb barma, in both cases, the widows and other legal representatives of the deceased have appealed against the order rendered by the motor accidents claims tribunal on petitions under section 92a which were rejected by a common order passed on april 30, 1984, in t. s. (motor accident) case no. 33 of 1983 out of which appeal no. 28 of.....
Judgment:

T.N. Singh, J.

1. By this common judgment, we propose to dispose of the three appeals for more than one reason. Firstly, because though claims are multiple, the accident is singular and the claims arise out of the same and a singular accident. Secondly, a common point of law is involved in all these appeals bearing on the interpretation of Section 92A of the Motor

Vehicles Act, for short ' the Act ', inserted by the Amendment Act No. 47 of 1982.

2. The appellant in Appeal No. 27 of 1984 was permanently disabled as a result of the accident while in the other two appeals, the legal representatives of the deceased have come to this court. In one case, the deceased was Sadhan Debnath and in the other case Bishu Kumar Deb Barma, In both cases, the widows and other legal representatives of the deceased have appealed against the order rendered by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal on petitions under Section 92A which were rejected by a common order passed on April 30, 1984, in T. S. (Motor Accident) Case No. 33 of 1983 out of which Appeal No. 28 of 1984 arises in this court. Learned District Judge, West Tripufa, Agartala, acting as the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, rejected the claimants' petitions mainly on two grounds: (i) the deceased persons, Sadhan and Bishu, as well as the appellant, Pankhirai, were gratuitous passengers in that they were riding a ' police jeep ' which was not meant for carrying passengers ; and (ii) the accident which saw the death of Sadhan and Bishu and permanent disablement of Pankhirai was actually a collision between two vehicles and, therefore, the other offending vehicle which belonged to the Army Department was equally liable but the Union of India which owned the vehicle, was not made a party.

3. We have perused the impugned judgment and we have no doubt that the Tribunalhad referred to the decisions, Hira Devi v. Bhaba Kanti Das [1977] ACJ 293 (Assam and Nagaland) and Union of India v. Marcia E. Dutta [1982] ACJ 31 (Gauhati) cited before him which have no bearing on the interpretation of Section 92A and no serious consideration appears to be directed to the enactment itself. We have no doubt, on a plain reading of the several provisions embodied in the new Chapter VII-A of the Act, that considerations which are relevant for the purpose of determining a claim simpliciter made under Section 110A of the Act, or for that matter under other cognate provisions or other law, cannot control the purpose and ambit of the newly enacted provision. It bears emphasis that consequent upon introduction of the new Chapter, several consequential amendments have been made in other cognate provisions of the Act which are sufficiently indicative of the independent and comprehensive nature of the new provision. It is true that the same forum--Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal--is empowered to entertain a claim under Section 92A as appears from the Explanation appended to Section 110. But that is all. The Tribunal, though it can similarly make an ' award ' in respect of a claim under Section 92A, as per the newly added proviso to Section 110B, the latter rivets attention only on the provisions embodied in Section 92A for the purpose of determination of the claim for

compensation thereunder as is explicitly stated in the proviso. Indeed, the proviso contemplates that such ' claims ' shall be disposed of in accordance with the provisions of Chapter VII-A ' .

4. Let us now read the crucial provisions which deal with ' liability without fault ' which purport is made clear not only by the Chapter's caption but in the supplemental substantive provision enacted in Section 92B, which contemplates that the interim and instant relief sought to be provided under Section 92A was not in derogation of not only the remedy available under any other law but under any other provision of the Act itself. It is contemplated under Section 92B that the right to claim compensation under Section 92A in respect of death or permanent disablement shall be in addition to 'any other right', which right and its character, are also with great care and caution indicated within parenthesis by the Legislature stating 'hereinafter in this section referred to as the right on the principle of fault' to make the distinction clear. Before we refer to the language of Section 92A itself, we may at once say that the Legislature advisedly created a new liability 'without fault' in the new provision and this liability was, therefore, made limited as respects-the financial burden and also expressly specified as respects the persons burdened. There is no doubt, therefore, that this interim relief was sought to achieve a wholesome salutary purpose by providing the minimum instant relief to the needy and deprived, to the destitute, hapless and helpless who had become victims paradoxically of the advanced technology of the modern age. Needless to recall in this connection, the provisions of the hew Chapter came to be enacted as a response to judicial clamour for such a measure orchestrated at the highest level in more than one reported decision of the apex court reminding the State of its duties as a ' Welfare State ' to respond to pragmatic and humanitarian considerations.

5. The language of Section 92A, in our opinion, is terse but pregnant and forceful and leaves little room to make any dent on the inexorable mandate thereof. Sub-section (I) contemplates that in the case of death or permanent disablement of any person which ' has resulted from an accident arising out of the use oj motor vehicle or motor vehicles ' , the owner or owners thereof shall be ' jointly and severally ' liable to pay compensation thereunder. The provision is vocally comprehensive. There may be an accident involving several vehicles. In such cases, the liability shall be several but may also be joint. Several because, instant relief has to be provided and the Legislature intended that it should be available from the source which can suffer the immediate burden and not necessarily from all sources. Sub-section (2), therefore, fixes the

limit of the total amount of compensation that could be recovered in a claim preferred under Section 92A consistent with the object of the provision. The ceiling in the case of death of a person is put at Rs. 15,000 and in the case of permanent disablement at Rs. 7,500. However, the core provisions are Sub-sections (3) and (4) which we extract:

(3) In any claim for compensation under Sub-section (1), the claim--ant shall not be required to plead and establish that the death or permanent disablement in respect of which the claim has been made was due to any wrongful act, neglect or default of the owner or owners of the vehicle or vehicles concerned or of any other person.

(4) A claim for compensation under Sub-section (1) shall not he defeated by reason of any- wrongful act, neglect or default of the person in respect of whose death or permanent disablement the claim has been made nor shall the quantum of compensation recoverable in respect of such death or permanent disablement be reduced on the basis of the share of such person in the responsibility for such death or permanent disablement.

6. The language of the provisions extracted above is so transparent that the legislative intent is not left hidden in any manner. The liability under Section 92A is made indefeasible, peremptory and total. The question of proof is left apart; it is not required even to be pleaded that the claim for compensation under Section 92A was justifiable on tortious considerations. No wrongful act neglect or default of the owner or owners of the vehicle or vehicles concerned or any other person has to be pleaded or proved. The mere fact that death or permanent disablement took place in which one or more motor vehicles is or are involved giving rise to the claim, is sufficient to raise a liability in terms of Sub-section (3) of Section 92A. This position is rather buttressed by what is to be found in Sub-section (4) which totally negates the concept of contributory negligence. In our opinion, therefore, a claim made under Section 92A cannot be rejected by the Tribunal if it finds that the claim arises out of an accident in which one or more motor vehicles is or are involved resulting in death or permanent disablement of any person. By creating ' no fault ' liability, the provision subserved a humanitarian object matching social realities.

7. In the instant case, as alluded, the Tribunal misconceived the scope of Section 92A and ignored the above crucial consideration by directing its attention to irrelevant factors. It is the admitted position, neither denied before the Tribunal nor before us, that all the three claims arose out of an accident in which two motor vehicles were involved. Whether or not the deceased, Sadhan and Bishu, and the injured, Pankhirai, were gratuitous passengers was a matter which was totally foreign to the

determination of the claim under Section 92A. We also see no reason to hold that the owners of both the motor vehicles involved in the accident ought to have been impleaded and failure to implead one would be fatal, because, as alluded, the liability under Section 92A is joint and several. Even in the absence of one, the claim could be adjudicated and even a single owner of one of the vehicles would be saddled with the entire liability.

8. For all the foregoing reasons, we have no doubt that in the instant case all the claims were rejected by the Tribunal on an erroneous view of Section 92A of the Act and the impugned orders passed in all the three cases are, therefore, not sustainable in law. All the orders passed on April 30, 1984, in the several cases are accordingly set aside.

9. We direct that the first respondent, State of Tripura, shall make a cumulative payment of Rs. 15,000 in each case to the legal representatives of each of the deceased persons, Sadhan and Bishu, as per claim preferred by them in Appeals Nos. 26 and 28 of 1984, which must be satisfied by the first respondent as the owner of one of the offending vehicles. In so far as the permanently disabled appellant, Pankhirai, is concerned, his claim made in Appeal No. 27 of 1984 can be and has to be settled within the statutory limit and accordingly the first respondent (State of Tripura) shall pay him a sum of Rs. 7,500. All payments, as directed, shall be made within a period of two months. However, we are also to take care that the claimants are not deprived of the benevolent succour of the provision of Section 110CC which, as a general and jurisdictional provision, must apply to all proceedings instituted in the Tribunal's forum. Accordingly, we direct that the amounts shall be paid along with interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the date of filing of the claim petitions, i.e. November 24, 1983, until payment is made.

10. In the result, all these appeals are allowed as above. However, we have noted that Mr. Chakraborty, learned State counsel, was quite appreciative of the position that the provision of Section 92A must be benevolently construed. Accordingly, in the facts and circumstances of the case, we make no order as to costs.

11. Let a typed copy of this order be furnished to Mr. Chakraborty so that he may take steps to ensure early payments.


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