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Bessarlal Laxmichand Chirawala Vs. Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Greater Bombay - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSpl. Civil Appln. No. 464 of 1965 with Civil Appln. No. 759 of 1965
Judge
Reported inAIR1970Bom337; (1970)72BOMLR482; ILR1970Bom1034; 1970MhLJ742
ActsMotor Vehicles Act, 1939 - Sections 110-A, 111-A and 110-A(2); Bombay Motor Vehicles Rule, 1959 - Rule 291; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908 - Order 30, Rule 10; Constitution of India - Article 227; Bombay Municipal Corporation Act - Sections 3, 4, 5(1), 5(2), 63, 460-A, 460-PP and 527
AppellantBessarlal Laxmichand Chirawala
RespondentMotor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Greater Bombay
Appellant AdvocateB.J. Kapadia, ;V.K. Tembe and ;J.G. Pradhan, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateK.H. Bhaba, Adv., i.b., Mulla and Mulla and ;Craigie, Blunt and Caroe, Advs.
Excerpt:
.....defect of failure to men-tion appropriate names of the parties who would be liable to pay ultimately compensation to the claimant was never intended to defeat the claims filed under the act the tribunal has failed to realise the true effect of the provisions in the act in connection with the form of the applications for compensation and its responsibilities in ascertaining the correct facts regarding the parties who should be liable to pay compensation to the claimants under the applications made in the prescribed form. the tribunal's judgment is thus entirely devoid of good reasoning and is liable to be set aside......accidents claims tribunal dismissing the petitioner's application for compensation as against the bombay municipal corporation, being the fourth respondent in this petition. 2. the relevant facts are as follows:--on october 3, 1962, as a result of collision with a motor transport bus of b. e. s.t. undertaking, the petitioner was knocked down and suffered from fracture, of the neck of the left femur and certain other injuries. having regard to the fact that the b. e. s. t. undertaking was of the ownership of the corporation, the petitioner served a statutory notice under section 527 of the bombay municipal corporation act on the general manager, b. e. s. t. undertaking. the petitioner then in accordance with the provisions in section 110-a of the motor vehicles act instituted the.....
Judgment:

K.K. Desai, J.

1. In this petition under Article 227 of the Constitution the petitioner questions the legality of the order dated December 10, 1964 made by Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal dismissing the petitioner's application for compensation as against the Bombay Municipal Corporation, being the fourth respondent in this petition.

2. The relevant facts are as follows:--On October 3, 1962, as a result of collision with a motor transport bus of B. E. S.T. Undertaking, the petitioner was knocked down and suffered from fracture, of the neck of the left femur and certain other injuries. Having regard to the fact that the B. E. S. T. Undertaking was of the ownership of the Corporation, the petitioner served a statutory notice under Section 527 of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act on the General Manager, B. E. S. T. Undertaking. The petitioner then in accordance with the provisions in Section 110-A of the Motor Vehicles Act instituted the application No. 649 of 1962 before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal claiming compensation amounting in all to Rs. 86,000/-. In paragraph 15 of the application he mentioned, according to the prescribed form, the name and address o the owner of the vehicle. The name mentioned was 'B. E. S. T. Bombay'.

3. In paragraph 3 of the written statement filed on or about March 19, 1964 on behalf of the driver Abdul Gafar Ismail and the 'B. E. S. T. Undertaking, Bombay' and sworn by the General Manager of the above undertaking, it was contended that theB. E. S. T, Undertaking was not a legalentity and could not be sued and/or made a party to the application and the claim against the B. E. S. T. Undertaking should, therefore, be dismissed with costs.

4. In consequence of the above contention, by oral application made on June 23, 1964, the petitioner asked for amendment or the application by joining the Bombay Municipal Corporation in the title as the third opposite party. That application was granted on June 23, 1964 subject, however, to the question of limitation. The petitioner was permitted to file an affidavit in connection with the application for amendment and the Municipal Corporation was given liberty to file an affidavit in reply.

5. The petitioner then filed affidavit dated July 4, 1964, whilst on behalf of the driver Abdul Gafar and the B. E. S. T. Undertaking and the Municipal Corporation, an affidavit dated September 29, 1964 was filed by the Accident Officer of the B. E. S. T. Undertaking of the Municipal Corporation. The petitioner stated in paragraphs 5 and 6 of his affidavit that the B. E. S. T. Undertaking was merely a misdescription for the Bombay Municipal Corporation and he had filed, the affidavit by way of application for the formal addition of the Bombay Municipal Corporation as opposite party No. 3 or for substitution of the Bombay Municipal Corporation for opposite party No. 2 (the B. E. S. T. Undertaking).

6. The contention of the opposite par-ties in their affidavit was that the B. E. S. T. Undertaking was not merely misdescription for the Bombay Municipal Corporation. The joint of the Corporation would be addition of a new party from the date of the amendment to be granted and the amendment should not be granted as the claim on the date of the 'amendment would be barred by the law of limitation,

7. In connection with these questions raised by the affidavits made on behalf of these three opposite parties, the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal by the above order dated December 10, 1964 held that the owner of the motor bus was the Municipal Corporation. The B. E. S. T. Undertaking could not have been sued as the owner of the bus. The B. E. S. T. Undertaking was not a legal entity and in the result in effect, opposite party No. 2 did not exist at all and nobody has been sued as the owner of the bus and therefore, there was no question of substituting the Municipal Corporation in place of opposite party No. 2 (B. E. S. T. Undertaking). The further observation was that it could not accept the contention of the petitioner that the B. E. S. T. Undertaking was merely a misdescription for the Bombay Municipal Corporation and the authorities relied upon on behalf of the petitioner in that connection were, therefore, not applicable to the facts of the application before the Tribunal. It further held that the claim as against the Bombay Municipal Corporation was barred by the law of limitation. It refused to condone delay and dismissed the application for compensation as against the Municipal Corporation.

8. In this petition the contention on behalf of the petitioner is that the B. E. S. T. Undertaking itself is of the ownership of the Municipal Corporation. The bus in question was registered under the Motor Vehicles Act in the name of the Manager, B. E. S. T. Undertaking. The section of and the rules made under the Act relating to the institution of applications for claims before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal require an applicant to mention in the application the name of the owner thereby meaning registered owner only. The form prescribed did ' not require the petitioner to mention anybody as opposite party in the title of the claim application. The Municipal Corporation which carried on the business of the above Undertaking could under the provision of Rule 10 of Order XXX of the Code of Civil Procedure be sued in its above business name. Having got the bus registered in the name of the Manager of the Undertaking the Corporation was estopped from contending that the claim as instituted originally was not against the Bombay Municipal Corporation. In fact the formality of substituting the Municipal Corporation as opposite party had to be undertaken, so that the matter of the ownership of the B. E. S. T. Undertaking being that of the Corporation was clear on the record and an executable award of compensation could be made in favour of the petitioner against the Corporation. The fact that the whole of the business of the B. E. S. T. Undertaking was of the ownership of the Municipal Corporation was never in doubt and the Tribunal was, therefore, entirely wrong in dismissing the petitioner's application for substitution of the name of the Municipal Corporation in place of opposite party No. 8 (B. E. S. T. Undertaking). The facts were so clear and glaring that the Tribunal should not have held that since the B. E. S. T. Undertaking was not a registered Corporation or a society, the claim application had not been duly instituted against any owner of the bus. That observation of the Tribunal was due to its misapprehension as regards the provisions in the Motor Vehicles Act and the Rules made thereunder in connection with the particulars necessary to institute claims for compensation and also failure to apply provisions in Rule 10 of Order XXX of the Civil Procedure Code to the facts of the case.

9. In reply Mr. Bhabha with some emphasis contended that under the scheme of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act the B. E. S. T. Undertaking was not a corporation and not a legal entity and did not exist as any legal person. The Tribunal was, therefore, right in its finding that the claim application being originally instituted against B. E. S. T. Undertakingas one opposite party bad not been instituted against any existing owner. This was so because the Undertaking was not a legal person. There was, under the circumstances, no misdescription at all of any existing person in the claim application. In his submission for the first tune upon amendment being granted, new claim application would have been instituted against the Municipal Corporation, Since that was time barred, the Tribunal's findings should be accepted as correct. In support of his submission he relied upon the decision of a Division Bench of this Court in Amulakchand Mewaram v. Babulal Kanalal Taliwala, 35 Bom LR 569= (AIR 1933 Bom 304). Now the question before the Court in that case was in connection with the amendment of a plaint by substitution of the names of members of a Joint family in place of the name of the joint family firm which had instituted the suit its the plaintiff. Though the suit had been instituted in the name of the joint family firm in 1926, the application for substitution of the names of the members of the family was made at the hearing held in 1932. That application was granted by the Division Bench by observing that

'...... where you have a suit broughtin the name of A. B. & Co., if it be proved that A. B. & Co. is the name of an existing firm or family consisting of certain individuals C, D and L, then the description A. B. & Co. nearly cloaks the identity of C., D. and E who are before the Court under that name. If under the rules C, D and E are not allowed to sue in the name of A. B. and Co., then for the purposes of the suit the description is incorrect and must be altered. But it seems to me that in such a case the proposed alteration does not involve introspecting new plaintiffs, but merely involves describing correctly, rather than incorrectly, the plaintiffs already before the Court.'

10. Now, it appears to us that since the business of the B. E. S. T. Undertaking as such is being continuously carried on in this city for a considerable number of years in the name of B. E, S. T. Undertaking by the Municipal Corporation, the contention of Mr. Bhabha that when the claim application mentioned the B. E. S. T. Undertaking as the owner of the bus in question, it was not intended that the application was against the Municipal Corporation, cannot be accepted. It is true that the name of the Municipal Corporation was not mentioned in any part or the claim application. It is, however, not true that the business of the B. E. S. T. Undertaking was not continuously existing at all material times. What that business was and whose that business was may have been known or unknown to the petitioner. It was made clear to the petitioner by contentions raised in paragraph 8 of the written statement filed By the Manager of the B. E. S. T. Undertaking for the first time that legal ownership of the bus was in the Municipal Corporation and theproper party against whom award for compensation must be obtained was the Municipal Corporation. As this business of the B. E. S. T. Undertaking continuously belonged to the Municipal Corporation from the inception, the intent of the petitioner was to sue the Municipal Corporation which was the owner of the Undertaking. This matter required to be clarified and the application for substitution was, therefore, justified. In that connection we have to repeat that provisions in the Motor Vehicles Act and the Rules made in connection with application for claims for compensation do not require any parties to be mentioned as opposite parties in the title of the application. When the formality of the amendment was asked for, it was the legal duty of the Tribunal in this case to ascertain true facts as regards the ownership of the B. E. S. T. Undertaking itself and thereafter it was permissible for the Tribunal even without an amendment having been granted to make an award for compensation in favour of the petitioner against the Municipal Corporation.

11. Before referring to the relevant section and the rules and the form prescribed, it is necessary to state that Mr. Bhabha relied upon the following observation of the Court in the above cited decision:--

'It seems to me that the question whether there should be an amendment or not really turns upon whether the name in which the suit is brought is the name of a non-existent person, or whether it is merely a misdescription of existing persons. If the former is the case, the suit is a nullity and no amendment can cure it. If the latter is the case, prima facie there ought to be an amendment because the general rule, subject no doubt to certain exceptions, is that the Court should always allow an amendment where any loss to the opposing party can be compensated for by costs.'

In spite of the above observation and the fact that in law a joint family firm has no existence because it is neither an incorporated body nor a registered society, the Court held that the name of the joint family firm represented the members of the joint family and amendment was granted. We do not see how when the business of the B. E. S. T. Undertaking is continuously being carried on in the name of the Undertaking by the Corporation, the claim for compensation in this case did not in fact amount to a claim against the Municipal Corporation. The fact that the Undertaking is not a registered Corporation did not make any difference to the above situation. The party which was being sued was the owner of the concerned bus and the Undertaking which was the registered owner of the bus was itself of the ownership of the Corporation. There was thus clear misdescription of the party against whom ad executable award for compensation could be made by the Tribunal. We see nothing in this judgment which obstructs usfrom making the findings which we have already made.

12. Reliance was placed by Mr. Bhabha in support of his contention on the provisions in Section 5(1) and (2) of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act. Reliance was placed by Mr. Kapadia on the provisions in (jjb) and Chapter XVI-A of the Bombay Sections 3 (mm), 4 (d) and (g), 63 (jja) and Municipal Corporation Act.

13. Under Sub-section (2) of Section 5 the Municipal Corporation of Bombay is made a body corporate and has a perpetual succession and a common seal and can sue and be sued in its name. Section 3 (mm) defines the Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking inter alia to mean undertaking managed or conducted by the Corporation for the purpose of providing mechanically propelled transport facilities for the conveyance of the public. Section 4 (g) mentions the General Manager of the Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking as being one of the Municipal authorities charged with carrying out the provisions of the Act. Under Section 4 (d) the Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Committee is also one of such Municipal authorities. Under Sub-clauses (jja) and (jjb) of Section 63 the. Corporation is authorised to provide inter alia for purchase, maintenance and management of mechanically propelled transport facilities for the conveyance of the public. Chapter XVI-A is headed, 'The Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking' and consists of Sections 460-A to 460-PP which all relate to management of a whole business which is described as the Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking. It requires to be noticed in this connection that the business of electric supply and transport was carried on until sometime back by a company registered trader the Indian Companies Act and called, 'Bombay Electric Supply and Tramways Company'. The business of this company was acquired by the Municipal Corporation sometime back and with additions and alterations is being carried on by the' Corporation since then. The business has been given the name. 'The Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking'. It is not, now, correct for the Municipal Corporation to take up the attitude in this legal proceeding by mistake instituted against the Undertaking to submit that the mention of the undertaking in the application is not a misdescription, for the real owner of the Undertaking, viz., the Municipal Corporation. It is not necessary to develop this question any further because we have, having, regard to the provisions in the Motor Vehicles Act and the Rules for institution of claims applications, already held that it was not necessary to mention the corporation as the opposite party in the title or the application for compensation.

14. The relevant provisions are Sections 110-A and 111-A of the Motor Vehicles Actand Rule 291 and the form prescribed thereby which is form No. Comp. A. Sub-section (2) of Section 110-A provides:

'Every application under Sub-section (1) shall be made to the Claims Tribunal ......and shall be in such form and shall contain such particulars as may be prescribed.' Under Section 111-A the State Government is entrusted with the function of making rules inter aha for the form of application for claims for compensation and the particulars it may contain and as regards the procedure to be followed by the Claims Tribunal. Rule 291 relates to procedure regarding compensation and provides that an application for compensation should be in the form numbered as Comp. A. The form for the claim for compensation thus prescribed appears at page 220 of the Rules published in 1967. This form in its first part provides for mentioning all the description and the residential address of the claimant in the following manner:--

'I,..... son/daughter/wife/widow of ..... residing at ..... having been injured in motor vehicle accident hereby apply for the grant of compensation for the injury sustained. Necessary particulars in respect of the injury, vehicle, etc., are given below:'

Immediately after the above provision, the form prescribes by serial numbers paragraphs for giving details in the manner following:

'1. Name and father's name of the personinjured .....

2. Full address of the person injured.

3. Age of the person injured.

4. Occupation of the person injured.

8. Place, date and time of the accident

9. Name and address of Police Station .....

10. Was the person in respect of whom compensation is claimed travelling by the vehicle involved in the accident? If so, give the names .....

11. Nature of injuries sustained.

12. Name and address of the Medical Officer......

15. Name end address of the owner of the vehicle.

16. Name and address of the insurer of the vehicle. In the last part it prescribes:

'I ...... solemnly declare that theparticulars given above are true and correct to the best of my knowledge.'

Signature or thumb impression of the applicant.'

15. It is quite clear on a reading of the prescribed form that it does not direct the claimant for compensation to include in the application any party as defendant and/or opposite party. We apprehend that all the relevant facts are in this connection left to be ascertained by the Claims Tribunal which has been entrusted with the very serious duties of finding out all the parties who may be liable to pay compensation by recording evidence to be produced by the parties concerned. Formal defect of failure to men-tion appropriate names of the parties who would be liable to pay ultimately compensation to the claimant was never intended to defeat the claims filed under the Act The Tribunal has failed to realise the true effect of the provisions in the Act in connection with the form of the applications for compensation and its responsibilities In ascertaining the correct facts regarding the parties who should be liable to pay compensation to the claimants under the applications made in the prescribed form. The Tribunal's judgment is thus entirely devoid of good reasoning and is liable to be set aside.

16. In the result, the impugned order dated December 10, 1964 is set aside. It is directed that the Tribunal should proceed to decide the application for compensation on the footing that the true owner of the B. E. S. T. Undertaking mentioned In paragraph 15 of the application is the Municipal Corporation of Bombay and that the claim was from the inception against the Corporation and the claim was not barred by law of limitation. Contrary findings of the Tribunal are set aside.

17. Application No. 649 of 1962 is restored to the file of the Tribunal. The same will be disposed of by the Tribunal in accordance with law. The rule is made absolute with costs.

18. No order on the civil application. Rule made absolute.


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