1. This is an appeal filed against an order of the 1st Additional District Judge, Visakhapatnam under Order 1, Rule 10. C. P. C. adding the present appellant as a party respondent to O. P. No. 86/77 now pending before him as a claim for compensation for a motor vehicle accident.
2. Apparao, the first respondent before this Court sustained head injuries in a motor vehicle accident on 10-2-1977 due to the alleged rash and negligent drying of a lorry A. P. P. 7823. After some abortive attempts at compromise based upon promises to compensate him the victim filed a claim petition in O. P. No. 86/77 claiming compensation in a sum of Rs. 10,500/-. In that petition the claimant made K. V. Krishnayya as respondent No. 1 and the United India Fire and General Insurance Company Limited. Rajahmundry as respondent No. 2. He made Krishnayya as party-respondent apparently on the basis that he was the owner of the vehicle and the United India Fire and General Insurance Company Limited on the basis that it was the insurer. Krishnayya remained ex parte and never took part in the claim proceedings. The United India Fire and General Insurance Company Limited filed a counter and contested the matter. One of the pleas taken by the Insurance Company was that the claim petition was bad for non-joinder of parties without, however, disclosing as to who was the real owner which it could have easily done acting on the basis of its information available with it officially. On that state of pleadings the claimantand the Insurance Company went to trial. During the course of the trial the Insurance Company had filed into Court the certificate of the insurance policy relating to the lorry which showed that the present appellant Jamunabai, the wife of the aforesaid Krishnayya was the owner of the vehicle and not her husband Krishnayya. The claimant promptly filed I. A. No. 468/78 to add the wife of Krishnayya, the present appellant Jamunabai as party respondent to his claim petition. Notice was ordered on that I. A. No. 468/78 filed under Order 1, Rule 10, C. P. C. to the proposed party as well as the Insurance Company. They opposed that application. Although Jamunabai, the present appellant, took a vague and general objection on ground of law her main prayer in her counter was continued to seeking an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses already examined in the event of the claimant's petition to add Jamuna Bai bring allowed. The Insurance Company was more specific in its objections. The Insurance Company said that the I. A. No. 468/78 was barred by tune and that in case the I. A. No. 468/78 was ordered the Insurance Company should be permitted to recall and cross-examine the witnesses already examined. The half-hearted objection of the aforesaid Jamuna Bai and the full-throated opposition of the Insurance Company on the ground of limitation were overruled by the Claims Tribunal. Jamuna Bai was added as a party giving rise to this appeal.
3. I read in full Section 110-A of the
Motor Vehicles Act which forms the basis of the main objection of the Insurer and the owner both here and the Claims Tribunal to the addition of Jamuna Bai.
4. Section 110-A:-- 'Application for compensation--
(1) An application for compensation arising out of an accident of the nature
pacified in Sub-section (1) of Section 110 may be made --
(a) by the person who has sustained the injury; or
(b) where death has resulted from the accident, (by all or any of the legal representatives) of the deceased; or
(c) by any agent duly authorised by the person injured (or all or any of the legal representatives) of the deceased, as the case may be:
(Provided that where all the legal representatives of the deceased have not joined in any such application for compensation, the application shall be made on behalf of or for the benefit of all the legal representatives of the deceased and the legal representatives who have not so joined, shall be impleaded as respondents to the application).
(2) 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.
(3) No application for compensation under this section shall be entertained unless it is made within (six months) of the occurrence of the accident;
Provided that the Claims Tribunal may entertain the application after the expiry of the said period of six months if it is satisfied that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause from making the application in time,'
5. Treating the aforesaid I. A. No. 468/ 78 9s a fresh application for compensation, Jamuna Bai and the Insurer argued that such an application could not be filed by the claimant and could not be entertained by the Claims Tribunal 'unless it is made within six months of the occurrence of the accident'. As I, A. No. 468/78 had been filed more than six months after the date of occurrence of the accident the argument of those parties was that the Claims Tribunal should have dismissed the application.
6. There is no dispute in this case bout any of the material facts. It is clear that I. A. No. 468/78 had been filed far beyond the period of six months which ended on 12-8-1977. It is on that basis Mr. Srikrishna, the learned counsel for Jamuna Bai, argued that the order in I. A. No. 468/73 adding his client Jamuna Bai as a party respondent was illegally made by the District judge, Visakhapatnam, as it would amount to according to him entertaining of an application for compensation after the above period of six months. His argument was that as per Sub-section (3) of the aforesaid Section 110-A of the Motor Vehicles Act statutory limitation starts running non-stop against the claimant from the date of occurrence of the accident. While Sub-clause (1) of Section 110-A of the Act which I have read above specifies the person or persons who can make an application for compensation, Sub-clause (2) of that Section specifying the Tribunal to whom such a claim can be made does notspecify who should be made party respondent to such a claim petition. That Sub-clause (2) treats these particulars as matters of form and leaves them to be provided for by rules. Rules made under Sections 111 and 111-A of the Motor Vehicles Act provide a form C. I. D. In this form C. I. D. the claimant is required to address a sort of a petition to the Claims Tribunal claiming compensation giving the name and the address of the owner of the vehicle and the insurer. Although it appears to me to be arguable on the basis of the language of Sub-clause (2) of Section 110-A of the Act that a claim petition is complete when it was presented to the Claims Tribunal despite its deficiencies relating to the name of the owner of the vehicle, for the purpose of this case I proceed on the basis that, the claimant's present application I. A. No. 468/78 comes within the rule of six months limitation. It is the Sub-clause (3) of Section 110-A which forbids the Tribunal from entertaining any application for compensation made under Section 110-A of the Act if the application was presented beyond the period of six months of the occurrence of the accident. On the basis of Section 110-A (3) there would be no difficulty in accepting the appellant's contention that the application to add parties made by the claimant by in the aforesaid I. A. which is undoubtedly presented beyond six months from the date of the occurrence of the accident is liable to be dismissed but for the proviso to the Sub-clause (3) that expressly authorises the Claims Tribunal to entertain such time barred applications provided the Claims Tribunal is satisfied that there is sufficient cause for the claimants who present those applications beyond time. This proviso constitutes therefore a clear and plain answer to the argument of the learned counsel for the appellant. That proviso which says 'The Claims Tribunal may entertain the application after the expiry of the said period of six months' undoubtedly gives jurisdiction to the Claims Tribunal to entertain an application for compensation even after the expiry of the period of six months provided the conditions mentioned in that proviso are satisfied. For the purposes of excusing the delay the proviso does not make any distinction between delay caused from the date of accident and delay caused from the date of knowledge, the question in all cases is whether there is sufficient Justificationfor the delay. There is undoubted power to excuse. The central submission of the learned counsel for the appellant therefore is palpably wrong. The Claims Tribunal has undoubted power and jurisdiction to entertain an application made beyond the period of six months from the date of the occurrence of the accident. The only requirement for the exercise of that power is the existence of sufficient causes excusing the claimant for the delay in making his claim within six months from the date of the occurrence of the accident. The power to excuse delay is given to the Tribunal by the Parliament in as general and as vast terms as it is possible. The condition for the exercise of power is the satisfaction of the Tribunal. If the Claims Tribunal is satisfied that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause from making the application in time the law says the Claims Tribunal should entertain the application reading the word 'may' occurring in that proviso as 'shall'. What is sufficient cause in a particular case turns on its facts. Such is the clear intention of the Parliament. It could not be otherwise. An injured man might be all alone if a hospital for over a year. A speeding lorry dashing against the victim might leave no traces of its identity. For purposes of limitation these cases in law of delict should not be compared with the run of the mill original actions in law of contract where property and person sued are easily identifiable. It therefore fellows that the argument of the learned counsel for the appellant that after the lapse of six months' time from the date of the occurrence of the accident the Claims Tribunal could do nothing except to hold up its hands before the objections of limitation that might be, raised by the owner of the vehicle and/or the Insurance Company cannot be accepted. The question really is whether there is sufficient cause to excuse delay. In this case the motor vehicle which knocked down the claimant was being apparently managed and controlled and run and operated by Krishnayya the husband and not by Jamuna Bai his wife. On the surface of the complex web of Social and legal relations touching the ownership of the lorry it was the authority of Krishnayya which was floating and not that of his wife Jamuna Bai. For the victims of the motor vehicle accidents who are mostly ignorant illiterates and whose number is ever growing it is not easy some times to trace and identify the vinculum juris and find out the true owner. Parliament has therefore given power to the Claims Tribunal to entertain applications for compensation even after the statutory period of six months provided that there are sufficient causes that prevented a claim being made within the period of six months. In this case the Tribunal found and I entirely agree with those findings that the claimant came to know the real owner only when the Insurance Policy was filed into the Court by the Insurer. It is no doubt true that the Insurance Company hinted at misjoinder or non-joinder of parties in its counter. But it is unfortunate that the claimant's lawyer missed the hint. The claimant came to know of the real owner only after the insurance policy was filed into Court and thereafter took steps to add the real owner as a party respondent I think this is a case where the Claims Tribunal acting under the aforesaid proviso to Clause (3) of Section 110-A of the Act rightly entertained the application though filed beyond six months of the occurrence of accident.
7. But Sri Srikrishna, the learned counsel for the appellant, raised a further contention that there was not even an application filed by the claimant asking the delay to be excused and for that reason also the said I. A. No. 468/78 was liable to be dismissed. This argument which pays obeisance merely to the traditional forms of filing separate applications seeking condonation of delay omits from consideration the language of the aforesaid proviso to Clause (3) of Section 110-A. That proviso does not in terms require any such separate application to be made. So long as the Claims Tribunal is satisfied on the material brought on record that there is sufficient cause to excuse delay the proviso remains operational. In this case facts have been brought to the notice of the Claims Tribunal satisfying it about the existence of sufficient cause through the affidavit of the claimant. Accepting those facts the Tribunal acted upon it. Nothing more is needed to be done either in law or in equity. The absence of a separate delay excuse petition is immaterial. Even as a general matter of principle a Division Bench of this Court in a judgment reported in Ramachandra Row v. Seshiam ((1957) 2 An WR 106) negatived similar contention. The Division Bench in that case ruled -- 'It is not necessary that there should be a formal petition to ex-cuse delay. It is always open to a Court or a Tribunal to condone the delay if the person concerned is able to convince it that there were justifiable grounds for the delay in presenting an appeal or a petition. The filing of a formal petition for excusing delay is not the sine qua non for the exercise of that power.' I, therefore, find this argument of the appellant supported by Sri J. V. Suryanarayana Rao for the Insurer to be without substance. For the aforesaid reasons I reject this objection of the appellant.
8. This C. M. A. is accordingly dismissed with costs of the claimant.