(1) This is an application under Art. 227 of the Constitution directed against the order of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Chandigarh Dated 4-11-1964. It appears that in January, 1964, Shri L. M. Suri counsel for Messrs. Groz Beckert Sabool Ltd., requested the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal that he be permitted to examine Ram Bhumian driver on commission because he was stated to be in Lucknow. A request was accordingly made to the Civil Judge, Lucknow for that purpose. A reply was received to the effect that Ram Bhumian did not live at G. 10, River Bank Colony, Lucknow, which was the address supplied by the counsel, and indeed it was stated that the Local Commissioner has gone to the address given but no person of the name of Ram Bhumian was found to be living at that address. Shri Suri requested the Tribunal to grant him another opportunity to give property address of Ram Bhumian, but this was opposed by the counsel for Molly James, claimant before the tribunal, on the ground that the examination of commission has already taken nearly nine months and the case was about two years old. The learned Tribunal expressed the view that a further opportunity would have been give had the report of the Commission been that the witness concerned had previously been residing at the given address but had since left the place: but the report being that no such witness was found living at that address, the Tribunal felt disinclined to grant another opportunity,.
At that stage, the counsel applied in writing that he may be given one more chance to produce the witness. This prayer was also rejected on the ground that the matter was being unnecessarily delayed. Another prayer made by the counsel was to permit him to produce a certified copy of the judgment of the Criminal Court. The Tribunal pointed out that the judgment of the Criminal Court was neither binding nor relevant in the case, In the end, the Tribunal disallowing another opportunity to produce Ram Bhumian driver, closed the case, but allowed the production of a certified copy of the judgment of the Sessions Judge which was directed to be placed on the file if properly stamped. While disallowing further opportunity to produce Ram Bhumian, the learned Tribunal observed that 'this witness could have been produced', presumably meaning thereby that he could have been produced earlier.
(2) Before me in this Court, the learned counsel for the petitioners has submitted that under S. 110 (c) of the Motor Vehicles Act, the Claims Tribunal has all the powers of a civil Court for the purpose of taking evidence on oath and of enforcing the attendance of witnesses, with the result that the Tribunal should be deemed to be a civil Court governed by the provisions of O. XVI of the Code of Civil Procedure. If, therefore, a party applies to a Tribunal to summon a person whose attendance is required to give evidence or to produce documents, the Tribunal is bound to issue the summonses. In the alternative, the counsel has submitted that in any event, according to the latest Punajb Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal Rules in force with effect from January, 1965, the provisions of O. 16 Rr. 2 to 21 have been expressly made applicable to proceedings before the Claims Tribunal. If now the present petitioners were to apply for summoning a witness, then, but for the impugned order, the Tribunal would be could to issue the process. In the interest of justice the hurdle of the impugned order should be removed, submits the counsel. In my opinion, these submission do not advance the petitioner's case. Section 110C by no means the Tribunal with all the characteristics of a civil Court so as to attract the provisions of O. 16, Code of Civil Procedure, and even the new Punjab: Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal Rules exclude the applicability of R. 1 of O. 16 C. P. Code, which authories the parties to O. 16 C. P code which authorises the parties to obtain summons to persons whose attendance is required, The exclusion of R, 1 seems to be deliberate.
(3) The petitioners counsel has, however, strongly urged that ram Bhumian is his only witness's in the Tribunal below and his main defence depends on this witness's testimony. the controversy is only between him and the garage owners the question to be adjudicated upon being as to which of the parties is liable. If Ram Bhumian was not available at the relevant item when the Local Commissioner went to the witness's address at Lucknow, then in the interest of justice, the Claims Tribunal should have given one more opportunity to the present petitioners to produce the witness., The case has actually been adjourned to some future date and to close the evidence in these Circumstances is violative of the basic rules of natural justice, in that the entire evidence of the present petitioners would be execluded.
(4) The respondents' learned counsel, Shri N. S. Keer, has submitted that if Ram Bhumian is, as stated by Shri Suri, the driver of the present petitioners then he could have been produced as a witness on an earlier occasion and to have a commission issued for his examination was apparently with the object of delaying the final disposal of the present proceedings. It is submitted that there is no ground for invoking this Court's jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Court which is an extra-ordinary remedy available only in the extraordinary Circumstances. He has also made a passing reference to Order XVII Rule 3, Civil P.C., which empower the Court to proceed to decide forthwith the suit in which a party has failed to produce evidence on getting time from the Court for the purpose. Order XVII, Rule 3, in my opinion, is, wholly out of place in the present Circumstances, and apart from its in applicability in terms, the Tribunal also did not proceed to decide the controversy forthwith.
(5) I am quite conscious of the fact that Article 227 of the Constitution confers the power of superintendence on this Court which is to be exercised only in special cases where inter alia grave injustices to be caused as a result of a serious breach of the Court's duty or a grave violation of a provision of law or of the well known rules of natural justice. In the present case, of course, the try has very wide powers for the purpose of adjudicating upon any claim for compensation within the contemplation of section 110-C, Motor Vehicles Act, but the wide amplitude of power has its own inherent limitations in the form of observance of rules of natural justice. If after the return of the report by the Commission some opportunity had been given to the present petitioner, to produce the only material witness, as the counsel put it, to prove the case, then perhaps the rules of natural justice would have been considered to have been fully complied with, but the close the evidence in these Circumstances, appears to me to be almost justice. This is all the more so because the Tribunal actually adjourned the case to some future date, the actual date, so fixed not being discernible form the impugned order. I have, however, been informed from the bar that written arguments have been handed over by the parties to the Tribunal. In the case in hand, the award of the Tribunal, in the absence of the present petitioner's evidence, is likely to be final as against this party and in some cases, an appeal is even under the law incompetent. There is, of course, no prescribed procedure rigidly controlling the proceedings of the Tribunal, but this does not confer wholly unfettered absolute and arbitrary power on the Tribunal to do what is likes or wills. The matter truly and essentially pertains to the domain of judicial discretion governed by rules of reason and justice. The Tribunal is, in the absence of positive authority, like the provisions of the C. P. Code expected to reason by analogy, as nearly as possible, to such provisions, and to come tot decision by weighing rival considerations according to the trained judicial technique. Since the case was going to be adjourned, no reason has been given as to how the cause of justice would have suffered by granting to the present petitioners one opportunity for examining on his own responsibility the one witness sought to be produced. An order for commission have actually been issued, it is not easy to blame the petitioners, for not producing the witness in Court in the present of that order.
(6) Article 227 of the Constitution vests the High Court with a special responsibility and power over judicial institutions in the State to see that they function properly and discharge their functions according to law. The High Court under this Article, it is true, does not sit as a Court so appeal and he merely to consider whether the Tribunal has out stepped the limits of its jurisdiction or whether is conclusions are bases on no material or are there-wise perverse or its orders are so clearly opposed to the recognized rules of natural justice as to cause manifest injustice which may not be readily remediable. In the present case, this test appears to me to be satisfied. It am accordingly of the view that in the case in hand it would promote the cause of justice for this Court to quash the impugned order and direct the Tribunal to give one or more opportunity to the present petitioners to produce Ram Bhumian as a witness. It has been stated at the bar by Suri that the would produce the witness on his own responsibility on the date to be fixed by the Tribunal. As the case has been pending for a long time, it is in the interest of justice and that it is disposed of within the month of June, 1965.
(7) I would in the result quash the impugned order and send the case back for further proceedings in accordance with law and in the light of the observations made above. The parties have been directed to appear before the Tribunal on 1-6-1965 when another date would be fixed within the month of June for the production of ram Bhumian as a witness on behalf of Merssr. Gorz Beckert Saboo Ltd. and for arguments by the parties. No further opportunity would be given for his production and the case should be disposed of before the expiry of the month of June 1965. There would be no order as to costs of the proceedings in this Court.
(8) Petition allowed.