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The Oriental Fire and General Insurance Company Ltd. Vs. Sushila JaIn and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberFirst Appeal No. 190 of 1979
Judge
Reported in[1983]53CompCas438(Delhi); ILR1980Delhi1057
ActsMotor Vehicles Act, 1939 - Sections 110-A and 110-CC
AppellantThe Oriental Fire and General Insurance Company Ltd.
RespondentSushila JaIn and ors.
Advocates: S.M. Suri and; H.R. Khan, Advs
Excerpt:
.....of the petition till realisation, with this concession that if the sum of rs. 48,000/- is paid by the insurance company within 2 months, then that will amount to complete satisfaction of the tribunal's order. the insurance company deposited the amount in 4 months and made an application to the tribunal that it should be relieved against the award of interest. the tribunal however, rejected all arguments made by the insurance company. on appeal, it was urged that the tribunal had no power to award interest in the form it did. dismissing the appeal,; the power to award interest is conferred on the tribunal by the motor vehicles act, 1939. it is a discretionary power. the tribunal exercised this power in a concessional form. it cannot be called `punitive'. since the company failed..........question of interest is essentially one of discretion. (3) there is only one question : has the tribunal power to award interest in the form it did counsel for the insurance company docs not dispute that there is power in the tribunal to award interest under s. 110-cc of the act. his main quarrel is with the form of the order the tribunal made. as i read this order it means that the tribunal was making an order of compensation of rs. 48,000.00 with interest at the rate of 6 per cent from the date of the petition till realisation, with this concession that if the sum of rs. 48.000.00 is paid within two months then that will amount to complete satisfaction of the tribunal's order. there is nothing wrong in granting a concession to a party. the power to award interest is conferred on the.....
Judgment:

Avadh Behari Rohatgi, J.

(1) The only question that has been raised in this appeal from the order of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal dated April 25, 1979 is about the award of interest. The husband of respondent No. 1 died in a motor accident in 1971. She and her children brought an application on February 7, 1972 under s- 110-A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 (the Act) against Jupitar General Insurance Company. After merger the Oriental Fire and General Insurance Company appeared on the scene. At first there was some difficulty in knowing about the name of the owner of the offending vehicle and the number of the insurance policy. On October 10, 1973 the policy was shown to the insurance company. Thereafter the trial proceeded. The company contested the claim. On April 25, 1979 the tribunal made an award of Rs. 48,000.00 on account of compensation. The company was granted two months' time to deposit the amount in the tribunal failing which the claimants were to be entitled to interest at the rate of 6 percent per annum from the date of filing the claim petition till realisation. In terms of this order the amount of Rs. 48,000.00 ought have been deposited on or before june 25, 1979 but actually it was deposited on August 20, 1979.

(2) The insurance company made an application to the tribunal that it should be relieved against the award of interest on a number of grounds, namely, that the order dated April 25, 1979 was not announced in open court, that time was spent in obtaining the certified copy, that the order dated April 25, 1979 was illegal inasmuch as it imposed punitive condition and that the tribunal had no power to make such an order. By order dated November 3, 1979 the tribunal rejected all these arguments. The tribunal found that the order was announced in the open court, that the insurance company was guilty of laches and delay in depositing the amount, that there was no ground for condensation of delay. These are findings of fact. The tribunal in all the circumstances of the case was inclined to exercise its discretion in favor of the widow and the children rather than in favor of the insurance company. It said so in so many words. True it is that the question of interest is essentially one of discretion.

(3) There is only one question : Has the tribunal power to award interest in the form it did Counsel for the insurance company docs not dispute that there is power in the tribunal to award interest under s. 110-CC of the Act. His main quarrel is with the form of the order the tribunal made. As I read this order it means that the tribunal was making an order of compensation of Rs. 48,000.00 with interest at the rate of 6 per cent from the date of the petition till realisation, with this concession that if the sum of Rs. 48.000.00 is paid within two months then that will amount to complete satisfaction of the tribunal's order. There is nothing wrong in granting a concession to a party. The power to award interest is conferred on the tribunal by the Act. It is a discretionary power. The tribunal exercised this power in a concessional form. It cannot be called 'punitive', as has been urged. That the insurance company did not deposit the amount within two months is not in dispute. The company has forfeited the right to concession. That is all. It must pay interest on the amount awarded in terms of the order.

(4) Equity is invoked by counsel for relieving the company against what he called the 'punitive condition'. I do not think it is a case in which the court ought to grant relief. The case was fought for seven years or so. The company opposed the claim of the widow and the children tooth and nail. The tribunal then made the order. Even then it showed concession to the company- The amount was not deposited by reason of bureaucratic delays. This was the finding of the tribunal. There is nothing unconscionable in an order of this form. No fraud, no oppression, no undue advantage, can be complained of. The statute empowers the tribunal to award interest. In substance this is what it did. So long as the award of interest is sanctioned by the statute the form of the order is immaterial. The substance of the thing matters. In all the circumstances of the case I am not prepared to interfere with the discretion of the tribunal. For these reasons the appeal is dismissed.


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