1. The Municipal Corporation of the City of Ahmedabad (hereinafter referred to as 'the plaintiff) filed Civil Suit No. 2448 of 1968 against the Union of India owning and representing the Western Railway (hereinafter referred to as the defendant No.1) and another in the Court of Small causes at Ahmedabad for recovering a sum of Rs. 1344.34 p. on account of damage suffered by the plaintiff's vehicle allegedly due to the gross and negligent driving by the defendant No.2 of a vehicle belonging to the defendant No.1. The suit was instituted by the plaintiff on 25th June 1968. In 1969 the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 was amended by the Parliament. Inter alia, the amending statute - The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 1969- has amended Section 110 which deals with the question of jurisdiction of the Claims Tribunals. Relying upon this amendment the defendant No. 1 has contended that the Court of Small Causes at Ahmedabad has no jurisdiction to proceed with the suit.
2. The learned Trial Judge raised the preliminary issue in that behalf and by his order dated 17th February 1971 he held that the Court of Small Causes at Ahmedabad had jurisdiction to proceed with the suit and directed accordingly.
3. It is that order recorded by the learned Trial Judge on the aforesaid preliminary issue which is called in question by the defendants in this Civil Revision Application.
4. Before I deal with the contentention raised by Mr. Bhatt before me it is necessary to note a few undisputed facts. The suit was instituted in the Court of Small Causes on 25th June 1968. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act. 1969 by which Section 110 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 was amended came into force sometime after 29th December 1969. The notification reconstituting the Claims Tribunals for the City of Ahmedabad in terms of the amended Section 110 was published by the State Government on 24th December 1970. The claim which the plaintiff has made against the defendants is in respect of the damage caused to its vehicle in a collision that took place between its vehicle and the vehicle belonging to the defendant No.1 and driven by the defendant No. 2. In 1968 when the suit was filed by the plaintiff sub-section (1) of S. 110 which is material for the present purpose provided as follows.
'(1) A State Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, constitute one or more Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals (hereinafter referred to as Claims Tribunals) for such area as may be specified in the notification for the purpose of adjudicating upon claims for compensation in respect of accident involving the death of, or bodily injury to, persons arising out of the use of motor vehicles.'
A bare perusal of sub-section (1) of Section 110 makes it clear beyond doubt that the jurisdiction which the Claims Tribunal had under the unamended Section 110 was in respect of claims arising out of deaths or bodily injuries caused by accidents by motor vehicles. Their jurisdiction did not extend to any claim for compensation arising out of any other cause such as damage to property. In the instant case, since the plaintiff had been claiming damages for the damage caused to its motor vehicle, the Claims Tribunal had no jurisdiction to entertain any such claim in 1968. The suit file by the plaintiff against the defendants in the Court of Small Causes at Ahmedabad in 1968 was, therefore, a validly instituted action. By Section 57 of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 1969 the following words have been added to sub-section (1) of S. 110.
'.............. or damages to any property of a third party so arising, or both.'
Reading sub-section (1) of S. 110 as amended by Section 57 of Act No. 56 of 1969 I find that the jurisdiction of the Claims Tribunal was by the said Act extended also to claims for compensation arising out of damage caused to any property of a third party. As stated above, the amending statute was published in the Gazette of India on 29th December 1969 and came into force thereafter. The contention which Mr. Bhatt has raised before me is that since the amending statute has vested in the Claims Tribunal the jurisdiction to entertain claims arising out of damage caused to any property by a motor accident, the Small Cause Court at Ahmedabad has no such jurisdiction. He relies upon Section 110-F of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, in that behalf. It provides as under.
'Where any Claims Tribunal has been constituted for any area no civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any question relating to any claim for compensation which may be adjudicated upon by the Claims Tribunal for that area, and no jurisdiction in respect of any action taken or to be taken by or before the Claims Tribunal in respect of the claim for compensation shall be granted by the Civil Court.'
The bar to the jurisdiction of the Civil Court enacted by Section 110- F of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 is, in my opinion, clearly prospective and not retrospective. It uses the expression '.......... no Civil Court Shall have jurisdiction to entertain any question ................'. Therefore, the bar applies to the jurisdiction of the Civil Court to entertain any claim for compensation for damage to any property arising out of a motor accident. In our words no Civil Court can entertain any suit, inter alia, for compensation for damage to any property arising out of a motor accident after the amendment to Section 110 of the Motor Vehicles Act. 1939 came into force. But I find nothing in Section 110 - F to show or suggest that if any claim was validly entertained by a Civil Court prior to the enactment of the amendment or if there was any validly instituted action in a Civil Court in respect of such a claim, the jurisdiction of the Civil Court to proceed to decide it is also barred. Either in the Amending Act or in the principal Act there is nothing to suggest that the amendment to Section 110 is retrospective in character and has the capacity to hit validly instituted actions in Civil Courts. All amendments must be regarded as prospective unless the amending statute, expressly or by necessary implication, warrants a construction otherwise. In the instant case. I find nothing in Section 110 - F which hits the validly instituted suit of the plaintiff.
5. Mr. Bhatt has contended before me that the amendment to Section 110 and the notification issued by the State Government are procedural because they relate to the forum before which claim for compensation arising out of damage to property can be agitated. According to him, therefore, the amendment is retrospective and is capable of dislodging the jurisdiction of the Court of Small Causes at Ahmedabad in the present suit. I am unable to agree with Mr. Bhatt in that contention of his. On the general principle that procedural amendments are retrospective I cannot take the view that in absence of anything to the contrary either in the amending statute or in Section 110 - F, the plaintiff's suit validly instituted in 1968 in the Court of Small Causes at Ahmedabad is hit or barred.
6. He has invited my attention to the decision of the Supreme Court in shah Bhojraj Kuveji Oil Mills and Ginning Factory v. Subhash Chandra yograj Factory v. Subhash Chandra yograj Sinha, AIR 1961 SC 1596. It was a case under the Bombay Rents, Hotel and Lodging House Rates Control Act, 1947. In that case a suit for possession was file by the landlord against the tenant prior to the application of the provision of the said Act to the area. During the pendency of the suit the provisions of the said Act were extended to that area. It was, therefore, contended that the suit would not be governed by the provisions of the said governed by the provisions of the said Act. The Supreme Court held in that case that even though the provisions of the said Act were applied to that during the pendency of the suit, since it was a suit between a landlord and tenant it would be governed by the provisions of the said Act. Upon the analogy of the principle laid down in that decision Mr. Bhatt has contended before me that the amendment to Section 110 would governs the suits validly instituted in Civil Courts prior to its enactment. I am unable to agree with Mr. Bhatt in that submission of his. The Bombay Rent Act with which the Supreme Court was dealing in that case is a statute which confers special protection upon the tenants. If the protection which the statute confers upon a tenant was not extended to the tenant in that case merely on the ground that the provisions of the said Act were applied to the area after the landlord had filed the suit for possession against the tenant, the tenant would have been deprived of the protection merely because a suit for possession was filed against him prior to the application of the provisions of the said Act to that area. The character of the statue with which the Supreme Court was dealing in that case was altogether different. If a tenant is protected by a statute. If a tenant is protected by a statute, he cannot be deprived of the protection of the statute merely because a suit has been filed against him prior to the extension of the provisions of that statute to the area where he has been residing. In the instant case there is no such thing. It is immaterial whether the claim made by the plaintiff against the defendant is adjudicated upon by the Court of Small Causes at Ahmedabad or by the Claims Tribunal at Ahmedabad. It is purely a question of forum. Resort to one forum or to another forum for the adjudication of the claim of the plaintiff is not going to produce any effect whatsoever upon the right of the parties. In the case before the Supreme Court to which I have referred, serious effect would have been produced upon the rights of the tenant. In my opinion therefore, the principle laid down by the Supreme Court in the aforesaid case cannot be extended to the instant case. I, therefore, filed no substance in the contention raise by Mr. Bhatt before mortgage in my opinion since the present suit was validly institute by the plaintiff in 1968 against the defendants, irrespective of the subsequent amendment made to Section 110 of the Motor Vehicles Act. 1939 the Court of Small vehicles Act. 1939 the Court of Small Causes at Ahmedabad has jurisdiction to try and decide that suit.
7. In the result, the Revision Application fails and Rule is discharged with costs.
8. Revision application discharged.