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Ratansinh Karsanbhai Nakum Vs. Isadkhan Gulamkhan and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtGujarat High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1976)17GLR820
AppellantRatansinh Karsanbhai Nakum
Respondentisadkhan Gulamkhan and ors.
Cases ReferredOm Prakash Mishra v. National Fire and General Insurance Company Limited
Excerpt:
.....it is not possible to give such a restricted meaning to the amendments carried out in section 110. the disjunctive 'or' between the first and the second categories of cases mentioned in section 110 would clearly show that the claims tribunal will have jurisdiction also in respect of accidents which resulted in damage to any property of a third party and did not result in bodily injury or death......party arising out of the use of motor vehicle alone lies within the exclusive jurisdiction of the claims tribunal constituted under section 110a of the motor vehicles act, 1939 (hereafter referred to as 'the act') in view of the amendments carried out in section 110 by act no. 56 of 1969, which admittedly came into force with effect from march 2, 1970. the accident in the present case took place on september 21, 1973, and the claim made in this case relates to damage to the motor car of the petitioner alone. the petitioner was not bodily injured in that accident. according to the interpretation of section 110-a(1)(a) by this high court in farsubhai v. durlabhai 1973 accidents claims journal, 149 (13 gujarat law reporter 674), such sort of a claim would not be entertainable by the.....
Judgment:

D.P. Desai, J.

1. This Revisional Application raises a question whether a claim of a third party arising out of the use of motor vehicle alone lies within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Claims Tribunal Constituted under Section 110A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 (hereafter referred to as 'the Act') in view of the amendments carried out in Section 110 by Act No. 56 of 1969, which admittedly came into force with effect from March 2, 1970. The accident in the present case took place on September 21, 1973, and the claim made in this case relates to damage to the motor car of the petitioner alone. The petitioner was not bodily injured in that accident. According to the interpretation of Section 110-A(1)(a) by this High Court in Farsubhai v. Durlabhai 1973 Accidents Claims Journal, 149 (13 Gujarat Law Reporter 674), such sort of a claim would not be entertainable by the tribunal. This would follow from the interpretation of Section 110-A(1)(a) laying down that only three categories of persons can make an application contemplated by Section 110A; and they are (a) by the person who has sustained the injury; or (b) where death has resulted from the accident, by the legal representatives of the deceased, or (c) by any agent duly authorised by the person injured or the legal representatives of the deceased as the case may be. The question is whether any difference is made in this view as a result of the amendment of Section 110 of the Act even though no further amendment was carried out in Section 110-A by amending Act 56 of 1969. The learned Judge Acting as the tribunal was struck by the fact that inspite of the amendment of Section 110, further amendment was not carried out in Section 110-A. He, therefore, preferred to follow the decision in Farsubhai's case (supra) as regards interpretation of Section 110A On that basis he found that the petitioner not having been injured and his vehicle only having been damaged, cannot make a claim to damages on that count before the Tribunal. The result was that on this sole ground he dismissed the application for compensation leaving the parties to bear their own costs. Being aggrieved by this order, the original petitioner has come in revision to this Court.

2. The relevant provisions of the Act should be set out first. In doing so, the amended portions of Section 110 and 110-A would be put in parenthesis showing thereby that those portions were brought in by way of amendment by Act No. 56 of 1969.

110. Claims tribunals: (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 accidents involving the death of, or bodily injury to, persons arising out of the use of [motor vehicles, or damage to any property of a third party so arising or both; provided that where such claims includes a claim for compensation in respect of damage to property exceeding rupees two thousand, the claimant may, at his option refer the claim to a Civil Court for adjudication, and where a reference is so made, the claims Tribunal shall have no jurisdiction to entertain any question relating to such claim.]

110-A Application for compensation: An application for compensation arising out of an accident of the nature specified 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.]

(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) x x x(3) no application for compensation under this section shall be entertained unless it is made within [six months] of die occurrence of the accident:

110-F. Bar of jurisdiction of civil courts: 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 injunction 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.

3. So far as the amendments in Section 110-A brought about by the bracketed portions mentioned above are concerned, the original words for which the bracketed portion was substituted in Clause (b) were 'by the legal representatives' and in Clause (c) 'or the legal representatives', and in Sub-section (3) the said words were 'sixty days'.

4. The contention on behalf of the petitioner was that Section 110(1) as amended brings the present case within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal and the jurisdiction of the civil court is barred under Section 110-F in the present case also. It was also urged that in view of this amendment, the provisions of Section 110-A(1)(a) should be construed in such a manner that in a case like the present the party suffering damage to property but who is not bodily injured, should not be left without a remedy. In this connection, the meaning of the words 'sustain' and 'injury' were pointed out which, in the submission of the learned advocate for the petitioner, would cover the case of a person who has not sustained bodily injury. As against this, the learned advocate for the opposite party pointed out that Clause (a) of Sub-section (1) of Section 110-A was not amended even though the amendments in other part of that clause were carried out by the same amending Act No. 56 of 1969. He, therefore, submitted that the meaning given to Clause (a) of Section 110-A(1) by our High Court in Farsubhai's case (supra) should not be changed even after the amendment. With regard to the amendment, the contention of the learned advocate for the opposite party was that it was intended to cover only the case of a composite application where a claim by a third party suffering damage to his property alone is joined with the claim made by the party bodily injured or by the legal representatives of the person who died as a result of the accident. It was also pointed out that Section 110-A contains the words 'who', 'sustains' and 'injury'. So far as the word 'injury' was concerned, it was submitted that as interpreted in farsubhai's case, it must be confined to bodily injury only and that it would not be legitimate to introduce the concept of damage to the property in Clause (a) of Section 110-A Emphasis was also laid on the word 'sustains' which according to the learned advocate for opposite party indicates the person sustaining bodily injury and not damage to property. Lastly it was urged that word 'who' refers to a human being; and, therefore, Clause (a) cannot be construed to include damage to property. In view of these contentions, it was urged that the claim like the present can be filed in a Civil Court and Section 110-F will be no bar.

5. The provisions of Section 110 may be considered first. Prior to the amendment, the following requirements had to be satisfied for founding the jurisdiction of the tribunal constituted under Section 110:

(1) There must be a claim to compensation in respect of an accident.

(2) The accident must arise out of use of motor vehicle;

(3) The accident must involve bodily injury or death of a person;

The amending Act No. 56 of 1969 purports to widen the scope of the third requirement mentioned above. In view of this, the third requirement may be restated as under:

(3) The accident must involve bodily injury or death of a person;

or

The accident must involve damage to any property of a third party; or the accident must involve both bodily injury or death of a person and damage to any property of a third party.

A question arose on the section as it stood prior to the amendment it was: whether in case of an accident involving composite injuries Z.E. Death or bodily injury coupled with loss or damage to the property of the deceased or person who suffers bodily injury, the claim to compensation will be within the jurisdiction of the tribunal. Madhya Pradesh High Court in Om Prakash Mishra v. National Fire and General Insurance Company Limited : AIR1962MP19 took the view that such a claim would be within the jurisdiction of the tribunal. This view was followed by this Court in case of an accident prior to the amendment (Farsubhd's case-supra). Madhya Pradesh High Court also laid down that claim for compensation in respect of loss or damage to property alone in a case where no death or personal injury results would not be entertainable by the tribunal and would lie before the Civil Court. It is clear on a bare reading of the amended section that such a claim for loss or damage to property alone would now be entertainable by the tribunal. This is clear from the phrase 'or damages to any property of a third party so arising.' This amendment in terms deals with the proposition of Madhya Pradesh High Court that where no death or bodily injury results in an accident arising out of use of Motor Vehicle and only loss or damage to property occurs the claim is not entertainable by the Tribunal. The legislature has stepped in to say that such a claim if it involves loss or damage to the property to the extent of rupees two thousand is exclusively triable by the tribunal. If it involves loss or damage exceeding rupees two thousand it is entertainable by the Civil Court at the option of the claimant, as laid down by the proviso. The legislature did not stop there. It also brought within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal (subject to the proviso) cases of accidents where death of one person occurs, bodily injury is suffered by another person and a third person though not sustaining any bodily injury suffers loss or damage to his property. This is clear from the word 'both' occurring in the amended portion.

6. We have seen the extent of extended jurisdiction of the tribunal pursuant to the amendment. We have seen that claim for loss or damage to property alone of a third party is also within the jurisdiction of the tribunal. In the context, the word 'third party' in the amended provision would mean a person who does not sustain bodily injury or whose death is not caused in the accident. The question would then arise what would be the position of a person who has sustained both the bodily injury and loss or damage to the property? As per the amended provision an accident:

(1) may involve bodily injury to or death of a person; or

(2) may involve loss or damage to any property of a third party; or

(c) may involve both category Nos. (1) and (2) above. We have already seen earlier that this word 'both' would take in an accident resulting in bodily injury to one person, death of another and loss of or damage to the property of a third person. Case of a composite injury /'. e. Bodily injury coupled with loss of or damage to any property of the injured or death coupled with loss or damage to any property of the deceased would also be covered by the word 'both'. Assuming that this word 'both' cannot be given two meanings it is clear that the aforesaid case of composite injuries would fall under category No. 1 mentioned above on the interpretation of the phrase 'accidents involving the death of or bodily injury to persons arising out of the use of motor vehicles' as interpreted by the Madhya Pradesh High Court and this High Court. Even after the said interpretation, the legislature while amending Section 110 has not changed the aforesaid phraseology. It has enlarged the jurisdiction of the Tribunal by the amendment. Looking to this object of enlarging the jurisdiction of the tribunal there is no reason why the case of composite injuries should fall outside the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.

7. If this is the correct interpretation of Section 110, then it is clear that in respect of the aforesaid claims, the jurisdiction of the Civil Court will be barred under Section 110-F except in a case where the proviso is rightly resorted to by the claimant. The proviso gives an option to the claimant of the second category to go to the civil court even if the damage to his property, exceeds Rs. 2000/-; and in the present case, the petitioner has not exercised the option of going to the Civil Court even though his claim on account of damage to his vehicle exceeds Rs. 2.000/-. Now, as observed above, if the claim falling in the second category can lie only before the Tribunal as it certainly does, when the extent of damage in respect of the property does not exceed Rs. 2,000/-, the person suffering this damage or loss of less than Rs. 2,000/-cannot go to a Civil Court in view of the provisions of Section 110-A In this context, we now come to the interpretation of Section 110-A(1)(a) of the Act. If we interpret the said provision as entitling only the person sustaining bodily injury to approach the tribunal under Section 110A(1), the person suffering damage of less than Rs. 2.000/- falling in the second category would be without a remedy. It is this context and consideration which calls for renewed approach to Section 110-A(1)(a) in the matter of interpretation so as to see that the aforesaid person is not without a remedy.

8. Now, the first thing to be noticed is that Clause (a) of Section 110-A(1) does not use the word 'bodily' between the words 'the' and 'injury'. The clause only speaks of the person who has sustained the injury. What meaning should we, therefore, give to the word 'injury' in view of the amendment carried out by the legislature in Section 110? It is true that this High Court in Farsubhai's case (supra) which arose prior to the amendment, limited this clause to the person bodily injured only in the following observations at page 152:

It will be seen that an application before the claims Tribunal can be made only by the person who has sustained the bodily injury, or the legal representatives of the person who has died, or his or their agent. The right to make an application for compensation is conferred only on this limited class of persons. The person who has suffered damage to his property as a result of the accident is not given the right to make an application for compensation. Though therefore, it might appear, on reading Section 110(1) alone and in isolation, that a claim for compensation in respect of damage to property caused by the accident would be within the jurisdiction of the claims tribunal, Section 110-A makes it clear that such a claim for compensation is not intended to be made before the claims tribunal. It is indeed difficult to see how such a claim for compensation can be adjudicated upon by the claims tribunal when the person who makes such a claim for compensation is denied the right of preferring an application for compensation. It is plain and incontrovertible, on a combined reading of Section 110(1) and Section 110A; that a claim for compensation in respect of damage to property caused by an accident of the nature specified in Section 110(1) was not within the contemplation of the legislature as being a claim triable by the claims tribunal. It must, of course, be made clear that where a claim for compensation in respect of damage to property caused by the accident is made by a person who has also sustained bodily injury or by the legal representatives of a person who has died as a result of the accident, such a claim for compensation would be within the jurisdiction of the claims tribunal.

These observations were made in the context of Section 110(1) as it existed then. In fact, the aforesaid conclusion was arrived at by the learned Judge on a combined reading of Section 110(1) and Section 110-A We may adopt the same approach after the amendment, and try to solve the question posed before us on a combined reading of Section 110(1) and Section 110A as amended. It is quite clear that in view of the amended Section 110(1), the third person who is not bodily injured or whose death does not occur in an accident but whose property is damaged, is a person who has sustained the injury (not necessarily a bodily injury) as contemplated by Clause (a) of Section 110-A(1). Webster's Dictionary Defines 'injury' as 'wrong an injury, an unjust Act....' and gives four categories as under;

1. Physical harm or damage to a person, property, etc.

2. Unjust treatment; violation of rights; offence.

3. An injurious Act.

4. Insult.

The first category will show that injury does not mean physical harm alone but also includes damage to property. The other word which is used in Clause (a) of Section 110-A(1) 'has sustained'. Webster's dictionary defines 'sustain'...to mean inter alia 'to endure; to bear up against; withstand...to undergo; to experience; to suffer, as an injury or loss,'

Therefore, the word 'sustain' can be interpreted to mean suffering or undergoing. In this view, Clause (a) of Section 110-A(1) contemplates an application by a person who has suffered an injury i.e. Damage to property. In view of the amendment in Section 110(1), a person who has suffered damage to his property alone in an accident arising out of use of motor vehicle has the right to apply to the tribunal under Section 110A(1)(a). It is not necessary as held in Farsubhai's case (supra) that he must have sustained bodily injury also. In the context of the amendment in Section 110(1) it would not be possible now to Act upon the former interpretation of Clause (a) of Section 110-A(1) by this High Court. At that time also, as observed earlier, it was so interpreted on a combined reading of Sections 110(1) and 110-A It was so interpreted because at that time, the jurisdiction of the claims Tribunal did not extend to claims to damage to any property of a third party arising out of an accident, but was confined to accidents involving death of or bodily injuries to persons. It is, therefore not possible to agree with the submission of the opposite party that it would not be legitimate to include concept of damage to the property in Clause (a) of Section 110-A(1) and depart from the former instrumentation. Similarly, the contention of the other side that the words 'has sustained' would mean bodily injury, cannot be accepted in view of the meaning of that word given above. The emphasis on the pronoun 'who' by the other side is misplaced. This pronoun only qualifies the person who is entitled to make an application; that person must be a person who has sustained injury under Clause (a). It is quite clear that a person who has not sustained any bodily injury but whose property is damaged as a result of the accident, is equally a person who has sustained injury, because the accident has resulted in loss or damage to his property, and also because the accident arises out of a wrongful Act violating his right to property.

9. Then we come to the contention of the other side that the legislature while amending Section 110 did not amend Section 110-A suitably. Great emphasis was placed on this aspect; and it was further pointed out that notwithstanding the amendment of certain parts of Section 110-A, Clause (a) thereof was kept intact. In my opinion, in view of the meaning of the word 'injury' occurring in Clause (a) as mentioned above, the legislature thought it unnecessary to amend Clause (a). This contention is, therefore, not tenable.

10. It was also contended that the amended Section 110(1) was limited to cases in which there are persons who suffer bodily injury and apart from that, there is a person who suffers damage to the property only. The submission was that a composite application by these persons could be brought under Section 110(1) in such a case, but not when the accident has resulted only in damage to the property of a third party. It is not possible to give such a restricted meaning to the amendments carried out in Section 110. The disjunctive 'or' between the first and the second categories of cases mentioned in Section 110 would clearly show that the claims Tribunal will have jurisdiction also in respect of accidents which resulted in damage to any property of a third party and did not result in bodily injury or death.

In the result, it is clear that the learned judge of the claims tribunal has committed a jurisdictional error in coming to the conclusion that he has no jurisdiction to entertain this claim. This finding has to be interfered with in revision in exercise of revisional powers of this Court under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

In the result, the petition is allowed. The order passed by the learned Judge of the claims Tribunal is set aside; and the matter is remitted back to him with a direction to dispose it off in accordance with law. Rule made absolute in these terms. Looking to the question of interpretation involved, it would be just and fair to leave each part to bear its own costs of this revisional application.


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