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LaxminaraIn Misra Vs. Kailash NaraIn Gupta and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtRajasthan High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Misc. Transfer Petn. No. 30 of 1973
Judge
Reported inAIR1974Raj55; 1973()WLN786
ActsCode of Civil Procedure (CPC) , 1908 - Sections 24; Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 - Sections 110
AppellantLaxminaraIn Misra
RespondentKailash NaraIn Gupta and ors.
Appellant Advocate M.P. Calla, Adv.
Respondent Advocate R.P. Goyal and; B.L. Panwar, Advs.
DispositionApplication dismissed
Cases Referred(Punj) and Ram Samp v. Gurdev Singh.
Excerpt:
civil procedure code - section 24--transfer application--section 24 does not apply to the claims tribunal.;the survey of the relevant provisions, as they are, discloses : (1) that the parliament was very much mindful of the distinction between a court and a claims tribunal and necessarily they cannot be taken to be inter-changeable terms; (2) like any other administrative tribunal the claims tribunal is free to devise its own procedure which has to be a summary one; (3) the c.p.c. or other rules or procedure in the civil code have not been applied in their entirety. only some of the provisions like summoning and enforcing the attendance c f witnesses and for production of documents and other incidental matter have been laid down; (4) the claims tribunal may not necessarily be a district..........to another claims tribunal and invokes the powers of this court under section 24 of the code of civil procedure.2. the transfer was sought principally on two grounds' one on account of his having an apprehension against shri sohan raj kothari, the district judge, on the basis of certain orders passed by him from time to time that the petitioner would mot get justice from, shri kothari. the other one was of hardship caused to the petitioner as no advocate at alwar was accepting any brief for him as shri kailash narain gupta, the the applicant before the claims tribunal as also his father were advocates practising at alwar.3. the first ground is no longer available as shri kothari has since been transferred from alwar to another place and shri m.c. jain is at present the district judge.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Kan Singh, J.

1. Shri Laxmi Narain Mishra, who is opposing certain proceedings instituted against him under Section 110-A of the Motor Vehicles Act 1939 (hereinafter to be referred as the Act) before the District Judge. Alwar, constituting the Claims Tribunal under the Act, moves this Court for transferring the proceedings to another Claims Tribunal and invokes the powers of this Court under Section 24 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

2. The transfer was sought principally on two grounds' one on account of his having an apprehension against Shri Sohan Raj Kothari, the District Judge, on the basis of certain orders passed by him from time to time that the petitioner would mot get justice from, Shri Kothari. The other one was of hardship caused to the petitioner as no advocate at Alwar was accepting any brief for him as Shri Kailash Narain Gupta, the the applicant before the Claims Tribunal as also his father were advocates practising at Alwar.

3. The first ground is no longer available as Shri Kothari has since been transferred from Alwar to another place and Shri M.C. Jain is at present the District Judge at Alwar.

4. The question that confronts the petitioner here at the very outset is whether a District Judge appointed as a Claims Tribunal under the Act is a court subordinate to the High Court within the meaning of Section 24 of the Code of Civil Procedure. There can be no controversy regarding even a Claims Tribunal being subordinate to the High Court as appeals lie to the High Court under Section 110-D of the Act. Apart from this, there is Article 227 of the Constitution under which the High Court exercises the powers of superintendence over all Tribunals functioning in the State. The hubof the matter, however, is Whether the Claims Tribunal is a court as to entitle the petitioner to invoke the powers of this Court under Section 24. C. P. C.

5. The learned counsel on either side have placed a number of cases before me but they disclose a divergence of judicial opinion. In none of the cases, however, the question has been considered whether a Claims Tribunal under the Act is a court for the purposes of Section 24. C. P. C. I will have occasion to refer to the various decided cases hereinafter.

6. In the growing complexities of the present day life and the administration the dividing line between the functions of the regularly constituted courts as such and the administrative bodies dealing with rights and obligations of the citizen is becoming thinner and thinner. Under the system of our laws even judicial Tribunals may exercise both judicial and administrative powers. Likewise, administrative bodies may enjoy not only administrative powers but also such powers as are exercisable by the regularly constituted courts. The term 'court' has not been defined by statute though inclusive definitions are available in several of them. One thing is, however, conspicuous and it is that the courts belong to the judicial hierarchy and constitute the country's judiciary as distinct from the executive or legislative branches of the State. There are nevertheless other administrative bodies or functionaries who, though outside the judicial hierarchy, are yet acting like courts for certain purposes. Whether a person or a body dealing with the rights and obligations of a citizen is a court or a Tribunal will by and large depend on the nature of functions assigned to such person or body by the statute. The problem will thus be one of ascertainment of the nature of the functions. It is well settled that judicial function involves the decision of rights and liabilities and an inquiry and investigation into facts is a material, part of the function. I am not concerned with the administrative functions in which the rights and obligations of a citizen are not determined or dealt with.

7. Now, a Claims Tribunal functioning under the Act deals very much with the rights and obligations of the citizens. Prior to the enactment of the fascicule of Sections 110-A and onwards, the liability of owners of motor vehicles arising out of accidents involving such motor vehicles was determined by regularly constituted civil courts. Parliament, however, felt that the remedy, apart from being burdened with heavy court fee, was tardy in its working. It could not speedily deal with, large number ofclaims of aggrieved persons and therefore by the Amendment Act (100 of 1956) these new sections were added. These provisions were designed to ensure a speedy remedy to persons receiving bodily injuries and to the heirs of persons meeting with death in such accidents. Therefore. I have to gather, in the first instance from the relevant provisions of the statute, as to what the Parliament meant to provide as an adjunct or a substitute of the prevailing remedy to an aggrieved person.

8. It will be convenient to refer to the relevant provisions of the Act at this stage. Section 110-A provides for the making of application for compensation by the aggrieved persons. Section 110-AA relates to the contingency where claim could also be made under the Workmen's Compensation Act. 1923 and I am not concerned with it. Section 110 lays down how a Claims Tribunal will be constituted. I may read this section in extensor

'1.10. (1) A State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitute one or more Motor Accident 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 damages to any property of a third party so arising, or both Provided that where such claim 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.

(2) A Claims Tribunal shall consist of such number of members as the State Government may think fit to appoint and where it consists of two or more members, one of them shall be appointed as the Chairman thereof:

(3) A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a member of a Claims Tribunal unless he-

(a) is, or has been, a Judge of a High Court, or

(b) is or has been, a District Judge. Or

(c) is qualified for appointment as a Judge of the High Court;

(4) Where two or more Claims Tribunals are constituted for any area, the State Government may, by general or special order, regulate the distribution of business among them.'

This section authorises the State Government to constitute a Motor AccidentClaims Tribunal, briefly referred to as the Claims Tribunal, for such area as may be specified in the notification. The proviso to Sub-section (1) lays down that where the claim includes a claim for compensation in respect of damage to property exceeding rupees two thousand, it is open to a claimant to refer his claim to a civil Court for adjudication and where a reference is so made the Claims Tribunal shall have no jurisdiction to entertain the question relating to any such claim. Sub-section (3) lays down the necessary qualifications for a person to be appointed as a member of the Claims Tribunal. What is important to be noticed in Sub-section (3) is that a person need not be actually in office as a Judge of a High Court or a District Judge when he is so appointed. Likewise, he may have never held any office in the past but he should be qualified for appointment as a Judge of the High Court. An advocate who has practised for ten years or more could be appointed a member of the Tribunal. Likewise, a person who had held a judicial office for ten years or more could also be appointed a member of the Tribunal. He might be a Civil Judge or a Munsif only. However, if he is a District Judge then he can be appointed a member of the Claims Tribunal, irrespective of his possessing or not possessing the qualifications for appointment as a Judge of the High Court. The question in the circumstances, is whether the mere coincidence that the Claims Tribunal at Alwar is a one man's Tribunal and the District Judge of Alwar is the Claims Tribunal will be enough for holding that the Claims Tribunal is a Court within the meaning of Section 24, C. P. C. as to entitle this court to transfer the proceedings before it to another Claims Tribunal for another area. One thing that again deserves notice is that Parliament has designedly used the term 'Tribunal' in creating the machinery for speedy disposal of claims arising out of the accidents involving motor vehicles. Parliament was undoubtedly aware of the distinction between what is a civil court and what is a Claims Tribunal when in the proviso to subsection (1) of Section 110 of the Act, it specifically laid down that a claim for compensation in respect of damage to property exceeding rupees two thousand could be referred by a claimant to the civil Court for adjudication and in that event the Claims Tribunal will have no jurisdiction to entertain any question relating to such claim.

9. Then. I may turn to other relevant sections. Section 110-B lays down that on receipt of an application for compensation under Section 110-A, theClaims Tribunal shall, after giving the parties an opportunity of being heard, hold an inquiry into the claim and may make an award determining the amount of compensation which appears to it to be just and it will also specify the person or persons to whom compensation shall be paid, and it shall further specify the amount which shall be paid by the insurer or owner or driver of the vehicle involved in the accident or by all or any of them, as the case may be. Section 110-C deals with the procedure and powers of the Claims Tribunal and I may read this section:

'110-C. (1) In holding any Inquiry under Section 110-B, the Claims Tribunal may, subject to any rules that may be made in this behalf, follow such summary procedure as it thinks fit.

(2) The Claims Tribunal shall have all the powers of a civil court for the purpose of taking evidence on oath and of enforcing the attendance of witnesses and of compelling the recovery and production of documents and material objects and for such other purposes as may be prescribed and the Claims Tribunal shall he deemed to be a Civil Court for all the purposes of Section 195 and Chapter XXXV of the Code of Criminal Procedure. 1898.

(2A) Where in the course of any injury, the Claims Tribunal is satisfied that-

(i) there is collusion between the person making the claim and the person against within the claim is made, or

(ii) the person against whom 'the claim is made has failed to contest theclaim it may for reasons to be recorded by it in writing, direct that the insurer who may be liable in respect of such claim, shall he impleaded as a party to the proceeding and the insurer so impleaded shall thereupon have the right to contest the claim on all or any of the grounds that are available to the personagainst whom the claim has been made.

(3) Subject to any rules that may be made in this behalf, the Claims Tribunal may, for the purpose of adjudicating upon any claim for compensation, choose one or more persons possessing special knowledge of any matter relevant to the inquiry to assist it in holding the inquiry.'

What is remarkable here is that the Tribunal is given the power to lay down its own procedure, though that is subject to any rules that may be made in that connection. Such a procedure ha;; to he summary. This is, however, not to say that the principles of natural justice are not required to be observed. They nave to be observed by the Claims Tribunal like any other Tribunal acting quasi judicially. But this is unlike theregularly constituted courts which are not authorised to devise their own procedure in dealing with the cases before them. Their procedure is laid down in the codes of procedure and other relevant rules. In other words, the civil court itself has no hand in devising the procedure in dealing with matters before it-Section 110-CC is about award of interest where any claim is allowed. Section 110-CCC is for award of compensatory costs in certain cases.

10. What is noteworthy in Section 110-CCC is that it normally speaks of the court as well as the Claims Tribunal in the same breath and I may read this Section as well :

'110-CCC (1) Any court or Claims Tribunal adjudicating upon any claim for compensation under this Act, may in any case where it is satisfied for reasons to be recorded by It in writing that-

(i) the policy of insurance is void on the ground that it was obtained by representation of fact which was falsa in any material particular, or

(ii) any party or insurer has put forward a false or vexatious claim of defence.

[1 such Court or Tribunal may make an order for the payment by the party who is guilty of misrepresentation or by whom such claim or defence has been put forward, of special costs by way of compensation to the insurer or, as the case may be, to the party against whom such claim or defence has been put forward.

(2) No Court or Claims Tribunal shall pass an order for special costs under Sub-section (1) for any amount exceeding rupees one thousand.

(3) No person or insurer against whom an order has been made under this section shall, by reason thereof, be exempted from any criminal liability in respect of such misrepresentation, claim or defence as is referred to in Sub-section (1).

(4) Any amount awarded by way of compensation under this section in respect of any misrepresentation, claim or defence, shall be taken into account in any subsequent suit for damages for compensation in respect, of such misrepresentation, claim or defence.'

The words used in the beginning 'Any Court or Claims Tribunal adjudicating upon any claim for compensation under this Act' are important. If the legislature were not really beating any distinction between a Tribunal and a Court it would not, have used two distinct terms in the same section. Under certain contingencies already pointed out a party is to refer its claim to a civil court and that explains the frame of Section 110-CCC, Therefore, this sectionreally clinches the matter that a civil court and a Claims Tribunal are not the same thing.

11. Section 110-D makes provision for appeals to the High Court. Section 110-E lays down how the recovery of money from any person is to be made. It provides that where any money as due from any person under an award, the claims Tribunal may, on an application made to it by the person entitled to the money, issue a certificate for the amount to the Collector and the Collector shall proceed to recover the same in the same manner as an arrear of land revenue. This section again militates against the normal mode of execution of decrees and orders of civil courts. The mode of recovery of money provided under the Act is that, of recovery of land revenue and the machinery for it is the Collector. Section 110-F is about the bar of jurisdiction of Civil Courts. I am not very much concerned with it. Section 111-A empowers the State Government to make rules for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions of Sections 110 to 110-E.

12. The State Government has framed the Rajasthan Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals Rules. 1964, to be briefly referred as the Rules, under the aforesaid section. Rule 3 of the Rules lays down the form of application. Rule 4 is about the examination of the applicant by the Claims Tribunal. Rule 11 is about the legal practitioner, and provides that the Claims Tribunal may in Ms discretion, allow any party to appear before it through a legal practitioner. This again shows that a legal practitioner cannot appear as a matter of right and it is left to the Tribunal itself to allow such appearance by legal practitioner or not. This rule is consistent with the characteristic of the Claims Tribunal as a Tribunal rather than as a civil court or a regularly constituted court. In referring to this rule I need not be undertstood to say anything about the validity of the rule. Then there are rules about the local inspection and inspection of the vehicle by the Tribunal. Then. Rule 14 lays down that the Claims Tribunal during a local inspection or at any other time, save at a formal hearing of a case pending before it, may examine summarily any person likely to be able to give information relating to such case, whether such person has been or is to be called as a witness in the case or not, and whether any or all of the parties are present or not Further, no oath shall be administered to a person examined under this rule. This is more of an investigation by a Tribunal than what one meets in inquiries by courts. That is the Claims Tribunal cangather information in the absence of any of the parties. Then, there is Rule 18 which authorises the Claims Tribunal to co-opt one or more persons possessing special knowledge with respect to any matter relevant to the inquiry and the remuneration, if any, to be paid to the person or persons shall be determined by the Claims Tribunal. No court on its own can associate another with itself in dealing with a case before, It. Therefore. Rule 18 again Indicates that the Claims Tribunal has to act like an administrative body though quasi-judicially. Rule 20 indicates what provision of the Code of Civil Procedure have been made applicable and I may read that rule:

'Code of Civil Procedure to apply in certain cases. -- The following provisions of the First Schedule to the Code of Civil Procedure. 1908 (Central Act, 5 of 1908 shall so far as may be. apply to proceedings before the Claims Tribunals namely Order V. Rules 9 to 13 and 15 to 30. Order XVII; and Order XVIII. Rules 1 to 3.'

This again shows that only some of the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure have been made applicable to the proceedings before the Tribunal, unlike what is applicable to a civil court.

13. The survey of the relevant provisions, as they are, discloses: (1) that the Parliament was very much mindful of the distinction between a court and a Claims Tribunal and necessarily they cannot be taken to be interchangeable terms. (2) like any other administrative Tribunal the Claims Tribunal is free to devise its own procedure which has to be a summary one; (8) The C. P. C. or other rules or procedure in the Civil Code have not been applied in their entirety. Only some of the provisions like summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and for production of documents and other incidental matter have been laid down; (4) The Claims Tribunal may not, necessarily be a District Judge as other qualified persons could also be appointed,

14. Functions have not been assigned to the District Judge as a Court as one finds it in the Hindu Marriage Act. 1955 and under several other enactments like the Debt Relief Act, etc.

15. Thus, a District Judge acting 09 a Claims Tribunal is only a Tribunal and not a regularly constituted court in the judicial hierarchy. If, say for example, an advocate of ten years' standing or a retired District Judge is appointed as the Tribunal they will be outside 'the judicial hierarchy altogether The provision for appeal to the High Court, to my mind, will not make any difference.

16. Now. I may deal with the various cases to which my attention was invited. In M/s. Jain Transport and Genera] Trading Co. Mathura v. District Judge. Agra ATR 1966 All 534, the learned Judges were examining the provisions of the U. P. Road Transport Services (Development') Act and the rules thereunder. They had to consider the meaning of the term 'District Judge' occurring in Rule 12 of the Rules. They came to the conclusion that the District Judge must be the court of the District Judge and not the District Judge as apersona designate.

17. Interpretation put on the language of one Act is not always helpful for interpreting a similar provision occurring in another enactment.

18. In Surindra Mohan v. Dharam Chand Abrol. AIR 1971 J. & K. 76 (FB) the learned Judges were dealingwith the question whether a Chief Judicial Magistrate appointed under the Rent Control Act by designation was a court or not. Whatever I have said about the Allahabad case applied in full to this case.

19. In Krishan Gopal v. Dattatrava. 1971 ACJ 372 = (AIR 1972 Madh Pra 1251 the learned Judge was considering the question whether the Claims Tribunal was 13 Court for the purposes of Section 115, C. P. C. The question was answered in the affirmative. It appears that the case first came before Raina J. who was of the opinion that the Claims Tribunal constituted under Section 110 of the Motor Vehicles Act was not a court. It was then referred to a larger bench which consisted of Sen and Raina JJ. Whereas Raina J. still held that the Claims Tribunal was not a court. Sen J. held otherwise. The case was then placed before a third Judge. Bhave J.. who agreed with Sen J. I find myself in agreement with what Raina J has held.

20. In Shardaben v. M. I. Pandya, 1971 ACJ 222 = (AIR 1971 Guj 151) a learned single Judge of the Gujarat High Court has held that a Claims Tribunal for all intents and purposes shall be a civil court and therefore it would follow the procedure laid down in C.P.C. The question that fell for consideration in the case was whether an application for compensation can be filed in forma pauperis. In reaching the conclusion the learned Judge had considered the provisions of Sections 110 to 110-F of the Motor Vehicles Act in force in Gujarat. For the reasons which I have mentioned in dealing with other oases, with all respects. I am unable to agree with the view taken in the Gujarat case.

21. The cases on the other side of the line are Abdul Wahid Sahib v. Abdul Khadar, AIR 1947 Mad 400; Bhanu Pratap Singh v. State of Rajasthan. 1964 Raj LW 83; Satish Chandra v. State of Uttar Pradesh. 1971 ACJ 180 (All); Khai-runnisa A. K. Siddiki v. Municipal Corporation. Bombay, 1966 ACJ 37 (Bom); Harbans Singh v. Atma Singh 1966 ACJ 172 (Punj) and Ram Samp v. Gurdev Singh. 1966 ACJ 204 (Punj).

22. In the Madras case the learned Judge has held that District Judges and Subordinate Judges Invested with the powers of appellate authorities under Section 12 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent) Control Act. 1946 were not courts subordinate to the High Court within the meaning of Section 24 of the Code of Civil Procedure but they were persona designata. Consequently, the application for transfer of appeal before such an authority was not maintainable in the High Court.

23. In 1971 ACJ 180 (All) the learned Judge of the Allahabad High Court has held that a Claims Tribunal under the Motor Vehicles Act was not a civil Court and therefore it was not subject to the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court.

24. 1966 ACJ 37 (Bom) was a Division Bench case of the Bombay High Court in which it was held that a Claims Tribunal under the Motor Vehicles Act was not a court. In 1966 ACJ 172 (Punj) a learned single Judge of the Punjab High Court has held likewise. He went on to say that a Claims Tribunal was a persona designata but not a court. 1966 ACJ 240 (Punj) was a case under Section 110-F of the Motor Vehicles Act in which it was held that a Workmen's Compensation Commissioner is not a civil Court but a mere Tribunal.

25. In this court a Division Bench had held in 1964 Raj LW 83 that Jagir Commissioner Who decides compensation under Section 32 of the Land Reforms and Resumption of Jagirs Act, 1952 is a persona designata and not a Court, though he is expected to act in a quasi-judicial manner.

26. The preponderance of authority is thus for the opinion that a Claims Tribunal under the Motor Vehicles Act is a mere Tribunal and not a court within the meaning of the Code of Civil Procedure. I may. however, make it clear that in the generic sense a court is also a Tribunal but courts are such Tribunals as are created by statute and belong to the Judicial Department of the State in contradistinction to the executive branch Of the State.

27. It is true if no good lawyer at Alwar were prepared to accept the petitioner's brief he may be facing hard-ship. It will not be in accord with the best traditions of the Bar if no good lawyer at Alwar is prepared to accept the brief of the petitioner simply on the ground that the applicant in the case is a member of the Alwar Bar. Even so. Section 24 of the C. P. C., cannot be invoked for having the case transferred. All that I can say in the matter is that the members of the Bar are expected to do their duty in the administration of justice which depends not only on the independence of the judiciary but of the legal profession. Learned counsel for the respondent who has his ancestral home at Alwar has contradicted the assertion of the learned counsel for the petitioner that the advocates at Alwar would not be prepared to accept the brief if approached. He has mentioned a number of Instances when advocates of Alwar had appeared in cases against the other advocates who are themselves litigants in the cases. Well. I need say no more.

28. In the result therefore. I dismiss the application but leave the parties to bear their own costs.


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