1. Kannan, the petitioner, was involved in a road accident in which he was knocked down by a motor vehicle belonging to the Southern Roadways. The accident happened on 21-4-1976. Kannan sustained injuries as a result of the accident. The injuries were as follows one tooth was broken and other teeth began shaking. There was a head injury. There was a fracture of the head bone. There were other multiple injuries in the body. The petitioner filed a petition under Section 110-A of the, Motor Vehicles Act, before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, complaining that the lorry belonging to the Southern Roadways was driven in a rash and negligent manner resulting in his being knocked down and sustaining multiple injuries. He claimed in this petition an aggregate compensation of Rs. 8,000 under various heads, In his petition he described in detail the nature of the several injuries which he sustained in the accident. However, when it came to asking for compensation under r1amed heads of claim, he did not make any particular claim as compensation for any permanent disability in his body as a result of the accident.
2. The claim of compensation in the manner aforesaid was resisted by the Southern Roadways. At the enquiry, the claimant Kannan called a medical practitioner as a witness to testify to the nature and gravity of the injuries sustained by him in the accident and the extent of the disability caused thereby. The doctor in his evidence said that as a result of the accident, the petitioner's eye-sight had been permanently impaired. Apart from the doctor's evidence, the petitioner himself was passing through bouts of giddiness and frequent headaches. The petitioner, accordingly, filed an application M. P. 1332 of 1978 before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Madras, for leave to amend the pleadings in his petition and to raise the total claim of compensation put forward by him in his petition from Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 49,000. The proposed amendments involved the substitution of Rs. 20,000 for the original claim of Rs., 25,000 (sic) as and towards compensation for permanent disability.
3. The application for amendment was filed before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal on 3-8-1973, almost at the close of the enquiry into the claim petition. This application for amendment was opposed by the Southern Roadways on the principal ground that it was belated and had been obviously mooted by the petitioner only on the basis of the evidence given at the time of enquiry by the doctor. It was further submitted that the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal had no jurisdiction to entertain an application for amendment of pleadings.
4. The Tribunal held that the amendment of pleadings was barred by limitation and dismissed the application. The petitioner has brought this civil revision petition against the order of the Tribunal. The learned counsel for the Southern Roadways, however, supported the order under revision on the grounds relied on by the Tribunal.
5. It seems to me that the Tribunal was in error in considering the prayer for amendment of the pleadings from the point of view of limitation. It is well settled that bar of limitation does not provide a ground for rejecting in limine an application for amendment of pleadings. The power to grant leave for amendment of pleading is a matter of
discretion for the court and the question, of limitation can be only one of the relevant considerations. By itself it cannot be decisive, and for good cause shown an amendment may be ordered even if the amendment were belated.
6. Even otherwise, while Sec. 110-A provides on the one hand, that no application for compensation shall be entertained unless it is made within 6 months from the date of the occurrence of the accident, its proviso expressly empowers the Claims Tribunal to entertain any application after the expiry of 6 months, it is satisfied that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause from making the application within the time limited. The proper way of understanding this statutory provision is that if the applicant files an application for compensation within six months, the application has got to be entertained straightway with no questions asked, but if the application is filed beyond the period of six months, even then the application must be entertained if the Tribunal is satisfied that the applicant was unable to file the claim before the expiry of six months.
7. In the present me, the respondent, Southern Roadways, themselves concede that the amendment sought for by the petitioner was prompted by the medical evidence rendered by the doctor before the Tribunal at the time of the enquiry. Where a plea relating to the nature of the injury or the claim for compensation depends solely or mainlv on an expert assessment of a medical man, it might in appropriate cases furnish a good ground for an injured person to wait for the medical report before filing the claim for compensation. The Tribunal had noticed that the application for amendment had been filed by the petitioner only after the medical witness had deposed that the petitioner's eyesight had been impaired as the result of the injury and the loss of vision was a permanent disability. Nowhere is it said in the Tribunal's order that the claimant knew about the seriousness of his disability even before the doctor expressed himself on the nature of the injury when he gave evidence in the witness box The petitioner is a tinker by vocation, and although he might have personally experienced, in his day to day affairs, the effect of a damage to his eyesight, the question whether his disability was transient or likely to be a permanent disability was a matter which could have been asserted with confidence only after a detailed medical check-up. The medical evidence in a sense was an eye opener, as it were, to the petitioner and it was thereafter that he could move the Claims Tribunal for the amendment with any degree of self assurance. In these circumstances, there can be no question ct the petitioner's application to amend the pleadings being belated, in any sense.
8. The Tribunal had expressed the view that it has no power to order amendment of pleadings. It referred to Section 110-C(2) of the Motor Vehicles Act, and observed that only certain provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, were applicable to the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals and the provision enabling amendments to be made to the pleadings was not one of those provisions. The Tribunal, accordingly, held that the petitioner's application did not lie.
9. I do not agree with the Tribunal's limited view of the extent of its jurisdiction and powers. Section 110-A of the Act enables an injured person to apply to the Tribunal for compensation. The section itself does not provide any particular form of application. Rule 3 of the Tamil Nadu Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal Rules 1961, provides for a form of application in Appendix 2. In Part 11 of the application form a provision is made in sub-clause (h) for the claimant to enter the figure of compensation claimed for a permanent disability. Neither the Act nor the rules make provision for amendment of the entries or pleadings made by the claimant in the prescribed form. It must, however, be remembered that mere forms do not conclude the rights of claimants. The basis for the claim application is not the form prescribed, but the provision in Section 110 of the Act, which recognises and declares the right of the person injured to apply for payment of compensation before a Claims Tribunal. Adjudication of the claim for compensation is, therefore, the responsibility of the Tribunal. If so much is granted, then every power that is necessary for or ancillary or incidental to the due discharge of that responsibility must be held to inhere in the Tribunal, even if the Act itself does not expressly say so. The power to order amendment must,
therefore, be spelt as part of the Tribunal's jurisdiction on the basis of implied or ancillary powers.
10. There is yet another indication in the Act which shows that the Tribunal must have the requisite power to order amendment of pleadings in appropriate cases. Under the scheme of the Act the Tribunals do not supplant the civil courts in one sweep, as the one and only forum for adjudication of compensation claims. On the contrary, the Tribunals come in only when and where they happen to be appointed by State Government notification for given areas. For the rest, the civil courts would continue to exercise their jurisdiction to hear and determine suits for compensation suits which torts lawyers describe as running down actions. The Act thus makes for the co-existence of Tribunals and courts, functioning in their own respective jurisdictional areas. For areas in respect of which the State Government has not constituted Claims Tribunals, civil suits could be the appropriate mode for enforcing claims for compensation. To such suits, before civil courts the procedure prescribed under the Civil Procedure Code would apply, without question in such civil actions or suits, it can hardly be contended that civil courts would be bereft of any power to order amendment of the plaint pleadings. There might be even now the areas in this country which are not covered by the jurisdiction of the Tribunals for the simple reason that none have been constituted. But even if it were not so. the fact that the Act continues to carry appropriate provisions under which courts and Tribunals co-exist for adjudication of claims in motor accidents cases must condition our view as to the scope of the powers of courts, on the one hand, and of claims Tribunals, on the other. It would be a proper basis for construction of any Statute that it is administered in a uniform way throughout the territories in which it is in force. It the position were that tribunals have no power
to order amendments of claims because the Civil Procedure Code does not apply and at the same time if it were the position that civil courts having jurisdiction to entertain motor accidents claims have the requisite power to order amendment of pleadings because the Civil Procedure Code empowers them in that behalf then we would be applying the same law relating to motor vehicles accidents unequally on a distinction which would be highly invidious and without national basis. The proper way to apply the law would be to construe and administer the statute in such a harmonious fashion that inequality does not result. This need for equality of administration of the law is another reason why the power to order amendments of pleadings must be read unto the ad judicatory jurisdiction of the Claims Tribunal, as part of their implied or ancillary powers, even in the absence of an express provision into that effect in the Act.
11. The power to grant amendment of the pleadings must, in my judgment, be regarded as inherent in all Tribunals or authorities which are charged by the law with the duty of enquiring into rights and liabilities of parties and or of adjudicating on their claims or disputes. Where pleadings play an important part in legal proceedings before Tribunals and other authorities and where they afford the basis for evidence to be called at the enquiry, the power to amend must be necessarily attributed as an indispensable adjunct to their jurisdiction. Pleadings, after all are matters of composition by literate people. Error cannot be completely avoided from any human endeavour much less in matters of writing or drafting. Tribunals or other professional advisers are by no
means to be regarded as perfectionists, nor their pleadings as always error proof. Amendments of pleadings in claims applications must be as common and frequent if not more as in pleadings in civil suits.
12. For all the above reasons, I halve no doubt in my mind that the Accidents Claims Tribunals have power to order amendments to claims. They have the opportunity and the means of exercising this power so long as the claim proceedings before them are still alive, and there is still something for the amendment to operate upon.
13. I am supported in my conclusion by an unreported judgment dated 22-21979 of Ramaprasada Rao, C. J. in C.R.P. 2218 of 1977.
14. That was also a case where the Accidents Claims Tribunal rejected an application for amendment of the claim made by a claimant in a motor accident. The learned Chief Justice put his point of view in the following terms
'As the making of the claim is not the conclusion of an adjudication of a claim and as it is still in the process of being scrutinised by the court, no injury or legal harm could be done to the respondent, if the amendment in the matter of quantum of compensation as prayed for is allowed'.
15. For all the above reasons, I am satisfied that the Tribunal was not right in rejecting the petitioner's request for amendment of the pleadings. This civil revision petition is, accordingly, allowed. Appln. No. 1332 of 1978 on the file of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Madras is allowed and the Tribunal is hereby directed to proceed with the enquiry into the claim on the basis of the amended claim. In view of the long pendency of the matter, the Tribunal will make every endeavour to dispose of the matter expeditiously. There will be no order as to costs.
16. Revision allowed.