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Motor Accident Cases: Supreme Court to Facilitate Methods of Efficient Compensation

Motor Accident Cases: Supreme Court to Facilitate Methods of Efficient Compensation
The Supreme Court is supposed to facilitate methods of efficient and prompt compensation. The central government assented to the idea of speedy adjudication of motor accident claims by online mechanism and disbursement of compensation.  This was followed by approaching the court and laying forward the directions agreed upon, from every party’s perception. 

 

This direction has followed from Supreme Court’s decision to appraise the matter of payment of victim compensation and various factors which need to be taken care of for speeding up the adjudication process throughout India while adjudicating cases under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. 

 

The pleas filed by the Insurance Company Bajaj Alianz has been heard by a three-judge bench of the supreme court comprising of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S.K. Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy. The plea has been regarding the changes in the directions in the matter. In the precious hearing, the petitioners had been guided by the Court to draft some guidelines and directions that it would want to seek to smoothen the process of victim compensation as well as speedy disposal of cases before the Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal in terms of the previous orders of the High Court. 

Additional Solicitor General, Jayant Sud assured the court of law that the agreed directions will be presented to the court by the coordinated effort of all the stakeholders. They will be brought together by video conferencing and can therefore, do the needful. 

 

SC’s Artificial Intelligence Committee Recommends

The court directed that the video conferencing meeting for formulating the directions for the matter should be in consonance with the recommendations of its Artificial Intelligence Committee. The counsel had informed the court how the committee was also looking into examining some aspects of the same issue.

Chief Justice of India, Bobde formulated this committee in November, 2019 with a view to assist the court in the matters of artificial intelligence and also develop various models of artificial intelligence tools for various situations. Justice Nageswara Rao heads this committee which tends to deal with issues concerning the Motor Accident Claim Jurisdiction in order to form a robust regime for speedy disposal of claims.

Ministry of Road & Transport Recommends

Deputy Advocate General, Sourav Roy who was appearing on behalf of the state of Chhattisgarh assured the court that they would be taking the assistance of the Ministry of Road & Transport in order to formulate the directions. He went on to say that the Ministry possessed some aggregated platforms which could be of use in the subject matter.

Orders of Madras & Delhi High Court

Bajaj Alianz, the petitioner went on to suggest the Delhi and Madras High Court are very well equipped with the requisite machinery to deal with to deal with all the issues and replicate those directions. The court examined the same suggestions. 

On February 13, 2021, Bajaj Alianz Insurance Company was directed by the court to formulate the directions. This was preceded by the Bench directing the petitioner to submit a note which indicates their directions within 10 days, as on January 18, 2021. 

In the proceedings today, the court was informed by Meenakshi Arora that the note asked for had been submitted before the court with the taking into account various directions of the Delhi High Court along with other High Courts to deal with the disbursement of the claims, pending before the MACT. 

Justice Kaul went on to clarify that the Court had directed the petitioners to “draft directions” so that the court could look into various aspects of its implementation and not just include various directions by various authorities. Ms Arora pleaded to be given more time to do the needful on being reprimanded by the Court. 

"You cannot put everything on court and say you do it. You should have framed the guidelines. You've not done the exercise,” remarked by Justice Kaul.

"We asked you vide Order dated 18th January for directions related to disbursement of compensation and expedition of MACT cases, which would have then modulated for a uniform application. We are trying to help you out. We will give you one more chance. Otherwise, we will close this case,” the bench collectively observed. 

The petitioner was granted one last chance to be petitioner to try and formulate the directions. The court also went on to say that if the Petitioners fail this time, then they would be deemed to have no interested in the case. 

The order said, “We have seen the application and the notes submitted by the petitioner but in the course of proceedings, it has been impressed upon learned senior counsel for the petitioner that this is not what we had in mind when we passed the directions on 18.01.2021 and thus, if the insurance company is interested in the slew of directions, the same be set forth in the manner which we have indicated in the Court failing which we will presume that the insurance Company is not interested." 

The present case relates to the implementation of Section 158, 159 and 165 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 which made the certificates mandatory for certain cases as specified under the said act. 

After the 2019 amendment when Section 158 is jointly read with Section 159, it makes the certificate of insurance and registration for all types of vehicles, certificate of fitness along with transport permit for transport vehicles in cases of causing death or bodily injury. These documents have to be collected concurrently with the incident. It is to be then submitted before the jurisdictional tribunal by the jurisdictional police station in terms of Section 158(6). The report is supposed to be treated as an application for compensation as under Section 166(4). The petitioner claimed that when both these sections are read jointly, they ensure speedy and efficient payment of compensation to the third-party victims. As per the petitioner, the submission of physical copy of the report does not aid the intent of Section of Section 158 and causes delay. 

Bajaj Alianz being one of the biggest third party insurers in India claimed that the main reason why behind the improper implementations of the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 is the lack of required human resource in the jurisdictional Police Stations. It has gathered this information by having experiences throughout India and it further says that this leads to the violation of right to equality and the access to justice which are guaranteed by Article 14 and Article 39A of our constitution. 

Orders of Supreme Court & High Court

In the case of General Insurance Council & another v State of Andhra Pradesh, 2007, the Supreme Court had ordered for strict implementation of Section 158(6). 

In the case of Rajbir Tyagi v Jaibir Singh in 2009, the Delhi High Court had gone to devise a “Claim Tribunal Agreed Procedure” which highlighted the contemporaneous collection along with verification of all the information pertaining to the accidents. The petitioner agreed that this procedure is not online and is also highly dependent on the physical submission of documents before the tribunal. However, its success in Delhi can be attributed to better equipped manpower and the small geography of the Union Territory. They also said that this model will not be suitable for larger states. 

The need for online compensation disbursement for the victims was highlighted in the wake in COVID-19 where it is best to just avoid the physical contact as much as possible. The Apex Court had noted this judgement of the Delhi HC while deciding the case of Jai Prakash v National Insurance Company Ltd & Others in 2009 in its order. It was then extended to the whole country in 2016. Therefore, on the court’s orders some provisions of the Agreed Procedure were included in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

Even the Madras HC had directed for the creation of an online platform in order to submit documents for the enquiry under the act in the case of Cholamandalam General Insurance Company Ltd vs The Inspector of Police. The platform became functional thereafter. The court had also observed the implementation of the DAR regime by SCRB was an improved attempt throughout India. 

There is great scope in the implementation of this scheme by SCRB as it has succeeded in its online, paperless efforts if it is realised by the court. It ensures speedy disposal by preventing fabrication of the required documents and keeping a secure record of the same. Thereafter, the court commended the implementation of this scheme with the mandate of the Jai Prakash Case dated May 13, 2016. 

The Petitioner again highlighted the same point that the Agreed Procedure has just been implemented in Delhi and has lacked in its enforcement in other states owing to their size and lack of requisite human resource of the Police Departments. 

Petitioner’s Prayer

The petitioner, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company has in its present petition filed by Advocate Siddharth, urged the Court to issue a slew of directions: 

Permit the police authorities to submit report under Section 158 of the Act before the Tribunals and the petitioner insurer by online method. 

Permit the police authorities to submit report under Section 158 of the Act before the Tribunals and the petitioner insurer by online method. 

Permit the service of copies of the claim petition or DAR by the Tribunal to the petitioner through virtual mode in cases where notice under Section 149(2) read with section 166 of the Act is yet to be issued. 

Permit the petitioner to submit its response or offer in the claims pending before the tribunals online and be served with tribunal's order online. 

Permit the petitioner to make online payments to satisfy the awards passed by the tribunals into the bank accounts maintained by the tribunals. 

Direct the respondents to create a common online virtual platform accessible by all stakeholders including the police authorities, insurer, respective tribunals and the claimants such that the mandate of section 158 of the Act is complied with in letter and spirit.

Direct the respondents to create a a functional common online virtual platform to ensure filing of claims and settlement thereof by electronic mode itself by the concerned tribunal. 

Direct Union of India & States to develop software for submission of documents mentioned in the prayers as early as possible within a limited time frame. 

Henceforth, as per the Petitioner, the suitable solution to the problem would be online submission of the report by the police as per Section 158(6) before the insurer as well as the tribunal. The expeditious settlement of claim could also be enforced by the fact that if the insurer that there is a bona fide claim in the report, the offer of satisfaction of the claims could be submitted online. 


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