The Allahabad High Court held that an appeal against an award of the Claims Tribunal, even if the amount in dispute in the appeal is less than 'one lakh rupees' would be entertainable provided that the amount in dispute is not less than 'ten thousand rupees', and it relates to a claim petition filed prior to 01.04.2022.

The Court rejected the objection of the Stamp Reporter with regard to maintainability of the appeal under Section 173(2) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, filed by ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co.

The Court noted that an appeal against a Claims Tribunal award is permissible if the disputed amount is above ten thousand rupees, even though the threshold for appeal is raised to one lakh rupees. This ruling applies to claim petitions filed before April 1, 2022.

The Bench of Justice Yogendra Kumar Srivastava observed, “the foregoing discussion goes to show that the right of appeal is not a mere matter of procedure but is a substantive right. It is a vested right which accrues to the litigant on the date the lis commences and this vested right cannot be taken away by a subsequent enactment, unless it is so provided expressly or by necessary intendment”.

Advocate Rahul Sahai appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Satya Deo Ojha appeared for the Respondent.

The Appellant, ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co. Ltd., challenged the maintainability of the appeal under Section 173(2) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (MVA). The issue arose due to an amendment in the provision, raising the pecuniary limit for filing an appeal against an award of a Claims Tribunal from ten thousand rupees to one lakh rupees.

The Appellant contended that the right to file an appeal was vested, accrued at the initiation of the claim petition, and cannot be affected by subsequent amendments unless they explicitly have a retrospective effect.

The Court analysed the pre-amendment and post-amendment versions of Section 173 of MVA, finding that, except for the change in the pecuniary limit, the provision remained the same.

The Court referred the case of Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. Haldwani v Dhanram Singh alias Dhan Singh and Others [1990 AWC 67] and Garikapati Veeraya v N. Subbiah Choudhary [AIR 1957 SC 540], emphasizing that the right of appeal is a substantive and vested right, not to be taken away unless expressly provided by a subsequent enactment. The Bench noted that the amendment did not apply retrospectively, and the right to appeal under the unamended provision remained intact.

Consequently, the Court held that the Appellant was entitled to file the appeal under the unamended provision, and the objection to the appeal's maintainability under the amended provision was deemed unsustainable. The case was scheduled for admission at a later date before the appropriate bench.

Accordingly, the Court listed the case for fresh admission on January 22, 2024.

Cause Title: ­ ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co. Ltd. ­ Suresh And 2 Others

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Right Of Appeal Are Substantive, Vested From lis commences, And Can Only Be Revoked By A Amendment If Explicitly Stated Or Necessarily Implied: Allahabad High Court