The Kerala High Court has held that if the claim petitions filed before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, (MACT) are beyond the period of six months then such petitions could not be dismissed in limine.

The Bench of Justice Amit Rawal interpreted Rule 17 of Annexure XIII framed under Rule 150A of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989 and held that "the provisions of the limitation Act would be applicable for entertaining the petitions for claiming the compensation even beyond the period of six months for, by taking into consideration, Rule 17 of Annexure XIII framed under Rule 150A of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989, the limitation to entertain the claim petition cannot be restricted to six (6) months as there is no provision in the Act excluding the applicability of provisions of Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act.”

The petition was preferred against the batch of orders of the MACT wherein the claim petitions filed under Section 166 of the amended Motor Vehicles Act 1988 (the Act 1988), were dismissed being barred by the limitation.

Advocate K.S. Babu appeared for the petitioners and Senior Advocate S. Sreekumar was appointed as an Amicus Curie and Advocate A.R. Nimod appeared for the respondents.

It was contended that the manner and the mode in which the order had been passed was wholly alien to settled principles as the learned MACT was required to frame the issues, for the question of limitation is a mixed question of fact and law.

Amicus Curie contended that Section 5 of the Act dealt with applications and the appeals and not with the suit and the expression 'claim petition' was synonymous with 'the applications' and therefore an aggrieved person would mean – legal heirs or through an agent and they could not be deprived of claiming the compensation if not preferred within a period of six months.

The Court observed that it was not necessary for a claimant to institute a claim petition either through himself, in case of death, a legal representative, or through agent, if incapacitated/disabled, but even the investigation report submitted by the officer could be treated as an application for compensation. And, if they could seek the extension of time for submitting the report then there could be no discrimination against the claimants for filing the claim petition through either of the modes.

The Court noted that Section 166(3) did not exclude the applicability of the limitation Act 1963 (the Act 1963) and therefore, the provisions of Section 29(2) of the Act would be applied for the reason that on perusal of provisions of sub Section 4 of Section 166, it was evident that even in the absence of claim preferred by a claimant, the Claims Tribunal should treat any report of accidents by police/investigation officer forwarded to it under section 159 as an application for compensation under this Act.

"the cumulative effect is that the statute do not oust the applicability of the provisions of the Limitation Act, particularly, when submission of Detailed Accident Report (DAR), filed by the investigating officer can be treated as a claim petition and the extension has been provided under Rule 17 of Annexure XIII." observed the Court.

The Court further directed the Judicial Academy to sensitize all the stakeholders with respect to the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Amended Act and the Rules to ensure the mandate of law so that the litigants were not made to suffer for having not filed claim petitions within a period of six months.

Accordingly, the petitions were allowed and the impugned order of MACT was set aside.

Cause Title- Akshay Raj v. State of Kerala & Ors.

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