Note on twin orders dt.11/5/2020 of
Justice N Anand Venkatesh
The Covid-19 times is a challenge. The saying goes, “Never let a good crisis pass”. Justice Anand Venkatesh has done just that by turning the challenge into an opportunity. By orders dt.5/5/2020 in Tr.CMP Mos. 231/2020, he assumed jurisdiction to withdraw motor accidents claims from various claims tribunal, all over Tamil Nadu and helped recording of compromises. It has led to two private sector motor insurance companies being directed to deposit Rs.4,20,00,000/- approxiamate ( Rupees four crores and twenty lakhs) into the concerned courts for the benefit of over 100 victims.
Not stopping, he has gone beyond and ruled that
i) It was not as if the High court alone ahd such power to allow for compromise by acceptance Digital Consent in thse Viral times.
ii) It was open to the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals where the claim petitions were pending also to entertain such requests for recording compromise
iii) The said claim tribunals, which ordinarily had the power, can exercise it upon satisfaction of the submitted Digital Consent and come to the rescue of the victims
And then going beyond, the learned judge on noticing the existence of a Virtual platform of Government, for closing traffic offence, without need for physical meeting of the entities and the said concept being appropriated for a Presentation towards E Compromise of motor accidents claims
i) A suggestion has been made to place the Presentation before the E Committee comprising brother judges of his for.
The judge was not finished yet. It was brought to his notice that there was a 64 year old vexed issue that raised its head now. The issue related to ‘need for drafting decretal orders’ in relation to motor accidents claims Awards. The learned Judge enlisted the three services of three learned counsel, including a Senior Advocate, as Amicus to address the issue. On being satisfied that such ‘decretal orders’ were not necessary either before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals in Tamil Nadu, or even in relation to the appeals against the awards from such claims tribunals, Justice Anand Venkatesh has
i) Directed the Registrar-General, madras High court to issue a Circular to all the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals in Tamil Nadu to dispense with the need and existing practice of drafting decretal orders for motor accidents claims Awards
ii) And to make it clear that henceforth the Claims tribunals shall ensure that the Awards shall themselves contain all the details required to be contained in a decree rendering them the Awards they were supposed to be
iii) And before the High court the need for such decretal orders separately from the orders in the appeals ma6y also be dispensed with as such orders in appeals were also Awards in the eye of law
iv) The learned Judge has noted that there may be thousands of claims before the claims tribunals and appeals for the High court awaiting the prepration of decrees which may release a large number of staff hitherto engaged in unnecessary albour and be able to attend more pressing issued.
Justice Anand Venkatesh was not resting on these laurels. Having been exposed to the pity and plight of the lot of innocent motor accidents victims, he has chosen to make some very serious and noteworthy suggestion on what he has described as his ‘loud thinking’. Pointing out that rescue and recobvery packages from the governments may not be sufficient. The pendency of such motor accidents claims may also be killing the victims. On a conjoint consideration of the twin elements, he has suggested that it may be time for all the insurance companies and transport corporations in Tamil nadu, to consider withdrawing as a many appeals as possible as not pressed, where the stkes involved were too low. He has felt it may be pegged at Rs.7,50,000/- as amount in dispute, all told. But, he has left it to the consideration and discretion of the powers that be, if they lent a positive ear to his suggestion.
i) Making it clear that he was not passing any directions but only making observations to be ‘considered’ the learned Judge has ensured that copy of his order may be sent to Cabinet Secretary, Central government, Union Ministry of Finance, Insurance Regulator & Development Authority, General insurance Council, Mumbai, the Chairmen of 4 public sector insurers and nearly 21 private motor insurance companies and the Chief Secretary, Tamil nadu and Transport Secretary, for their ‘kind consideration’.
ii) The Judge has opined much like the Circular of Central board of Direct Taxes dt.7/8/2019 imposing a limit of Rs. 1 crore as ‘tax effects’ for the Department to file challenges before High Courts and Rs.2 crore for challenge before Supreme Court, these entities can also consider the suggestion as a one off occasion to rescue the lot of motor accidents victims and also help the judiciary as an institution to reduce the huge backlog of cases. A huge benefit it would be, he has felt, if his loud thinking was consifered by the powers that be. But, he has made it clear that his power to do so was limited and he was not crossing the lakshman rekha.
All in all, the twin orders dt.11/5/2020 annexed hereto demonstrate that at least in the matter of motor accidents claims jurisdiction, a huge and impactful advancement has been made by the Madras High Court. The changes are unique, unusual, immensely transformational for all times to come. Is there anything more to go from this Judge? Watch this space.