Orders dt.5/5/2010- in Tr.CMP Nos. 239/2020 batch, High Court, Madras
Justice N Anand Venkatesh
Justice Anand Venkatesh, Madras High Court, has rendered a landmark judgment of huge significance, in these dark and viral Pandemic times. Digging into the constitutional power of the High Court, allied with the power as a civil court, the learned Judge has set in motion, a new and innovative procedure for possible application Pan India. Accepting the transfer petition filed by a private sector insurer M/s. Cholamandalam MS Genl Ins Co Ltd, by way of a consolidated Memo signed by the advocate for insurer, for withdrawal of 23 motor accidents claims, across Tamil Nadu, to the High Court and record compromise in them, the judge has passed orders on 5th May, 2020, directing the insurance company to deposit a sum of Rs.51,59,000 to the credit of the 23 claimants’ cases, within 2 weeks of receipt of the orders by E Mail.
In possibly, the first instance of its kind, in these national lockdown times, the learned Judge has withdrawn the cases from various claims tribunals in Tamil Nadu, and allowed the cases to be compromised, based on representations made to him by a Memo filed by the insurer with proof of consent of the claimants and their counsel by WhatsApp mode.
The Judge found that the insurance company had negotiated compromise of the 23 claims, with various claimants and their advocates, by interacting with each other on Mobile connectivity. But did not know how to get them compromised, so that insurer can deposit the compensation amounts to the victims, who may be in desperate need of money.
Ordinarily, the claimants and their advocates may have to appear in person, in court or before Lok Adalat, for recording such compromises. Now, it was not practically possible. The claims tribunals were also in different districts of TN, as in Kanchipuram, Arakonam, Dindivanam, Chidambaram, Vilupuram, Panruti and even Puduchhery.
So, the learned Judge in a bold and imaginative order, chose to assume jurisdiction, which he pointed out was very much available in law, as per a series of judgments from High Court as well as Supreme Court, and withdrew the 23 motor accidents claims from the various claims tribunals, to the High Court and allowed a compromise to be recorded in them. The learned Judge recorded that parties had reached a compromise – as per the terms of Memo filed by insurance company and consent of claimants and their advocates on WhatsApp. The court accepted that the digital consent provided was in a manner known to law, and as such law was not lacking, to support the cause of justice. The victims and their counsel and insurance company and its advocate, all in different places, came together before the learned Judge, in differing ways, to convince a recording of compromise. This could possibly be the first instance of its kind and considering that there could be hundreds more such victims, seeking early closure, this decision may be available as a valuable legal tool and precedent to follow.
The virtual judicial lockdown, the judgment says need not be an impediment to help such victims who may be in dire need of closure and rescue and recover them from the present situation, as if an economic package from Judiciary. Law and court have come together in a timely fashion in the cause of justice. The learned judge deserves a warm round of applause, for he may well have shown a way out of the present impasse, for at least the most deserving of causes and not sit back and wait for normalcy to return. The order dt.5th May, 2020 is worth a read.