FIR - A Saving Grace For Limitation Under The Motor Vehicles Amendment Act, 2019?

J. Michael Visuvasam, Advocate
Madras High Court
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Date : 09/05/2024
Location : Madras
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FIR - A Saving Grace For Limitation Under The Motor Vehicles Amendment Act, 2019?

Malaravan v. Praveen Travels Pvt. Ltd. 2023(2) TNMAC 416

1. The Motor Vehicles Amendment Act, 2019, came into effect from 01-04-2022. One of the salient amendments was the re-introduction of a limitation period of six months for preferring a Claim Petition in terms of Section 166(3) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. No recourse is provided for condoning the delay under the Amended Act, if the Claim Petition is filed beyond the six months prescribed.

2. Aggrieved by such lack of recourse to condone the delay, a civil revision petition was filed titled Malaravan v. Praveen Travels Private Limited. The "return" of the Claim Petition filed belatedly on 19-04-2023, was the subject matter of challenge. A decision was delivered by the Hon'ble Madras High Court on 18-08-2023, reported in 2023(2) TNMAC Page 416.

3. The Hon'ble Madras High Court had held that the proceeding before the Claims Tribunal itself is initiated based on the "report" filed by the Police Authorities, viz. the Detailed Accident report containing all the requisite details like the first information report, interim accident report, and first accident report.

4. It further held that the claim petition filed by the Claimant only serves as a reminder to the Claims Tribunal to perform its duty under Rule 21 of Annexure XIII of Central Motor Vehicle Rules. Where any request is filed and accessible by the Claims Tribunal, there will be no question of six months limitation arising.

5. This article is intended to analyse the proposition laid down in Malaravan.

6. Before I examine the justification offered in support of the proposition, it would be gainful to extract the provisions of the newly introduced Section 166(3) and Section 159. It would also be beneficial to look at Section 166 (4) retained from the old Act for better appreciation.

Section 166(3) - NO APPLICATION FOR COMPENSATION SHALL be entertained UNLESS it is made WITHIN SIX MONTHS of the occurrence of the accident.

Section 166(4) - The Claims Tribunal shall treat ANY REPORT of accident forwarded to it under Section 159 as an APPLICATION FOR COMPENSATION under the ACT.

Section 159 - The police officer shall, during the investigation, prepare an accident information report to facilitate the settlement of the claim in such form and manner, within three months and containing such particulars and submit the same to the Claims Tribunal and other authorities as may be prescribed.

7. Regarding Section 159, a new Rule 150A was introduced in the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989.

Rule 150A - The procedure to be followed for investigation of all accidents arising out of the use of motor vehicles shall be in accordance with Annexure-XIII and in the manner of submission and form including electronic submission on such Portal as may be specified.

8. Now to the reasoning. The Hon'ble High Court in paragraph 27 would hold that a proceeding itself is initiated based on the Report filed by the Police Authorities. In effect, the Petitioner under Section 166 is only a reminder to the Hon'ble Claims Tribunal to perform its duty under Rule 21 of Annexure XIII of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules.

9. Though the State Crime Records Bureau has to duly intimate the detailed accident report (DAR) in Form IV digitally to the Claims Tribunal as mandated under the Tamilnadu Motor Accident Claims Tribunal Amended Rules 4A(5)(i), the order is silent as to whether any such report was uploaded in respect of the claim.

10. Another interesting reasoning offered by the Hon'ble High Court in paragraph 30 reads, `It is pertinent to point out that the amendment under Section 166(4) does not speak about the interim accident report (IAR), first accident report (FAR), and detailed accident report (DAR) but speaks about any report that has been sent by the Police. Therefore, even if an FIR is sent by the police to the Tribunal, the same should be treated as a claim petition'.

11. A careful reading of Section 166(4) would reveal it speaks of any report of an accident forwarded to it under Section 159 as an application for compensation under this Act. The First Information Report (FIR) is not the one envisaged in terms of Section 159 or the Rules framed in Annexure XIII, in terms of the newly introduced Rule 150A of Central Motor Vehicle Rules.

12. The Accident Information Report envisaged in Section.159, shall be as specified in Form 54, in terms of Rule 150(1) of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules. However, Annexure XIII inserted in terms of the new Rule 150A is exhaustive about the procedure to be followed for investigation in respect of accidents arising out of the use of the motor vehicle. It speaks of the first accident report (FAR) in Form I, the interim accident report (IAR) in Form V, and the detailed accident report (DAR) in Form VII, to be forwarded to the Claims Tribunal by the Investigating officer.

13. Rule 21 in Annexure XIII clearly states that the Claims Tribunal shall treat the Detailed Accident Report (DAR) filed by the Investigating Officer as a claim petition under sub-section 4 of Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and not the first information report. The first information report does not provide any details of the driver, his driving licence, insurance, and other particulars relating to the vehicle, etc., to process the claim application.

14. The first accident report (FAR) contemplated in the rules completely differs in its form and content. It provides details as to the date, time, place, and nature of the accident, name and address of the victims (both injured and deceased), details of the owner, driver, and insurer, manner of the accident, etc.

15. However, even as per the rules in Annexure XIII, the filing of the first accident report (FAR) is not sufficient for the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal to decide the Claim and it can be treated only as a Miscellaneous Application. It has to await the detailed accident report (DAR) and that alone can be treated as an application for compensation in terms of Section 166(4).

16. Even the detailed accident report (DAR) can only be tagged along with the Claim Petition if the claimant has preferred one. Therefore, the Claim Petition filed by the claimant is given primacy and the detailed accident report (DAR) only supplements the collated information from various persons and statutory authorities.

17. Therefore, the first information report (FIR) only records the occurrence of an accident and that cannot nullify the statutory requirement of limitation under Section 166(3). It cannot also substitute the requisites spelt out in the rules framed in Annexure XIII.

18. The time limit for uploading the detailed accident report (DAR) is ninety days. However, the Parliament deemed it fit to grant the option to the claimant to prefer an application for compensation within six months and only beyond the said period, the entertainment of the application for compensation is curtailed.

19. Even in the Gohar Mohammed Case reported in 2022 ACJ 2771, the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in paragraph 40 had held that if the claimant fails to exercise the option in terms of Section 166(1) within six months, the report submitted under Section 166(4) may be treated as a Claim Application.

20. Though Chapter XI of the Motor Vehicles Act, is intended for the benefit of the victims of road accidents, the limitation of six months introduced under Section 166(3) cannot be made otiose, defeating the Parliamentary wisdom.

21. It would also be pertinent to refer to the provisions of the Employees Compensation Act, 1923, wherein the Employer is duty bound to give notice of an accident resulting in bodily injury or death of an Employee to the Commissioner for Employees Compensation and also to deposit the compensation due and payable. If the Employer fails to comply with the statutory requirement, the Employee can also prefer a Claim Petition within two years from the date of occurrence. The limitation of two years provided under the said act is not dispensed with if the Employer fails to report the accident and deposit the compensation.

22. Therefore, an FIR filed in respect of an accident cannot be a saving grace, for limitation prescribed under Section 166(3), when the claimant exercises his/her option to prefer a claim petition in terms of Section 166(1), beyond the period of six months.

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