2003(2) ALL MR 654
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY(NAGPUR BENCH)
S.G. MAHAJAN, J.
Rajendra S/O Ramkrisna Naraje & Ors. Vs. Vinodkumar S/O Chhaganlal Agrawal & Anr.
Civil Revision Application No.327 of 2001
20th January, 2003
Petitioner Counsel: Shri. R.T. KHAPRE
Motor Vehicles Act (1988), S.171 - Maharashtra Motor Vehicles Rules (1989), Rr.254, 275 - Tempo trax vehicle carrying passengers falling in overflowing river - Death of passengers and dead body not traced - Claim petition filed - Relevant certificates to prove accident and death and non-recovery of dead body produced - Death certificate and post mortem report not produced - Tribunal has to exempt claimant from producing such certificate - Tribunal cannot refuse to register claim.
In the instant case, the claimant have placed sufficient material before the Tribunal to enable it to exempt them from filing the death certificate/post-mortem report at the stage of registration. The above authorities must have issued the aforesaid certificates after due enquiry. Whether the deceased was really travelling in the aforesaid Tempo Trax and whether he died and his body had flown away in the flood, is a matter of evidence. If on recording the evidence, the Tribunal is not satisfied about the above facts, it may not allow the claim and may not pass the award. On the other hand, if the Tribunal is satisfied about the genuineness of the abovementioned facts, it can pass the award by allowing the claim. However, in the peculiar circumstances of the case, the registration of claim petition cannot be refused. This is a case in which it would be most appropriate that the exemption from filing the death certificate/P.M. report should be granted and the claim petition should be registered on the basis of the documents available. The genuineness of the allegation of the death of the deceased in the aforesaid accident can be tested on the evidence that would be recorded in the petition. [Para 9,10]
2. Notices were issued to the respondents indicating that the revision shall be disposed of finally at the stage of admission itself. Though the respondents were served, none appeared for them. The matter is, therefore, heard and being disposed of finally at the stage of admission.
3. The revision-petitioners are the claimants. It is their contention that on 30-7-1998, deceased Ramkrishna Naraje was travelling in a Tempo Trax Vehicle No.MH-30/B-1149 along with five others. When the vehicle reached the bridge of river 'Man' near Village Lohara, it met with an accident and fell in the river. All the six inmates travelling by the Tempo Trax died in the said accident. The dead body of Ramkrishna had flown away in the flood of the river and could not be traced out in spite of extensive search. So, the death certificate/post-mortem report of deceased Ramkrishna could not be obtained.
4. The revision-petitioners filed the claim petition in Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Akola. It was given a Kaccha Number - 325/2000. Since certain documents including the death certificate/P.M. report were not annexed and there were some other deficiencies, the office raised various objections, one out of which was that the inquest/P.M. report or death certificate was not placed on record. It seems that the objections except as regards the non-production of above documents, were removed. Hence, on 11-9-2000, the learned Member, Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, passed the following order :
"Applicants/claimants to produce certificate of death or post-mortem report of dead body of the deceased within 15 days from the competent authority as per law, failing which the application shall stand dismissed for want of prima facie evidence."
The learned counsel for revision petitioners submitted that since the abovesaid documents could not be procured and produced within the given time, the claim petition stood dismissed. Thus, the registration of claim petition was refused and aggrieved by this refusal, the present revision came to be filed by the claimants.
5. The learned counsel for revision-petitioners canvassed that the revision-petitioners have placed other documents on record, which show that the deceased had died in the abovesaid accident, but his body could not be traced out. He submitted that since the dead body could not be located, the death certificate/post-mortem report could not have been obtained. According to him, in such circumstances, the learned Member should have exempted the revision-petitioners from producing the said document.
6. The counsel for revision-petitioners invited the attention of this Court to certain rules in Maharashtra Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989. Clause (i) of sub-rule (5) of Rule 254 of the abovesaid Rules requires that besides the other documents, there shall be appended to every claim petition an injury certificate or in case of death, post-mortem report or death certificate. In the present case, obviously, there was no compliance on the part of the claimants/revision-petitioners of the abovesaid clause of sub-rule (5). However, sub-rule (7) of Rule 254 speaks that if any of the documents specified in sub-rule (5) are not appended to the application, the reasons for not appending them shall be stated, and if the Tribunal is satisfied, it may proceed with the application, and require production of such documents at a later stage. Thus, this sub-rule empowers the Tribunal to grant exemption from filing the documents concerned at the stage of registration of claim petition.
7. In addition to the above provisions, the learned counsel for revision-petitioners pointed out Rule 275 of the abovesaid Rules, which enables the Tribunal to exercise certain powers vested in Civil Court. In clause (a) of sub-rule (1) of Rule 275, there is a reference to Section 151 of Civil Procedure Code. The learned counsel canvassed that the Tribunal has got inherent power to exempt the claimants from filing the documents, which could not be obtained, to meet the ends of justice.
8. The counsel for revision-petitioners pointed out that the claimants/revision-petitioners have placed on record of the Tribunal the certificates issued by P.S.O., Ural, Secretary, Gram Panchayat, Hingni BU 11 and Police Station Ural. The certificate issued by P.S.O., Ural, dated 14-8-1998 shows that after the Trax No.MH-30/B-1149 fell from the bridge in flood of 'Man' river, Ramkrishna Deorao Naraje had flown away in it. The certificate further mentions that Ural Police had made a lot of search, but the dead body of Ramkrishna could not be found out till date. It is also mentioned in the certificate that Crime No.57/98 under Sections 279, 337 and 304-A of I.P.C. was registered. Secretary, Gram Panchayat, Hingni BU 11 issued the certificate dated 17-8-1998 on the basis of the aforesaid certificate issued by P.S.O., Ural and it reiterates the facts about the accident and the non-tracing of dead body of Ramkrishna. Besides this, it is mentioned in this certificate that deceased Ramkrishna Deorao Naraje was the resident of Hingni BU 11 and his name was entered in the concerned Voters' List. The certificate issued by Police Station, Ural on 19-9-1998 gives the crime number and under what Sections of I.P.C. the offence is registered. It is further mentioned in the certificate that in the said crime, Tempo Trax No.Mh-30/B-1149 sunk in the flood water of 'Man' river, wherein total six persons had died. It is also further mentioned that out of the passengers in the jeep, Ramkrishna Deorao Naraje was also there and in the abovesaid accident, he died, but his dead body was not yet traced out.
9. In my opinion, the claimants/revision petitioners have placed sufficient material before the Tribunal to enable it to exempt them from filing the death certificate/post-mortem report at the stage of registration. The above authorities must have issued the aforesaid certificates after due enquiry. Whether the deceased was really travelling in the aforesaid Tempo Trax and whether he died and his body had flown away in the flood, is a matter of evidence. If on recording the evidence, the Tribunal is not satisfied about the above facts, it may not allow the claim and may not pass the award. On the other hand, if the Tribunal is satisfied about the genuineness of the abovementioned facts, it can pass the award by allowing the claim. However, in the peculiar circumstances of the case, the registration of claim petition cannot be refused. This is a case in which it would be most appropriate that the exemption from filing the death certificate/P.M. report should be granted and the claim petition should be registered on the basis of the documents available. The genuineness of the allegation of the death of the deceased in the aforesaid accident can be tested on the evidence that would be recorded in the petition. If the award is passed, the Tribunal, by way of precaution, may even impose a condition that the award would be executable after seven years of accident, if nothing is heard about the deceased till then. However it would be a choice of the learned Member of the Tribunal whether to impose such a condition or not. Ultimately what is the order to be passed in the claim petition would depend upon the satisfaction of the Member of the Tribunal and it is not proposed to lay down any restriction on his findings and order.
10. For the above reasons, the civil revision is allowed. The order passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Akola, dated 11-9-2000 requiring the present revision-petitioners to produce the concerned documents within the given time and stating that on failure the claim petition shall stand dismissed, is set aside. The matter is sent back to the Tribunal with a direction to exempt the claimants/revision-petitioners from filing the death certificate/post-mortem report of the deceased and to register the claim petition on the basis of the abovesaid available documents and then to proceed with the case in accordance with law.