Balveer Batra vs New India Assurance Company 2024 INSC 361 – Motor Vehicles Act- Jurisdiction

Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 – Code Of Civil Procedure, 1908; Section 21- Objection of lack of territorial jurisdiction in an appeal against an award granting compensation could not be entertained in the absence of consequent failure of justice- Though taking of an objection as to the lack of territorial jurisdiction before the Court of first instance at the earliest opportunity is a condition required to raise that objection before an appellate or revisional Court satisfaction of such condition by itself would not make an award granting compensation a nullity inasmuch as in such cases there would not be inherent lack of jurisdiction in Court in regard to the subject matter. Therefore, in such cases, correction by a Court is open, only if it occasions in failure of justice. The provision thus, reflects the legislative intention that all possible care should be taken to ensure that the time, energy and labour spent by a Court did not go in vain unless there has been a consequent failure of justice – Referred to Malati Sardar v. National Insurance Company Ltd. (2016) 3 SCC 43 and Mantoo Sarkar v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd.(2009) 2 SCC 244 (Para 13-14)

Motor Vehicles Act, 1988; Section 166– Merely because the claimant made the application for compensation not to the Claims Tribunal having jurisdiction over the area in which the accident occurred or not to the Claims Tribunal within the local limits of whose jurisdiction he resides or carries on business, is no reason to dismiss the application provided it is filed before a Claims Tribunal where it is otherwise maintainable. (Para 17)

Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 Code Of Civil Procedure, 19008; Order XIV, Rule 2– The issues regarding territorial jurisdiction ought to be tried as primary issues but when it is evident that the issue could not be decided solely based on the pleadings in the plaint (here claim petition) and when parties are permitted to adduce evidence upon finding that it is a mixed question of law and facts there was absolutely no justification for not pronouncing an award on all the issues framed besides the one pertaining to its territorial jurisdiction. There cannot be any doubt with respect to the fact that when evidence was permitted to be let in, may be for such issues the possibility of reappreciation and consequent reversal of finding(s) of the Tribunal cannot be ruled out. But then, if the award was pronounced not at threshold, but after a very long lapse of time and confining consideration only on the issue of territorial jurisdiction and then, answering the other issues as well against the claimant without examining them on their own merits, but solely because of the negative finding on the issue of territorial jurisdiction, as occurred in the case on hand, it would defeat the very purpose of the benevolent legislation providing for grant of compensation under Section 166 of the M.V. Act. (Para 18)

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