Section 21 of CPC must be interpreted in consistent with the objective of providing remedies to the accident victims

Supreme Court: While adjudicating upon the question that whether the Calcutta High Court was right in setting aside an award of compensation by the Motor Accident Claim Tribunal merely on the ground that the Tribunal  lacked  Territorial jurisdiction, the Division Bench of Adarsh Kumar Goel and Anil R. Dave, JJ., set aside the impugned order of the Calcutta High Court denying award of compensation by the Tribunal in the present case, on the sole ground of lack of Territorial jurisdiction and relying on the relevant precedents, observed that a Tribunal has a wider jurisdiction than the civil court. The Court further observed that Section 21 of the CPC, which deals with Territorial jurisdiction, must be interpreted in consistent with the aim of providing remedies to the accident victims.

In the present case, the Tribunal awarded a compensation of 16 lakhs to the family of the deceased who lost his life due to freak accident. The insurance company preferred an appeal to the Calcutta High Court against the award contending lack of Territorial jurisdiction of the Tribunal. The contention was that, the accident took  place at Hoogly and the claimant was a resident of Hoogly, and merely because the office of the respondent was at Kolkata, would not attract jurisdiction of the Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal. The respondent (appellant in the present case), represented by Mridula Ray Bhardwaj, supported the award of compensation by placing reliance on Mantoo Sarkar v. Oriental Insurance Company Limited (2009) 2 SCC 244. The High Court had upheld the objection of the respondent and allowed the appeal. Preferring an appeal before the Supreme Court, the learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the High Court committed a grave error in interpreting Section 166(2) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

On perusing the facts and contentions of the parties, the Court observed that the Calcutta High Court had failed to notice the presence of Section 21 of the CPC and the objective behind the enactment of the provision. The Court further stated that the contrary approach of the High Court in the light of Mantoo Sarkar, which clarified the issue regarding Territorial jurisdiction of the Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal, is unsustainable. The Court reprimanded the Calcutta High Court for taking a “hyper- technical” approach in the present matter. [Malati Sardar v. National Insurance Company Limited, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 2 , decided on 05-01-2016]

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