Saturday, 23 July 2016

Principles for withdrawal of compensation granted under MACT cases

The Claims Tribunal while considering an application for withdrawal of the awarded amount is required to duly apply its mind to the factors as enunciated by the Supreme Court in the case of A.V. Padma v. R. Venugopal, MANU/SC/0065/2012 : (2012) 3 SCC 378 : [2012 (2) ALL MR 65 (S.C.)], wherein it has inter alia been held that the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Kerala SRTC v. Susamma Thomas, MANU/SC/0389/1994 : (1994) 2 SCC 176 : [2012 ALL SCR (O.C.C.) 71] cast a responsibility on the Tribunals to pass appropriate orders after examining each case on its own merits. The court clarified that such guidelines were issued only to safeguard the interests of the claimants, particularly the minors, illiterates and others whose amount are sought to be withdrawn on some fictitious grounds. The guidelines were not to be understood to mean that the Tribunals were to take a rigid stand while considering an application seeking release of the money. In the present case, the Claims Tribunal has mechanically rejected the application made by the petitioner, without applying its mind to the facts of the case. From the reasons given by the Tribunal, it is apparent that the Tribunal has not rejected the application on the ground that the reason for withdrawal is not genuine. Under the circumstances, once having found the reason to be genuine, there was no reason for the Tribunal to thereafter reject the application made by the petitioner. As noted hereinabove, the Tribunal has rejected the application by observing that the petitioner can collect the amount needed for the operation from relatives. In the opinion of this court, the approach adopted by the Tribunal cannot be countenanced for a moment. The claimant cannot be expected to go and plead for funds from relatives, despite the fact that it is possible for her to meet with the necessary expenses from the compensation awarded to her. Insofar as the loss that would be occasioned on account of premature withdrawal of the amount invested in fixed deposit is concerned, it is the petitioner who would have to suffer such loss and if on account of the circumstances that have arisen, the petitioner is required to withdraw the amount, her request cannot be denied on this ground. Besides, the petitioner is an adult aged 55 years and in a position to understand where her welfare lies. Under the circumstances, the Tribunal was not justified in rejecting the application filed by the petitioner.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF GUJARAT AT AHMEDABAD
Special Civil Application No. 2402 of 2015
Decided On: 13.03.2015
Appellants: Gurubachankour Garnalsinh Gil
Vs.
Respondent: Yunusbhai Abubakar Aarav and Ors.
Hon'ble Judges/Coram:Harsha Devani, J.
Citation: 2016(3) ALLMR(JOURNAL)82

1. Having regard to the controversy involved in the present case, it is not necessary to issue notice to the respondents. By this petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner has challenged the order dated 3.1.2015 passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (Auxiliary), Ahmedabad in MACMA No. 471 of 2014 whereby the petitioner's application for withdrawal of the amount kept in fixed deposit pursuant to the award dated 24.2.2014 passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal in MAC Petition No. 195 of 2010 has been rejected.
2. The facts giving rise to the present petition are that the petitioner had filed a claim petition being Motor Accident Claims Petition No. 195 of 2010 before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal under section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 seeking compensation of Rs. 3,50,000/- in respect of the injuries sustained by the petitioner in a vehicular accident. The said claim petition came to be partly allowed by the Tribunal by awarding a sum of Rs. 1,60,420/- together with interest at the rate of 9% per annum from the date of filing of the claim petition till the date of realisation thereof with proportionate costs. The Tribunal had also observed that the petitioner would be entitled to withdraw 30% of the amount by way of account payee cheque whereas the remaining 70% should be deposited in any nationalised bank in fixed deposit for a period of five years.
3. Thereafter, the petitioner, on account of the circumstances narrated in the application, namely, that the petitioner was required to undergo a knee replacement operation which would require the petitioner to incur expenditure of Rs. 1,70,000/-, moved the above-referred application being MACMA No. 471 of 2014 for withdrawal of the said amount which has been kept in fixed deposit. The Tribunal by the impugned order has rejected the application on the ground that the fixed deposit is likely to mature in the year 2016 and withdrawal of the same prior to the date of maturity would result in depriving the petitioner of the interest thereon. Being aggrieved, the petitioner has filed the present petition.
4. Heard Mr. Vilav Bhatia, learned advocate for the petitioner.
5. From the facts noted hereinabove, it is apparent that it is an undisputed position that the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal has awarded a sum of Rs. 1,60,420/- with interest at the rate of 9% per annum to the petitioner in the above-referred claim petition filed by her. The Tribunal has further directed disbursement of 30% of the said amount by way of account payee cheque and to deposit the balance 70% in fixed deposit for a period of five years. The petitioner has placed on record before the Tribunal as well as before this court, a certificate of Dr. Upadhyay A.I., MS (Ortho), Upadhyay Multi-Speciality Hospital, Ahmedabad certifying that the petitioner is required to undergo a knee replacement operation and would be required to incur expenditure of Rs. 1,70,000/- in respect thereof. The petitioner is, therefore, in urgent need of funds so as to undergo knee replacement operation. The Claims Tribunal has rejected the application solely on the ground that the fixed deposit is likely to mature in the year 2016 and withdrawal of the amount, at this stage, would result in loss of interest on the amount placed in fixed deposit. The Claims Tribunal has further observed that the petitioner can always gather such amount from relatives and undergo knee replacement operation.
6. The Claims Tribunal while considering an application for withdrawal of the awarded amount is required to duly apply its mind to the factors as enunciated by the Supreme Court in the case of A.V. Padma v. R. Venugopal, MANU/SC/0065/2012 : (2012) 3 SCC 378 : [2012 (2) ALL MR 65 (S.C.)], wherein it has inter alia been held that the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Kerala SRTC v. Susamma Thomas, MANU/SC/0389/1994 : (1994) 2 SCC 176 : [2012 ALL SCR (O.C.C.) 71] cast a responsibility on the Tribunals to pass appropriate orders after examining each case on its own merits. The court clarified that such guidelines were issued only to safeguard the interests of the claimants, particularly the minors, illiterates and others whose amount are sought to be withdrawn on some fictitious grounds. The guidelines were not to be understood to mean that the Tribunals were to take a rigid stand while considering an application seeking release of the money. In the present case, the Claims Tribunal has mechanically rejected the application made by the petitioner, without applying its mind to the facts of the case. From the reasons given by the Tribunal, it is apparent that the Tribunal has not rejected the application on the ground that the reason for withdrawal is not genuine. Under the circumstances, once having found the reason to be genuine, there was no reason for the Tribunal to thereafter reject the application made by the petitioner. As noted hereinabove, the Tribunal has rejected the application by observing that the petitioner can collect the amount needed for the operation from relatives. In the opinion of this court, the approach adopted by the Tribunal cannot be countenanced for a moment. The claimant cannot be expected to go and plead for funds from relatives, despite the fact that it is possible for her to meet with the necessary expenses from the compensation awarded to her. Insofar as the loss that would be occasioned on account of premature withdrawal of the amount invested in fixed deposit is concerned, it is the petitioner who would have to suffer such loss and if on account of the circumstances that have arisen, the petitioner is required to withdraw the amount, her request cannot be denied on this ground. Besides, the petitioner is an adult aged 55 years and in a position to understand where her welfare lies. Under the circumstances, the Tribunal was not justified in rejecting the application filed by the petitioner.
7. For the foregoing reasons, the petition succeeds and is, accordingly, allowed. The impugned order dated 3.1.2015 passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (Auxiliary), Ahmedabad in MACMA No. 471 of 2014 is hereby quashed and set aside. The petitioner's application is hereby allowed. The petitioner is permitted to withdraw the amount invested in fixed deposit pursuant to the award dated 24.2.2014 passed by the Claims Tribunal in MAC Petition No. 195 of 2010. The petition stands disposed of accordingly.
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