1. This appeal is by a claimant whose claim petition was dismissed by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal for default. Though the appellant filed an application for restoration of the petition, the Claims Tribunal dismissed that application. The appellant then moved an Original Petition in this Court under Article 227 of the Constitution challenging the said order by which the restoration application was dismissed. But the Original Petition was also dismissed with the observation that the appellant should have preferred an appeal as provided in Section 110D of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 (for short 'the Act') against the award by which the claim was dismissed. Hence this appeal after getting the delay condoned by this Court.
2. The order dated 5-6-86 which is under challenge reads thus :
"On behalf of the petitioner's counsel an adjournment is prayed for without stating any reason. Adjournment refused. Petitioner called, absent. Hence petition dismissed."
On filing the claim petition, the Claims Tribunal posted the case for further steps. The respondents entered appearance and filed written statements in answer to the averments in the claim petition. Issues were framed and the claim was posted for evidence which ultimately came up to 5-6-86 on which day the impugned award was passed. Learned counsel for the appellant contended that the Claims Tribunal has no power, after framing issues, to dismiss the claim for default without adverting to reasons or grounds for such dismissal.
3. Section 110A of the Act provides for making application before the Claims Tribunal for compensation arising out of the motor accident. Sub-section (3) says that no application for compensation shall be entertained unless it is made within six months of the occurrence of the accident and its proviso enables the Claims Tribunal to entertain the application even after the expiry of the said period, if it is satisfied that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause from making the application in time. Section 110B imposes a duty on the Claims Tribunal to hold an enquiry on receipt of an application and to make an award. Section 110C (1) gives power to the Claims Tribunal to follow such summary procedure as it thinks fit in holding the enquiry envisaged in the preceding section.
4. A reference to the aforementioned provisions would indicate that the Claims Tribunal has to pass an award once it entertains an application. There is no escape from doing so. Then the question is whether any such award can be passed without adverting to any reason or without arriving at findings on the facts at dispute. Section 111A empowers the State Government to make rules "for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions of Sections 110 to 110E". Government of Kerala have made rules in exercise of the said provision. Such rules provide for the entertainment, consideration, disposal etc., of the applications for compensation. Rule 3(2) says that an application which is found defective on scrutiny may be returned by the Claims Tribunal for being submitted after curing the defects. Rule 5 empowers the Claims Tribunal to dismiss the application summarily, if for reasons to be recorded the Claims Tribunal is of the opinion that there are no sufficient grounds for proceeding therewith. If the application is not so dismissed, the Claims Tribunal has to send notice to the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident, its insurer and its driver and call upon them to produce any evidence which they may wish to tender. It is open to the Claims Tribunal to allow such opposite parties to file written statements. Rule 8 reads thus :
"Framing of issues.--(1) After perusing the application and the written statement, if any, filed under Rule 7 and also the result of the examination, if any, under the same rule, of the parties, the Claims Tribunal shall frame issues before evidence is recorded.
(2) The Tribunal may at any time before pronouncing judgment amend or delete issues already framed or frame additional issues on such terms as it thinks fit."
A reference to the above rules shows that the power of summary dismissal of an application can be exercised only under Rule 5 and once the application survives that stage, the Claims Tribunal cannot but proceed to the final end and make the award after passing through the stage of framing issues, taking evidence, etc. It is useful in this context to refer to Rule 20 which deals with "judgment and award of compensation". Sub-rule (1) says that the Claims Tribunal in passing orders "shall record concisely in a judgment the findings on each of the issues framed and the reasons for such findings and make an award specifying the amount of compensation to be paid by the insurer or the owner in the case of vehicles which are not insured and also the person or persons to whom compensation shall be paid." Its corollary is that even when the Claims Tribunal is not persuaded to grant any compensation to the claimants, the judgment shall contain finding on each of the issues framed and the reasons for such finding.
5. Thus, it is the duty of the Claims Tribunal to pronounce judgment supported by reasons and findings as provided in Rule 20(1), while disposing of the application which passes the stage envisaged in Rule
5. In other words, the Act and Rules do not empower the Claims Tribunal to dismiss an application merely for default of the applicant without arriving at findings and without adverting to reasons after the stage of framing issues.
6. A Division Bench of Gauhati High Court in Samsul v. L & L Insurance Co., AIR 1972 Gauhati 35 has adopted a view which is consistent with our interpretation. The facts in the said decision are substantially similar to the facts of this case. The relevant rule framed by the Assam Government is almost the same as Rule 5 of the Kerala Rules. While dealing with the said rule, the Division Bench has observed thus : "There is no provision for dismissal of a claim petition for default in the Act. Under Rule 5 of the Rules, the Claims Tribunal may dismiss an application summarily, if for reasons to be recorded, it is of the opinion that there are no sufficient grounds for proceeding therewith. If the application is not dismissed summarily under Rule 5, the Claims Tribunal has to proceed as provided by the subsequent Rules. On a careful consideration of the language of Section 110-B read with Rules 6 to 17 we are of the opinion that after the issues are framed following the procedure prescribed under the Rules, the Claims Tribunal has no jurisdiction to dismiss the case for default or in other words it has no jurisdiction to refuse to give an award. In any view of the matter, when the Claims Tribunal in conformity with Rule 5 has not dismissed the claim petition summarily but has framed the issues in conformity with Rule 16, it has to proceed with the case, hold the enquiry and decide the issues notwithstanding the default of either party". Their Lordships found support from the decision of the Supreme Court in Commr. of Income-tax v. Chinniappa Mudaliar, AIR 1969 SC 1068 which held that Rule 24 of the Appellate Tribunal Rules framed under the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 is ultra vires to Section 33(4) of the said Act as the rule enabled the Appellate Tribunal to dismiss an appeal for default. A learned single Judge of Orissa High Court in Suresh Kumar Maharana v. Brundaban Barik, 1982 Ace CJ 296 : (AIR 1981 Orissa 203) followed the above quoted Division Bench decision of the Gauhati High Court. (Of course, the learned single Judge has found that any such dismissal, if made, will not amount to an award and hence no appeal will lie against such an order. That part of the judgment need not be considered now, as the Full Bench of this Court has found in Ponnamma Pillai v. Nambi, 1981 Ker LT 479 : (AIR 1981 Kerla 196) that a decision of the Claims Tribunal dismissing an application at any stage of the inquiry and for whatever reasons is an award under Section 110B and consequently the provisions in Section 110D can be resorted to.) A Division Bench of the Orissa High Court in Asit Kumar Mohanty v. Second Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, 1989 Acc CJ 207 : (AIR 1989 NOC 131) after referring to the relevant provisions of the Act and Rules, (the Rules framed by the Orissa Government are also similar to the Kerala Rules) held that the Claims Tribunal, once it passes the stage of Rule 5 and frames issues, has to pronounce a reasoned judgment.
Viewed in the light of the above discussion, we are fortified in adopting the stand which we have taken. We hold, therefore, that the impugned order was not passed in accordance with law. Accordingly, we allow this appeal and set aside the impugned order. We direct the Claims Tribunal to proceed with the enquiry and pass an award in accordance with law.
Appeal is disposed of in the above terms.