1. Prayer in this writ petition is
for direction to the various States Governments and the Union
Territories to ensure that the mandate of Section 158 (6) of the Motor
Vehicles Act, 1988 (in short the 'Act') is complied with without
exception. It is stated that Section 158 (6) of the Act casts a
statutory obligation on the concerned police officers forward to Claims
Tribunal having jurisdiction about the death or bodily injury any person
so recorded in the police station. Further mandate is contained in the
provision about the sending copy thereof to the concerned insurer and
the owner of the offending vehicle. The owner of the vehicle is
obligated to forward the report to the Claims Tribunal and the insurer.
The Union of India has expressed its concern about the apparent
non-compliance with the requirements of the provision by letter dated
6.6.2006 of the Government of India, Ministry of Shipping Road Transport
and Highways, Department of Road Transport and Highways issued circular
to transport Secretaries and Commissioners of all States and Union
Territories IG (Traffic) police and all the States and Union Territories
highlighting non-compliance with the statutory requirements. No action
has been taken to comply with the requirements of Section 158 (6).
2. There is no dispute that there is
statutory requirement to comply with the requirement and actual
implementation is very disheartening.
3. Section 158 (6) of the Act reads
as under:"158 (6): As soon as any information regarding any accident
involving death or bodily injury to any person is recorded or report
under this section is completed by a police officer, the
officer-in-charge of the police station shall forward a copy of the same
within thirty days from the date of recording of information or, as the
case may be, on completion of such report to the Claims Tribunal having
jurisdiction and a copy thereof to the concerned insurer, and where a
copy is made available to the owner, he shall also within thirty days of
receipt of such report, forward the same to such Claims Tribunal and
4. Rule 150 of the Central Motor
Vehicles Rules, 1989 (in short the 'Rules') deals with the matter.
5. Form 54 of the Rules provides the
format in which the information is to be given. The Rule and the Form
150. Furnishing of copies of reports
(1) The police report referred to in
(6) of section 158 shall be in Form 54.
(2) A registering authority or a police officer who is required to
furnish the required information to the person eligible to claim
compensation under section 160, shall furnish the information in Form
54, within seven days from the date of receipt of the request and on
payment of a fee of rupees ten."
6. There is substance in the plea of
Mr. G.N. Vahanvati, learned Solicitor General for the petitioner that if
action in terms of Section 158 (6) is taken, it will rule out filing of
false claim petitions and the job of the Claims Tribunals will become
easier. It is stated by learned counsel that a large number of cases
alleging sufficient injuries are being filed long after the accidents
and this is adding to the pendency of the claims petitions. If action in
terms of Section 158 (6) is taken, it will reduce considerably the
filing of false claims. It has been highlighted in the writ petition as
"26. Some salient facts which have
emerged from a detailed study on a macro level which are relevant for
the purposes of the instant writ Petition may be noticed:
26.1 As on date there are about 1.5
million cases pending in different Tribunals/High Courts/Supreme Court;
26.2 About 4 lakh new cases involving injury/death under the Motor
Vehicles Act, 1988 are reported every year;
26.3 Claims under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 are reported after about
7 months from the date of accident;
26.4 Delay in reporting the claim promotes exaggeration and frauds;
26.5 Delay in reporting the claim makes investigation and fact
verification extremely difficult;
26.6 Adjudication of cases take about 3 to 5 years.
26.7 Petitioners Insurance Companies suffer on account of higher claim
cost on account of delay in the adjudication of the claim petitions.
26.8 Strict implementation of
Section 158(6) shall ensure speedier reporting to Insurance companies
which in turn will ensure expeditious and efficient settlement of
7. The language used in sub-section (6) of Section 158 mandates the
police officer to forward a copy of the report to the Claims Tribunal
having jurisdiction and to the concerned insurance company "as soon as
any information regarding any accident involving death or bodily injury
is recorded or a report under Section 158 is completed by the police
8. Use of the expression 'as soon
as' implies that there has to be promptitude in action. To do a thing
'as soon as possible' means to do it within a reasonable time, with an
understanding to do it within the shortest possible time. [Per Dysant,
J. in King's Old County Ltd. v. Liquid Carbonic Can. Corporation Ltd.
(1942) 2 WWR 603]. 'As and when' and 'as soon as' are almost synonymous.
Whenever these expressions are used in respect of time and place, they
denote contemporaneous notion. 'As soon as' and 'forthwith' both are to
be normally understood as allowing reasonable time, but latter is more
peremptory than the former. But urgency is the hallmark of both
expressions. Expression 'as soon as' may be stretched to mean 'as soon
as' practicable. It has to be forwarded with promptitude.
9. Since there is a mandatory
requirement to act in the manner provided in Section 158(6) there is no
justifiable reason as to why the requirement is not being followed. 10.
It is, therefore, directed that all the State Governments and the Union
Territories shall instruct, if not already done, all concerned police
officers about the need to comply with the requirement of Section 158(6)
keeping in view the requirement indicated in Rule 159 and in Form 54.
Periodical checking shall be done by the Inspector General of Police
concerned to ensure that the requirements are being complied with. In
case there is non-compliance, appropriate action shall be taken against
the erring officials. The Department of Transport and Highway shall make
periodical verification to ensure that action is being taken and in case
of any deviation immediately bring the same to the notice of the
concerned State Government/Union Territories so that necessary action
can be taken against the concerned officials. 11. The writ petition is
accordingly disposed of.
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