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Accident claims: seeking percentage as lawyer’s fee equal to sin, says CJ

Special Correspondent
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Tells insurance companies to refrain from going on appeal in genuine cases

Chief Justice of Madras High Court Justice M. Yusuf Eqbal (right), Minister for Commercial Taxes, Registration, Law and Courts C.Ve.Shanmugam (second right), Judge of the Madras High Court JusticeP. Jythomani (third right), Minister for Agriculture S. Damodaran (second left) and CollectorM. Karunagaran (left) at the inauguration of the two special courts for Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Petitions and Land Grab Cases at the District Sessions Court Complex in Coimbatore on Sunday.
Chief Justice of Madras High Court Justice M. Yusuf Eqbal (right), Minister for Commercial Taxes, Registration, Law and Courts C.Ve.Shanmugam (second right), Judge of the Madras High Court JusticeP. Jythomani (third right), Minister for Agriculture S. Damodaran (second left) and CollectorM. Karunagaran (left) at the inauguration of the two special courts for Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Petitions and Land Grab Cases at the District Sessions Court Complex in Coimbatore on Sunday.

Seeking a percentage of the compensation as fee for appearing in claims under the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Original Petition (MCOP) cases by a section of lawyers was a sin and a great injustice to the bereaved members’ families, said Justice Mohammed Yusuf Eqbal, Chief Justice of the Madras High Court on Sunday.

Justice Eqbal was speaking at a function organised to inaugurate two new special courts for MCOP and land grab cases. Minister for Agriculture S. Damodaran, District Collector M. Karunagaran, Principal District Sessions Judge N. Authinathan, K.V. Senthurpandian, Chief Judicial Magistrate, P. Nandakumar, President of the Bar Association, R. Arunachalam, Member of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, High Court Registrar General G. Chockalingam participated.

Exhorting the lawyers to strictly adhere to legal ethics, the Chief Justice said that in MCOP cases, lawyers should even appear without taking consulting fees as a family sought compensation for having lost a breadwinner. It was unfortunate that some lawyers sought percentage in the total claim as fee. Those indulging in such acts could not wipe off their sins even if they visited places of worship or offered any number of prayers a day, he said.

He exhorted the insurance companies to refrain from going on appeal even in genuine accident cases where the claim was reasonable.

He said in case of genuine accidents and valid papers, the insurance companies should come forward to settle the claim immediately. He also reminded that going on appeal even in genuine cases would only result in appellate forums awarding higher compensation.

Hence, the insurance companies should look for reasonable settlements in the lower and trial courts itself.

Justice Eqbal said that the judges should discourage adjournments in MCOP cases. Presiding officers should take up the cases with a clear heart and mind. Refusing adjournments without valid reasons would help in bringing down pendency of cases by 50 per cent, he said.

Justice P. Jyothimani, Judge of the Madras High Court, thanked the Minister for Law, the Chief Minister and the State Government for the expeditious setting up of the court.

Reminding that it was the 150{+t}{+h}year of the Madras High Court, he wanted the judicial officers and the bar to ensure that zero pendency was achieved during this year in respect of MCOP cases.

Minister for Commercial Taxes, Registration, Law and Courts C.Ve.Shanmugam said that the State Government had allocated Rs. 19 crore for recurring expenses and Rs. 1.5 crore towards capital expenses for setting up 25 special courts for land grab cases and MCOP cases.

The Government was focused on reducing the pendency of cases and ensuring justice for the litigant population. Last week, the special court was inaugurated in Tirupur. Land grab cases had the worst impact on hapless public, hence the Government was committed towards rendering justice to the affected people, he said.

The Minister said that an Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre was set up at the Madras High Court at a cost of Rs. 4.20 crore and similarly at a cost of Rs. 1 crore each, such centres would come up in 29 districts to reduce the pendency of cases. He also pointed to the decision to start a National Law School in Srirangam in Tiruchi at a cost of Rs. 100 crore.

After inaugurating the court, the Chief Justice took up the first case, wherein the petitioner’s son and daughter, who lost their 70-year-old father in an accident involving Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) bus, demanded a compensation of Rs. 7 lakh.

Justice Eqbal told the petitioners that they had lost their father who was not a breadwinner and was instead dependant on them.

He asked the petitioners firmly on what their final claim was and they said it was Rs. 1.5 lakh. When the TNSTC said that it could pay only Rs. 1 lakh, the Chief Justice disposed of the petition stating that the TNSTC should pay Rs .1.5 lakh to the petitioners, thus marking the disposal of the first case in the MCOP cases special court.

Members of the Bar represented that the South Taluk office could be shifted to the land adjacent to the Avanashi Road flyover where the Kudirai Vandi Court earlier existed so that the South Taluk office campus could be turned into a parking lot in the District Court complex.

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