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Compensation to Victims of Hit and Run Motor Accident Scheme, 2022: Need to Publicize and Spread Awareness

Before deliberating on the subject, it would be trite to refer to Section 161 of The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 which reads as under:

161. Special provisions as to compensation in case of hit and run motor accident:
  1. For the purposes of this section, section 162 and section 163:
    1. "grievous hurt" shall have the same meaning as in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (45 of 1860);
    2. "hit and run motor accident" means an accident arising out of the use of a motor vehicle or motor vehicles the identity whereof cannot be ascertained in spite of reasonable efforts for the purpose;
    3. "scheme" means the scheme framed under section 163.
  2. Notwithstanding anything contained in the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Act, 1972 (57 of 1972) or any other law for the time being in force or any instrument having the force of law, the General Insurance Corporation of India formed under section 9 of the said Act and the insurance companies for the time being carrying on general insurance business in India shall provide for paying in accordance with the provisions of this Act and the scheme, compensation in respect of the death of, or grievous hurt to, persons resulting from hit and run motor accidents.
  3. Subject to the provisions of this Act and the scheme, there shall be paid as compensation:
    1. in respect of the death of any person resulting from a hit and run motor accident, a fixed sum of twenty-five thousand rupees;
    2. in respect of grievous hurt to any person resulting from a hit and run motor accident, a fixed sum of twelve thousand and five hundred rupees.
  4. The provisions of sub-section (1) of section 166 shall apply for the purpose of making applications for compensation under this section as they apply for the purpose of making applications for compensation referred to in that sub-section."
It is relevant to refer to Jai Prakash vs. M/S. National Insurance Co. & Ors (2010) SCC 607, which is a landmark judgment, wherein the Apex Court lamented on the plight of victims, including hit & run victims, who hardly get any compensation. The Court observed thus:

"The first problem relates to a section of motor accident victims who are doubly unfortunate - first in getting involved in an accident, and second, in not getting any compensation. Let us elaborate. There are two categories of victims in motor accidents - those who will be able to get compensation and those who will not be able to get compensation. Victims of motor accidents involving insured vehicles, who are assured of getting compensation from the insurer, fall in the first category. Victims of motor accidents involving the following categories of vehicles, who do not receive any compensation fall under the second category:
  1. Hit and run vehicles which remain unidentified. (ii) Vehicles which do not have any insurance cover. (iii) Vehicles with third party insurance,

    ..... In hit and run cases, the victim has no one from whom he can claim or get compensation.........It is estimated that around 20% of the victims of motor accidents fall under the unfortunate categories who do not get any compensation (except some who may get a token amount under Section 161 or 140 of the Act). A person hit by an uninsured vehicle, feels frustrated, cheated and discriminated, when he does not get any compensation, but sees another person hit by an insured vehicle getting compensation. The victim does not choose the vehicle which hits him, nor any role in causing the accident. But a victim is denied compensation, if the vehicle which hits disappears without trace, or if the vehicle is without insurance, while a similar victim hit by an insured vehicle gets compensation. Should the State, which by law provided for compulsory third party insurance to protect motor accident victims, ignore these 20% victims who do not get compensation or provide them with some effective remedy? Should the State go something to reduce the incidence of non-insurance?"
It is relevant that under the Solatium Scheme 1989, the amount of compensation was Rs. 50,000/- for Death of a victim and Rs. 12,500/- in case of grievous hurt in hit and run cases, which was undoubtedly meagre & inadequate. The Government woke up to criticism by the Courts/Media and enhanced Compensation to Victims of Hit and Run by launching Motor Accident Scheme, 2022, also commonly known as 'Solatium Scheme' of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The said Scheme has come into force on 1st of April 2022. The basic objective was to provide fair Monetary assistance in case of death/grievous injury due to Hit and Run accident. Under this scheme Rs. 2,00,000/- compensation would be granted for death in road accident and Rs. 50,000/- compensation would be granted for grievous injury in road accident. As per the said scheme, Compensation amount shall be disbursed within 15 days of sanction order. The Compensation amount shall be administered from the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund constituted under the section 164B of Motor Vehicle Act.

The procedure to claim compensation is simple. The applicant is required to submit a duly filled Form I and copy of claim raised by the hospital providing the treatment for cashless treatment payment has to be annexed with the said Form.

The Undertaking mentioned in Form IV is also required to be duly attached with the application form. The said form along with duly filled form with the requisite annexures should submitted to the Claim Enquiry Officer of the Sub-Division or Taluka in which the accident took place. After due enquiry, the compensation is sanctioned within 15 days and disbursed to the beneficiary bank account.

The procedure is simple and there are just 4 forms - 2 to filed by the applicant and 2 by the claims officer. Form I is the Form Of application for Compensation from Hit and Run Compensation Fund. Form II is the Claim Enquiry report to be submitted by the Claims Enquiry Officer. Form III is the Order of the Claims Settlement Commissioner while Form IV is the Undertaking For Refund Of Claim.

It would be apropos to refer to a recent judgment of the Kerala High Court in the case of V.K. Bhasi versus State of Kerala in W.P.(C) No. 16367 of 2022 decided on 28th October, 2022 wherein the Court, discussing the said Solatium Scheme, observed thus:
A latest study on the major causes of road accidents shows that out of the total cases of 4,03,116 road accidents during the year 2020-21, 59.7% of the road accidents has occurred in rural areas (2,40,660) and 40.3% has occurred in urban areas (1,62,456). Among this, there are several hit and run accidents. 'Hit and run motor accident' means an accident arising out of the use of a motor vehicle or motor vehicles the identity whereof cannot be ascertained in spite of reasonable efforts for the purpose. The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (for short, Act, 1988) provides compensation for hit and run motor accidents.

Sections 161 to 163 are the relevant provisions which deals with the compensation payable for hit and run accident cases. Based on Sec.163(1), Solatium Scheme of 1989 was framed by the Central Government. I think the general public is not aware about this scheme and they are ignorant about the competent authority to whom application is to be submitted for getting compensation in 'hit and run' cases. Therefore, a detailed discussion about Sections 161 to 163 of the Act, 1988 and the Solatium Scheme, 1989 is necessary."

But, inspire of the launch of this benevolent scheme, it is disturbing/pinching that there is no Awareness of this benevolent Scheme amongst the general public and very few victims of the hit & run accidents are able to take advantage of the scheme due to lack of knowledge & publicity of the said scheme.

It is worth mentioning that advocate K C Jain had filed a PIL in the Apex Court praying for directing the Central Government to publicize this benevolent scheme for hit & run victims so that these victims/legal heirs are able to benefit from this scheme. He has raised concern that despite the solatium scheme been in operation for 34 years less than 1 % of the victims of the Hit & Run cases have been compensated. He has substantiated his claim with official statistics in this regard. For example, out of 98452 victims of Hit & Run in year 2017 only 595 were compensated under this scheme.

During the year 2022-23 (till Feb 28) out of 81000 injured/deceased only 72 victims were compensated. In fact, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari in a written reply to Lok Sabha, said that 147 lakh was disbursed as compensation to victims of hit-and-run cases in the current fiscal year 2022-23 till February 2023. This speaks volumes on the inefficiency of this scheme. It would be relevant that the number of road accidents is enormous. As per The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways annual report published in 2022, there were 4,12,432 unfortunate incidences of road accidents during 2021 which claimed 1, 53,972 lives and caused injuries to 3, 84,448 persons.

It is therefore evident that the Solatium Scheme of the Central Government has not been able to achieve it's objectives. A lot of efforts are required so that the common man becomes aware of this benevolent scheme. The amount of compensation for the injured and the deceased is also meagre. All hopes are on the pending PIL which is likely to come up for hearing in August 2023 before the Apex Court. We earnestly hope the Apex Court would issue necessary directions/ modifications to make the Solatium Scheme more practical and all the victims are suo- motto granted due compensation within the time frame.

Written By: Inder Chand Jain
Ph no: 8279945021 , Email: [email protected]

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