The bench noted that in the last five years, there were 660 deaths in hit and run cases and 113 injury cases, while only 205 claims were received under the Scheme during the financial year 2022-23
The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to consider whether the compensation amounts in case of death and grievous injury in hit-and-run accidents can be enhanced annually.
The top court asked the Government to an appropriate decision within eight weeks and posted the matter for further consideration on April 22.
The Supreme Court noted that the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, provides that in case of death of any person resulting from hit-and-run accident, a compensation of ₹2 lakh or such higher amount as may be prescribed by the Centre shall be paid and in case of grievous injury, the compensation amount is ₹50,000. The top court also asked the police to inform the family members of victims of such accidents about the compensation scheme under the Act.
A bench of Justices A.S. Oka and Pankaj Mithal noted in its order that the number of hit-and-run accidents has increased over the years.
“It is evident from records published by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of the Government of India from 2016-2022 that there were 55,942 hit and run motor accidents in 2016, which increased to 65,186 in 2017, 69,621 in 2018, and 69,621 in 2019. During the Covid-19 period, the number of accidents decreased,” it said
The bench also noted an answer given by the Road Transport and Highways Minister in the Lok Sabha in March last year.
“The answer records that in the last five years, there were 660 deaths in hit-and-run cases, and there were 113 injury cases for which compensation of Rs 184.60 lakh was disbursed,” the bench said in its January 12 order.
“If we compare the number of hit-and-run road accidents reported and the number of cases registered for seeking compensation, what stares at the face is that a negligible number of victims have taken advantage of the said scheme,” it said.
The bench noted that one of the reasons may be that victims were not made aware of the existence of the compensation scheme.
“The value of money diminishes with time. We direct the Central Government to consider whether the compensation amounts can be gradually enhanced annually. The Central Government shall take an appropriate decision on this issue within eight weeks from today,” the Supreme Court said.
The bench passed its order after hearing submissions on the issue of effective implementation of the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act relating to the grant of compensation in these cases. The top court is seized of a plea seeking enforcement of road safety norms.
In its order, the apex court noted that in terms of sub-section (3) of section 161 of the Motor Vehicles Act, the Compensation of Victims of Hit and Run Motor Accidents Scheme, 2022, has been brought into force with effect from April 1, 2022, and it superseded the Solatium Scheme, 1989.
The bench noted the scheme provides for the setting up of the Standing Committee and district-level committees. It further noted that the Standing Committee is at the Central-level and its primary duty is to periodically review the working of the scheme.
“The Standing Committee must look into the causes of non-implementation of the scheme and direct corrective measures to be taken to ensure that every claimant who is entitled to the benefit of the scheme is encouraged to take benefit thereof. If the scheme cannot be effectively implemented without making amendments, the standing committee must recommend amendments to the scheme,” the bench said.
It directed that the committee shall issue elaborate directions for developing public awareness and for sensitisation of public about the scheme.
“If the particulars of the vehicle involved in the accident are not available at the time of registration of the report regarding the accident by the jurisdictional police station and if, after making reasonable efforts, the particulars of the vehicle involved in the accident could not be ascertained by the police within a period of one month from the date of registration of accident report, the officer-in-charge of the police station shall inform in writing to the injured or the legal representatives of the deceased, as the case may be, that compensation can be claimed under the scheme,” the bench said.
It said contact details of the jurisdictional claims enquiry officer shall be provided by the Police to the injured or the legal representatives of the deceased.