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The cross-objection would be tenable only if appeal is validly tenable: SC

Urmila Devi and ors. Vs. Branch Manager, Insurance Company Ltd. & Anr., Civil Appeal No. 838 of 2020, arising out of SLP(C) No. 12230 of 2016 – January 30, 2020.

The Supreme Court Bench of Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Surya Kant pronounced the judgment.

The present appeal challenges the order of the High Court of Patna in Miscellaneous Appeal No. 521 of 2011 thereby, holding that the cross-objection of the claimants is not maintainable.

Facts: Sanjay Tanti met with an accident. His wife, his children and his father are the appellants of the present appeal. They have filed a claim petition under the S.166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The insurance company claimed that the driver and owner of the vehicle had breached the terms and conditions of the insurance policy and, as such, they are not liable for payment of compensation. The Motor Vehicle Accident Claim tribunal rejected the contention of the Insurance Company and allowed the claim petition by directing the Insurance Company to pay Ra.2,47,500/- by an order. Being aggrieved by this order, the company has filed an appeal in High Court of Patna. The Court held that the tribunal had erroneously fastened the liability on it. It is stated that in Rule 249 of the Bihar Motor Vehicles Rules, 1992, there is no impediment for the claimants to file cross-objection in an appeal filed by the insurance company challenging the quantum of compensation awarded to the claimant. The appeal was disposed.

Issue: Whether the cross-objection made by the claimants is maintainable when the insurance company has not filed an appeal challenging the quantum of compensation?

The counsel for the insurance company submits that the High Court has rightly rejected the cross-objection of the appellants. It is also submitted that the insurance company did not press the appeal. It is found that only when the company has filed an appeal challenging the quantum of compensation then the claimants can file a cross-objection, but when an appeal challenging the denial of its liability to make the payment of compensation, there can be no cross-objection.

The Court has held that the right to prefer cross-objection partakes the right to prefer an appeal. It has been held, that when the impugned decree or order is partly in favour of one party and partly in favour of the other, one party may rest contented by his partial success with a view to giving a quietus to the litigation. It has been next held, that taking any cross-objection to the decree or order impugned is the exercise of right of appeal though such right is exercised in the form of taking cross-objection.  It has been held, that the substantive right is the right of appeal and the form of cross objection is a matter of procedure.

The Court relied on the judgment of Bhadurmal vs Bizaatunnisa Begum, Inayatullah Khan vs. Diwanchand Mahajan and many other cases.

 It is also found that on conjoint reading of the S.173 of Motor Vehicles Act; Rule 249 of the Bihar Motor Vehicles Rules, 1992 and Order XLI Rule 22 of the CPC reveals that there is no restriction on the right to appeal of any of the parties. It is therefore clear that the aggrieved is entitled to get the award. It is also clear, that any respondent, though he may not have appealed from any part of the decree, apart from supporting the finding in his favour, is also entitled to take any cross-objection to the decree which he could have taken by way of appeal.

The Supreme Court held that the cross-objection filed by the claimants is maintainable and the impugned judgment of the court is quashed and set aside. Therefore, the appeal is allowed and the matter is remitted back to the High Court for deciding the cross-objection filed by the present appellants on its own merits.

–  Vydurya Selvi Baskaran

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