The Supreme Court yesterday said it cannot "take over legislative functions" as it refused to go into the issues relating to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill on the ground that it was pending for consideration before the Rajya Sabha.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta was told that Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017 has not been passed by Rajya Sabha at the recently concluded monsoon session of Parliament. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on April 10 last year.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, said the bill was likely to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha during the Winter Session, which generally begins late November.
Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the road safety matter, said the bill revises the amount of compensation to Rs two lakh in case of death and Rs 50,000 for grievous injury in road accidents.
As per the existing scheme, Rs 25,000 is paid to a victim of hit-and-run accident in case of death and Rs 12,000 compensation is given to those who are grievously injured.
The amicus told the top court that since the Centre, as well as insurance companies, were ready to pay the enhanced compensation to victims of road accidents, the court should ask them to pay the same.
"We cannot do that. If the Rajya Sabha does not consider it, that does not mean that we should consider it," the bench said.
"Rajya Sabha is seized of the matter. How can we go into it," Justice Lokur observed, adding, "We cannot take over legislative functions".
When the amicus said the government was ready to allow grant of compensation of Rs two lakh in case of death of a person in road accident, the bench said, "The government is free to do it. If somebody wants to pay Rs two lakh, why should we say no you don't pay?"
The ASG told the court that since the bill was pending in Rajya Sabha, the government was "handicapped" on this issue.
During the hearing, the amicus also raised the issue of simplification of procedures where victims of road accidents could be compensated without hassle and referred to the model adopted in Delhi where Motor Accident Claims Tribunals have been functioning.
He said a similar procedure could be adopted by other states and the Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety, headed by former apex court judge Justice K S Radhakrishnan, could look into this issue.
The amicus said the committee would write on the issue to all the states and submit a report before the apex court.
The bench accepted the submissions of the amicus and said the committee should file a report in this regard before the court.
The top court had earlier said that third party insurance of four-wheelers and two-wheelers be made "mandatory" so that victims of road accidents could get compensation. It had also said that insurance firms should look into it from a "human point of view" and not from commercial point.
The committee had recommended that at the time of sale of two or four wheelers, third party insurance should be made mandatory for a period of five and three years respectively instead of one year.
In its report, the committee has said that around 18 crore vehicles were plying on the roads of the country out of which only six crore have third party insurance, and victims of road accidents were not getting the compensation as vehicles do not have third party cover.
The court is hearing a petition filed by Coimbatore-based surgeon S Rajaseekaran which was treated as a PIL by the apex court. The apex court had on April 22, 2014, constituted a committee on road safety which has submitted several reports in the court.