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Exploring Jurisdiction and Claimant’s Rights under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act


The Motor Vehicles Act (MV Act), a crucial legislation governing road safety and compensation for accident victims in India, provides a legal framework for victims to claim compensation for injuries, disabilities, and fatalities resulting from motor vehicle accidents. One of the pivotal sections under this act is Section 166, which lays down the procedure for filing applications for compensation and provides a legal remedy so individuals who have suffered due to the negligent or wrongful acts of motor vehicle owners or drivers, can claim compensation. A recent Supreme Court ruling has provided significant clarity on the issue of jurisdiction, allowing claimants greater flexibility in choosing where to file their compensation claims. This article delves into the implications of this ruling, analyzing relevant legal provisions and landmark judgments.

Understanding the Scope, Jurisdiction, and Key Judgments

Understanding Section 166 of Motor Vehicles Act

Section 166 of MV Act outlines the process for filing applications for compensation in the event of a motor vehicle accident. It mandates that an application for compensation must be made to the Claims Tribunal of the area in which the accident occurred. This provision was often seen as limiting, tying claimants to filing their applications only in the jurisdiction where the accident took place. 

 Key Provisions of Section 166

  1. Claim Eligibility: Any person who has suffered an injury or the legal representatives of a deceased person can file for compensation.
  2. Time Limitation: The application must be filed within six months of the accident. However, the Claims Tribunal may entertain an application after the six months if it is convinced that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause from making the application in time.
  3. Jurisdiction: The Tribunal with the jurisdiction to adjudicate the application is determined by:
    • The location where the accident occurred
    • The residence of the claimant or defendant
    • The place of business of the defendant

Supreme Court’s Ruling

In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court of India delivered a verdict that redefined the scope of jurisdiction under Section 166 of MV Act. The case of Pramod Sinha vs. Suresh Singh Chauhan proved instrumental in clarifying the claimant’s rights in choosing the appropriate jurisdiction for filing compensation claims. 

The Supreme Court clarified that claimants are not bound to file an application for compensation under Section 166 of MV Act exclusively where the accident occurred. They have the choice to approach the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT) within the jurisdiction they or the defendant reside or do business.

Justice Dipankar Datta, who presided over the case, underscored the importance of ensuring claimants’ convenience and access to justice. The Court also rejected the petitioner’s concern about language barriers stemming from different witnesses, highlighting the prevalent usage of the national language, Hindi, across India. This ruling establishes a significant precedent, expanding the scope of jurisdiction and empowering claimants to select a jurisdiction that best suits their circumstances.

Implications of the Ruling

The Supreme Court’s ruling has far-reaching implications for both claimants and the legal landscape pertaining to motor vehicle accident compensation claims.

1. Enhanced Accessibility and Convenience

Claimants now have the liberty to choose a jurisdiction that is more accessible and convenient for them, reducing the potential hurdles posed by distance and logistics.

2. Language Barrier Addressed

The Court’s emphasis on Hindi’s prevalent usage helps alleviate concerns over language barriers, making it more feasible for claimants to present their case effectively.

3. Relief for Urban Migrants

The ruling is particularly beneficial for urban migrants who might face challenges in filing claims in their hometowns due to employment and residence factors.

4. Disposal of Cases

The broader jurisdiction choice could lead to the equitable distribution of caseloads among different MACTs, potentially expediting the disposal of cases.

5. Legal Precedent

The Pramod Sinha vs. Suresh Singh Chauhan case sets a valuable legal precedent for future cases involving jurisdiction disputes under the MV Act.

Other Relevant Provisions

Apart from Section 166, there are other provisions and judgments that further elucidate the rights of the victims:

  • Section 140: Deals with compensation in the case of death or permanent disablement due to a motor vehicle accident.
  • Section 161: Addresses the obligation of insurers to satisfy judgments and awards against the person insured in respect of third-party risks.
  • Section 163A: Provides for a ‘no-fault’ compensation. Victims can claim compensation without proving any wrongdoing on the part of the vehicle owner or driver.


Understanding the provisions of the MV Act, especially Section 166, is crucial for accident victims seeking justice. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Pramod Sinha vs. Suresh Singh Chauhan marks a significant stride towards ensuring access to justice and expediting compensation claims under the MV Act. By granting claimants the choice of jurisdiction, the Court has not only addressed practical difficulties but has also recognized the evolving nature of urban migration and accessibility challenges. This judgement reinforces the principle of justice being accessible to all and sets a strong precedent for the future. As India continues its journey towards safer roads and improved accident victim support, this ruling stands as a beacon of progress in the realm of motor vehicle accident compensation claims.


Author: Parthvi Patel, United World School of Law 



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