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No immunity for defence forces: HC

delhi Updated: Nov 24, 2009 23:58 IST
Harish V Nair
Harish V Nair
Hindustan Times
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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday slammed the plea of 'sovereign immunity' often raised by defence services to avoid payment of compensation to victims whenever its vehicle is involved in an accident.

It is a judicial doctrine that prevents the government or its political subdivisions, departments and agencies from being sued without its consent.

The doctrine stems from the ancient English principle that the 'monarch can do no wrong'.

Justice J.R. Midha expressed surprise at the fact that the defence services continued to raise the plea in motor accident claims cases despite the Supreme Court in 1984 categorically ruling that the doctrine of sovereign immunity
has no application so far as claims for compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act are

The court made the displeasure clear in a case where the Indian Air Force (IAF) challenged an order of a

tribunal asked it to pay a compensation of Rs 4.7 lakh to the family of a man who died in an accident involving an Air Force truck.

The IAF had contended that "it was performing sovereign functions and so it was not liable to pay any compensation".

Justice Midha has asked Attorney General G E Vahanavati to "personally look into the matter" and consider the implication of government raising the plea of sovereign immunity in accident cases.

The court has also summoned data of number of cases pending in motor accident claims tribunals in Delhi where his plea has been raised by defence services.