Compensation For The Accident Arising In The Course Of One’s Employment – In The High Court Of Judicature At Bombay

The appellants are seeking compensation for the death of the late Vishakha Singh Suman Singh (the deceased) during his employment on account of an accident arising out of and in the course of his profession while driving a motor vehicle (truck) bearing No.MH-04-F-8979, owned by opponent no.1 employer and insured with opponent no.2 – insurer, on November 3, 2003, which was dismissed by the Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation and Judge, 8th Labour Court at Mumbai. This Judgment was pronounced by N. J. JAMADAR, J on 17.01.2022 in SMT. HARVINDER KAUR VISHAKAH SINGH AND OTHERS V. SHRI. TRVINDER SINGH K.SINGH.

Facts of the case – Late Vishakha Singh, the husband of applicant no.1 – Smt. Harvinder Kaur, the father of applicants no.2 – Master Charanjit Singh and Kum Luv Prit Kaur, and the son of applicants no.4 – Mr. Suman Singh and applicant no.5 – Smt. Mahindra Kaur worked as a driver for opposite party no.1 – Mr. Tarvinder Singh on truck No.MH-04-F-8979 The car in question was insured by the opposing party no. 2. According to the applicants, the deceased was 35 years old. He was paid a monthly salary of Rs.4,000/-. The deceased died at Chandwad, district Nashik while driving the truck, as mentioned earlier, with the number MH-04-F-8979 on his route to Mumbai for work. An inquest was held on the deceased’s body. The forensic department carried out the postmortem for investigation. The deceased was said to have died from coronary artery heart disease upon the study. The applicants claimed that the deceased died due to the stress and strain since they had been driving the car for 17 to 18 days. The deceased was traveling to Mumbai from Ranchi, which is 1800 kilometers from Mumbai, on his death. As a result, the petitioners sought compensation of Rs.3,94,120/-, plus interest and penalties.

The opposing party filed the written declaration no. 1 – the employer. It was conceded that the deceased worked for opposite party no. 1 as a driver on the vehicle mentioned above and died in the course of his job on November 3, 2003, at Chandwad, Nashik. The opposing party no.1 further stated that he was paying the salary of Rs.4,000/- per month and that a claim form containing the information mentioned above was submitted to the insurer. Opposite party no.2 – the insurer – opposed the claim because the deceased’s death was natural. The usage of a motor vehicle did not cause fatality. Neither the accident nor the incident occurred outside of the workplace. The circumstances listed in Section 2 of the Insurance Contract dated September 29, 2003, and Section 147 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, were not met, so the applicants were not entitled to compensation.

Mr. Dange, the learned Counsel for respondent no. 2 – insurer, questioned the appeal’s tenability, claiming it does not raise any important legal issues. Mr. Dange argued that the presence of a substantial question of law is a jurisdictional prerequisite for hearing the appeal because of the provision to sub-section (1) of Section 30 of the Employees Compensation Act, 1923. In the matter at hand, although accepting the appeal, this Court did not formulate any such fundamental point of law, so the appeal does not merit being heard at this time.

Mr. Gatatne, the learned Counsel for the appellants, entered the fray by arguing that the fact that the learned Commissioner initially found that the deceased and opposite party no.1 had an employer-employee relationship and then went on to take an opposed position raises a substantial question of law in and of itself. Mr. Gatane would take the Court through the learned Commissioner’s observations on the irreconcilable nature of the employer-employee relationship, arguing that the fact that a substantial question of law was not framed while admitting the appeal cannot be used to deny the appellants the right to challenge the legality, decency, and correctness of the impugned Judgment and award, lest the appellants suffer irreparable harm.

The Learned Judge considering the facts such that the insurance investigator, Mr. Suryakant Kambli (witness no.1 for opposite party no.2), obtained a certificate from opposite party no.1 stating that the deceased had been driving tankers for his company (Amrit Roadlines) for the past two years and was earning Rs.2,000/- per month in salary, could not be construed as conclusively establishing that the deceased was not working for opposite party no.1. It’s even more so because of the identification of the vehicle’s registered owner. The dead was driving it at the time of the accident. It was insured with opposing party no.2 was not an issue. In the absence of a specific defense being outlined in the written statement, the Learned Judge believes that a document of the nature mentioned above, which an insurance investigator could have obtained in an unguarded moment, cannot command importance to the detriment of the deceased employee’s dependents.

For the reasons stated above, the Learned Judge is convinced to trust the opposing party No. 1’s testimony that the deceased was paid Rs.4,000/- per month in pay, which is supported by the accident report to the workman. Nevertheless, the learned Commissioner was correct in concluding that the deceased’s age was 54 years, as evidenced by the driver’s license, and in using the 139.13 factors to that age. As a result, the total compensation would be (2000*139.13) Rs.2,78,260/-.

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Reviewed by Rangasree

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