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To Adjudicate Employee’s Claim Under Section 33C(2) ID Act In An Undetermined Claim: In Karnataka High Court

According to the Karnataka High Court, a worker who seeks compensation for injuries sustained on the job must file his claim with the Employees Compensation Commissioner rather than the Labour Court.

In the case of The Management of KSRTC Vs K. Shivam (Writ Petition No. 17583 of 2017), a single judge bench led by Honourable Justice K S Mudagal stated, “In view of the specific forum provided under the Act, 1923, the Labour Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the claim petition.” Though the Workman had a disability, the question was whether there was any loss of earnings as a result of that disability… The respondent claimed that he was entitled to the amount because of the injuries he sustained while working. As a result, his claim was made under the Act of 1923. In such cases, the claim is brought before the Employees’ Compensation Commissioner rather than the Labour Court.”

The facts of the case are that the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) approached the court to challenge a Labour Court order to pay compensation of Rs.2,97,120 with interest at 6% per annum to one of its employees, K.SHIVARAM, who was injured when the bus he was driving was involved in an accident.

The respondent filed a claim petition with the Labour Court Mangaluru under Section 33C(2) of the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947, seeking compensation of Rs.5,50,000/- plus interest at 18% per annum and Silver Medal Allowance of 50% per month beginning on April 1, 2004, plus interest at 18%.

The corporation objected to the claim, claiming that because respondent had already received compensation under the Motor Vehicle Act, he was not entitled to file another claim. Because the respondent did not perform the duty of driver, he was not entitled to a silver medal allowance under Circular No.722/1997.

Furthermore, the application cannot be maintained in the absence of a labor dispute. However, the Labour Court granted the claim petition in its order dated 13.04.2016 on the grounds that the respondent can exercise his option to claim compensation under both the Motor Vehicle Act and the Workmen Compensation Act. The Labour Court granted the silver medal allowance with effect from April 1, 2004. The Labour Court did not consider the petition’s viability under Section 33C(2) of the I.D. Act.

For the petitioner, advocate Shwetha Anand argued that Section 33C (2) of the Act can only be invoked in relation to an award or settlement contemplated by Section 33C(1) of the I.D. Act.

Advocate V.S. Naik for the State stated that Section 33C(2) of the I.D. Act is a stand-alone provision that does not require an award. Regardless of whether workers receive compensation under the Motor Vehicle Act, he is eligible to file a claim under the Act of 1923.

“The question of considering whether the workman can claim remedies under the Motor Vehicle Act as well as the Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923 arises only if the question of maintainability is held in his favor,” the bench stated first.

It then observed, referring to Sections 33C (1) and (2) of the I.D Act, “Any amount owed to a worker is referred to in Section 33C(2) of the I.D. Act. Section 33C(1) of the I.D. Act refers to any amount owed to a worker under the provisions of Chapter 5-A or 5-B of the I.D. Act.”

It was added “The respondent claimed that he was entitled to the amount because of the injuries he sustained while working. As a result, his claim was made under the Act of 1923. In such a case, the claim is before the Employee’s Compensation Commissioner rather than the Labour Court…The Labour Court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate the Workman’s claim under Section 33C (2) of the I.D Act in an undetermined claim and until such adjudication is made by the appropriate forum.”

Furthermore, the court cited Supreme Court decisions in the cases of State of U.P. and Others vs Brijpal Singh, (2005) 8 SCC 58 and Municipal Corporation of Delhi vs Ganesh Razak and Others (1995) 1 SCC 235, and stated “After the accident, the respondent was paid according to the driver pay scale. As a result, whether he was entitled to compensation for loss of earning capacity or loss of earning capacity was a matter for adjudication. Similarly, because he did not perform the work as a driver and was assigned lighter work, whether he was entitled to a silver medal allowance was up for debate.”

Following that, it stated, “As a result, that could have been the subject of a dispute under the I.D Act. In light of the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court referred to above, the respondent could not have maintained the petition under Section 33C (2) of the I.D. Act without such adjudication. In assuming jurisdiction under Section 33C (2) of the ID Act, the Labour Court made a mistake. The award could be overturned.”

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