Supreme Court Set Aside The Order Of Patna High Court, Allowed Appeal Preferred By Dependents Of Deceased Employee
Hon’ble Supreme Court set aside the order of Patna High Court as the order was based on the erroneous fact related to contested claim. As per the impugned order Deputy Labour Commissioner-cum-Commissioner for Workmen Compensation has no jurisdiction to decide the contested claim as per the notification issued by the appropriate Government made under the provisions of Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923.
The deceased Late Mr. Vakil Chaudhari who was employed as a truck driver in Reliance General Insurance Company Limited died in a road accident in the year of 2011. After the demise of Mr. Chaudhari his wife, son and parents who are the appellants in the present case made the claim for workmen compensation before the Deputy Labour Commissioner and got the award of ₹4, 31,671/- and interest there on at the rate of 6℅ per anum which was stipulated as per the Act of 1923.
Later the said award was challenged by the appellants before the Patna High Court considering it not sufficient as per the monthly pay of the deceased. However, High Court has concluded that the claim petition on the basis of which the said award was granted to the family of deceased was not maintainable before the Deputy Labour Commissioner and claim should have been decided by the jurisdictional Labour court.
The said order of the High Court was based on the findings stated in the written statement filed by the Respondent Insurer Company that as per the notification issued under Section 20 (1) & (2) of Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923 Deputy Labour Commissioner has no jurisdiction to decide the contested claim. Also the appropriate forum for deciding the contested claim is the Labour Court.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed the only reasoning given by the High Court to not consider the Deputy Labour Commissioner an appropriate forum to decide the matter as it is a matter of contested claim. Further Supreme Court pointed out that the averment in respect of the claim made by claimants has been accepted by the Insurer Company and there is no dispute in regard of the same. Hence this matter was not considered as a matter of contested claim by the Supreme Court. Thus Supreme Court held that,
“In the normal course, we would have remitted the matter back to the High Court for adjudicating the appeal on merits. However, we desist from doing so for the simple reason that the first claimant being a widow, the second claimant being the son and the third and the fourth claimants being the parents of the deceased are still awaiting for a reasonable compensation to be awarded.”
Further the Hon’ble Supreme while emphasizing the object of the Act of 1923 as the “dispensation of social justice” made required rectification in the order passed by Commissioner. Hon’ble Court observed that the claim made by wife of the deceased employee was based on the monthly pay of ₹6000/- and there wasn’t any objection to this fact in the written statement filed by the Insurer Company.
Supreme Court pointed out that in the absence of any specific proof the total amount of claim and the interest there on must not be construed on lesser salary. Hence the Hon’ble bench of Justice Arvind Kumar observed that,
“Thus, the irresistible conclusion which we have to draw is, the unchallenged statement of the wife of the deceased who had deposed that her husband was earning Rs.6,000/- per month deserves to be accepted as gospel truth. We see no reason for disbelieving her statement.”
Hon’ble Supreme Court while allowing the appeal preferred by the dependents of the deceased employee in its order also envisaged the mandate of the Act regarding the interest of payment that the claimants are entitled to interest at the rate of 12% per annum from one month after the date of accident to the date of payment, is very much clear and unambiguous.
Case: Mamta Devi & Ors. vs. The Reliance General Insurance Company Ltd.
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3904 OF 2023