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The issue of interpretation of 'accident arising and out of employment' as provided in the EC Act 1923 is repeatedly raised in this forum. The following report in Live Law clarifies the concept well.

The Jharkhand High Court has recently set aside a decision of the Commissioner which awarded compensation for the murder of a truck driver on duty under the under the Employees Compensation Act.

Justice Gautam Kumar Choudhary observed that accidental death during the course of employment is the sine qua non for the award of compensation under Section 3 of the Employees Compensation Act, 1923.

However, it was of the view that murder of a driver on duty is not an accident that is proximate to his nature of employment. It held,

"There should be some causal relationship between the employment and the resulting accident of the employee in the course of employment. Causal relationship pre-supposes that nature of employment was the proximate cause of accident. There should be some link howsoever tenuous it may be, between the nature of employment and the accident which can be associated with the hazard of the work being carried out by the employee."

The Court explained that explosion can be an occupational hazard in persons dealing with petroleum products, but that can not be in the case of one working as a computer programmer. Similarly, while the murder of a security guard can very well be said to have been in the course of employment, the same cannot be said of a driver in a private or public vehicle.

"To accept a proposition that any death which occurs during course of employment can be termed to have a causal relationship to the nature of employment will be against the object and purport of the Act," the Court noted.

Background

Filed through Advocate Amaresh Kumar appeal has been filed by the widow and children of the deceased who the dacoits murdered, and his truck was taken away.

In an appeal filed under Section 30(1) of the Workmen's Compensation Act by the National Insurance Company against an impugned order passed by the Commissioner Workmen's Compensation Act, Hazaribagh awarding a compensation of Rs. 1,35,560/0 in favor of the claimants.

The appeal has been preferred because the deceased workman driver of the Truck bearing registration N0. BHM-8451 was kidnapped and murdered during the course of employment, which will not come within the meaning of accident. Accordingly, the Insurance Company shall not be liable for compensating the claimants.

The award was challenged raising the following issues:

a. Whether the relationship of employee and employer has been established between the deceased and the claimants were having the relationship of son and father?

b. Whether the impugned order suffers from the wrong appreciation of provisions of the Act?

It is also averred that the deceased had gone missing with the truck in August 1995, but the case was registered in January 1997 under Sections 364 and 379 of the Indian Penal Code. The police submitted a charge sheet finding that the case was true without any clue; after that, the claim case was filed under Section 30(1) of the Workmen's Compensation Act.

Findings of the Court

The Court gave its findings on the issue:

Whether murder of an employee during the course of employment will come within the meaning of accident to entitle the Owner/Insurance Company for the compensation amount?

It observed that accidental death during the course of employment is the sine qua non for the award of compensation under Section 3 of the Employees Compensation Act, 1923.

"The expression "arising out of and in the course of employment" postulates a causal link between death and employment. There should be some causal relationship between the employment and the resulting accident of the employee in the course of employment," it added.

The Court also noted that causal relationship pre-supposes that nature of employment was the proximate cause of the accident. There should be some link, howsoever tenuous it may be, between the nature of employment and the accident which can be associated with the hazard of the work being carried out by the employee.

Concerning the present case, the Court noted that it is undisputed that the driver was the father and the truck's owner was his son. The deceased was abducted along with the truck and murdered.

Case Title: National Insurance Company, Ramgarh v. Kulsum Khatoon & Anr
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Jha) 5

From India, Mumbai

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