Boss need not compensate accidental death of staff

25/2/09 ToI

Apex Court Says Death Has To Have Link With The Nature Of Work


New Delhi: Reversing traditional judicial thinking that an employer is always liable to compensate accidental death of a staff member on duty, the Supreme Court has ruled that if the death has no link with the nature of assignment, there is no need for compensation.

   This ruling came from a Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and A K Ganguly in a case about a truck driver who was drowned in a pond at one of the stopovers en route to his destination. The wife of the deceased filed a claim petition before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, which in 2002 asked the truck’s insurer to pay compensation of Rs 2.2 lakh to the widow. The insurer rushed to the Karnataka high court saying the death was not because of any vehicular mishap but due to accidental drowning.

   The HC allowed the insurance company’s appeal and held that since there was no connection between the truck driver’s death and the vehicle concerned, the insurer was not liable to pay the compensation. However, it directed the insurance company to recover from the owner the amount it had already paid to the family of the deceased.

   Bewildered by the development, the truck owner rushed to the Supreme Court appealing against the HC order and claiming that the driver’s death was not even remotely connected to the assignment given to him and was a pure accident.

   Deciding the appeal in favour of the employer, the truck owner, the apex court said there had to be some connection between the death of the workman and his employment. If the employment was a contributory cause or had accelerated the death, the employer would be liable, the Bench said.
   Referring to the truck driver’s death on November 30, 2000, the Bench said he had gone to a temple and was sitting on the steps of the pond when he accidentally slipped into the water and drowned.

   “This, according to us, is not sufficient in view of the legal principles delineated above to fasten liability on either the insurer or the insured (the owner of the truck). The HC was not justified in holding that the present appellant (truck owner) was liable to pay the compensation,” the court said.


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