The Bombay High Court observed that a truck driver died due to stress during employment, has ordered an employer to pay compensation to the family of the truck driver.
Justice NJ Jamadar observed that the heart attack of the deceased truck driver can be treated as an accident that occurred during his employment as stated under Section 3 of the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
The bench set aside this order of the labor court and allowed an appeal filed by the truck driver’s relatives in 2007. The owner of the travel company and the insurance company have been ordered to pay Rs 2,78,260/- along with interest of 12% p.a. from December 3, 2003, and the court has also ordered the owner to pay the price Rs 25000.
“The facts of the case have convinced me that the death can be said to be due to stress associated with driving long distances for about 18 days in difficult conditions. Any other view of the matter would defeat the beneficial object of the provisions of section 3 of the Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923.”
- The deceased truck driver Visakha Singh succumbed to a heart attack on 3 November 2003 in Nashik while on his way back to Mumbai from Ranchi.
- The family had claimed that Singh was on the road continuously for 17 to 18 days before the incident.
- The reason for the heart attack was said to be the stress of employment and driving a truck for several days.
- The Labour Court also held that the driver died of natural causes.
- There was no evidence to relate the driver’s death to his job as a driver. Merely working in a travel company at the time of his death was not enough proof.
In this case, the High Court found that the Commissioner and Labor Court in the Supreme Court’s judgment in Shakuntala Chandrakant Shrestha v Prabhakar Maruthi Garavali refused to grant relief to a sweeper who died of a heart attack which was a wrong decision. Then the HC also made a difference between the two cases that it can be seen that the job of a cleaner is not as stressful as that of a driver.
The court said that while adjudicating such cases, the court is required to consider whether stress is arising in the course of employment and the nature of employment and is the injury (in this case death) aggravated by stress?
The court observed that the truck had left Ranchi for Mumbai 8 days before the driver’s death which meant that the driver had to cover a distance of 1800 km without any backup plan.
Travel company owner Tarvinder Singh had confirmed that his drivers do not get tired while taking breaks. The deceased driver was healthy when he left and did not die due to work stress.
“The above confession is undeniable and even on par, it can be assumed that the situation must have been appalling, which a driver during a long and complicated journey had to face uninterrupted for about 18 days driving a distance of about 3600 km. can be expected to subconsciously create tension and stress.”
Advocate Amol Gatane, hired by the petitioners, argued that the Labor Court had recorded inconsistent findings in its decision. In the first half of the judgment, the court held that an employer-employee relationship could be established while deciding the eligibility for compensation, the court held that the factor was not proven.
SM Dange, the advocate for the insurer New India Assurance Company Limited supported the decision of the Labor Court. They proposed that the death of the deceased was natural and that there was no evidence to prove that the deceased had suffered any stress while driving.
The HC held that the employer-employee had established a relationship with the travel company accepting the driver as an employee and the insurer has not categorically denied the statement.