The Bombay High Court recently held that the deceased driver’s heart attack was a result of his employment, which caused him stress and strain. The driver’s heart attack can be termed as an accident arising out of his course of employment as provided under section 3 of the Workman’s Compensation Act.
Background of Facts:
Vishakha Singh, a truck driver, died of a heart attack in Nashik while driving a truck back from Ranchi to Mumbai on November 3, 2003. The family claimed that Singh was driving his truck continuously on the road for 17-18 days, before the incident and died due to the stress and strain of the long journey he had to cover. Although, the Labour Court had held that medical evidence attributes the death of the driver to natural causes. Hence, his compensation claim cannot be met as there are instances when people have underlying medical issues but those have not come through their consciousness. The labour court recognized the employer-employee relationship between the driver and travel company owned by Tarvinder Singh. But his employment with the travel company will not suffice to provide him compensation for the same.
The Single judge bench of Justice N. J. Jamadar of Bombay High Court overturned the Labour Courts order. Relying on the admissions, he stated that if they can be construed at par, it cannot be overlooked that the long and arduous journey, for almost 18 days, uninterrupted taken by Vishakha Singh for about 3600 km to and fro can lead to generating stress and strain, even subconsciously too. He stated the precedent of Shakuntala Chandrakant Shreshti vs. Prabhakar Maruti Garvali relied upon by the Labour court didn’t take into account the different facts and circumstances of the case. In that case, the employee was a cleaner who suffered a heart attack during his employment was denied compensation whereas in this case, it’s a truck driver who died due to a heart attack during his employment.
The court noted that the truck had left Ranchi for Mumbai eight days before the incident, implying that the driver was expected to travel 1800 kilometres without assistance as there was no other driver along with him. Tarvinder Singh, the owner of the travel company, testified that his drivers do not get tired while taking breaks. The deceased driver was in good health and did not die as a result of work-related stress. The Bombay High Court upheld that nature of employment and the injury (in this case death) if it is aggravated due to stress and strain arising out of employment must be taken into consideration when adjudicating upon cases of such nature. High Court allowed an appeal filed by the driver’s kin and directed the travel company owner and insurance company to shell out Rs.2,78,260/- along with interest at the rate of 12% p.a. from December 3, 2003. The court also ordered the owner to pay the penalty of Rs 25,000.
Case name: Smt. Harvinder Kaur Vishakha Singh vs Tarvinder Singh K. Singh