Can the adopted son of a deceased employee be awarded compensation under Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923?

In Mst. Param Pal Singh through Father V/s National Insurance Company and Anr, 2012, a truck driver suffered a sudden health set back while driving his truck and when taken to the hospital, was declared brought dead. The adopted son of the truck driver (the Appellant herein) made an application before the Commissioner of Workmen’s Compensation, Delhi and contended that the death of the deceased was in the course of his employment and that his death was due to stress and strain while driving the said truck continuously over a period of time. The Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner determined the compensation payable to the Appellant herein in a sum of Rs. 2,20,280/- along with another sum of Rs. 2500/- as funeral charges.

The Appellant’s claim was resisted by the Respondent on two grounds, that he was not a dependent of the deceased and that the death of the deceased was due to natural causes and that there was no causal connection between the death of the deceased and that of his employment.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court after examining relevant documents found that all requirements for a valid adoption as per Indian laws were very much present in the form of both oral and documentary evidence and therefore held that the Appellant was in fact the adopted son of the deceased.

Further, applying the various principles laid down in previous decisions and relevant provisions of Indian employment laws, the Supreme Court concluded that there was, in fact, causal connection of the death of the deceased with his employment as a truck driver. The Court stated that; “We cannot lose sight of the fact that a 45 years old driver meets with his unexpected death, may be due to heart failure while driving the vehicle from Delhi to a distant place called Nimiaghat near Jharkhand which is about 1152 kms away from Delhi, would have definitely undergone grave strain and stress due to such long distance driving. The deceased being a professional heavy vehicle driver when undertakes the job of such driving as his regular avocation it can be safely held that such constant driving of heavy vehicle, being dependent solely upon his physical and mental resources & endurance, there was every reason to assume that the vocation of driving was a material contributory factor if not the sole cause that accelerated his unexpected death to occur which in all fairness should be held to be an untoward mishap in his life span. Such an ‘untoward mishap’ can therefore be reasonably described as an ‘accident’ as having been caused solely attributable to the nature of employment indulged in with his employer which was in the course of such employer’s trade or business.”

The Hon’ble Court therefore concluded that;

“In such circumstances, we are convinced that the conclusion of the Commissioner of Workmen’s Compensation that the death of the deceased was in an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment with the second Respondent was perfectly justified and the conclusion to the contrary reached by the learned Judge of the High Court in the order impugned in this appeal deserves to be set aside.”

Compensation was therefore awarded to the Appellant i.e. adopted son of the deceased truck driver.

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