Case Briefs
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United India Insurance Co. Ltd. vs. Kamlesh & Ors.


Author: Shlaaghaa Prem, 4th year student at Presidency University.

Citation: N/A

Date of Decision: 9th August, 2017

Bench: J.R. Midha 

Original Copy: View

Statutes involved: Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923, Motor Vehicles Act, 1988

 

Issue in question:

  • Murder, whether tantamount to accident and if so whether the accident of murder arose out of and in the course of employment, and out of the use of a motor vehicle?

Background of case:

  • The appellant has challenged the order passed by the Commissioner, Employee’s Compensation. 
  • Manoj Kumar, a driver, handed over the charge of the vehicle to another driver, Kedar Singh. An altercation took place between them and as a result Monoj Singh fell over and died. An application was filed before the commissioner for compensation claiming that the deceased died due to an accident and as such, this accident arose out of and in course of his employment with respondent – 4 and the vehicle was validly insured by the appellant. 
  • In Bhagubhai vs. Central Railway, the Bombay High Court held that if an employee has to be in a particular place for and by reason of being in that place he has to face a peril and this peril is the cause of an accident, a causal connection is established in between the accident and the employment. Further held that the peril must be incidental to the employment. The aforementioned peril should not have to do with the employee’s own actions and it should be set in stone that the same accident would have occurred to any other employee.
  • In Rita Devi vs. New India Assurance Co. Ltd., the deceased was an auto driver and the Court was of the opinion that in this case the passengers had an object for the felony and it was the vehicle, the thing they were willing to commit the act of felony to steal. In order to accomplish it they would have to commit an incidental act, which in this case is to eliminate the driver. Therefore, the Court held that the death was an accident that occured in the process of committing a felony and that he died in the course of employment.
  • Further added that that the difference between a murder and an accidental murder, depends on the proximity of cause, that there was no predisposed intention for the murder (no dominant purpose) and the death was the result of any other felonious act, the murder would be accidental.
  • In the case of Shivaji Dayanu Patil vs. Vatchala Uttam More, the Supreme Court held that accidents which occur both when the vehicle is in motion and when it is stationary are covered under section 92(A) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939. Further added that a motor vehicle should be in connection to the accident, but the said connection need not be direct and immediate. 

Decision:

  • Applying the principles laid down in the aforementioned cases, since there was no evidence that the deceased could have contemplated his death and that he in any way added to the peril as covered by the principle laid down in Bhagubhai vs. Central Railway. No evidence was led by appellant to suggest that the dominant purpose of the assailant was to kill the deceased as in terms of the principle laid down in Rita Devi vs. New India Assurance Co. Ltd.
  • The Court held that the death of Manoj Kumar was an accidental death arising out of employment as respondent – 4 had validly insured the vehicle with the appellant. And further held that the accident arose out of the ‘motor vehicle’ as laid down in Shivaji Dayanu Patil vs. Vatchala Uttam More.
  • Upheld the order of the Commission, Employee’s Compensation to pay compensation to the respondent and dismissed the appeal.

Analysis:

  • Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923 is a welfare legislation that does not specifically apply only in the case of accidents by machines. A human being succumbed to death at the hands of another human being, at the workplace. While the term accident is not defined under the Employee’s Compensation Act or the General Clauses Act, Black’s Law dictionary meaning has been taken into account. The question of whether murder can be classified as an ‘accident’ is asked and answered multiple times and quite often the underlying theme in all these cases is that the meaning of the word ‘accident’ is prone to liberal interpretation. In the majority, rightly so, as the concept ‘proximity of cause’ is quite unique as the person would have been safely in bed but instead that person is in the place where he was murdered by reason on his employment. 
  • Another common theme noticed across the different cases is the argument that the accident occurring outside the ‘motor vehicle’, hence not applicable as per the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988. When a petrol tanker collides with a truck and the contents of the tanker spills out, several hours later an explosion fire injures people, then the explosion was the direct consequence of the accident. Makes sense that just because the vehicle was not in motion or not ‘in use’, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t the reason the explosion occurred. Therefore, the expression ‘arising out of’ has a wider connotation compared to the expression ’caused by’.

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