Decided on August 13,1999

DEWAN CHAND Respondents


- (1.) THE appellants challenge the award passed by the Assistant Labour Commissioner, Doda in his capacity as Commissioner Workmens Compensation Act on 24 -05 -1991 awarding Rs. 84000/ - to the respondent -workman According to the facts of the case Dewan Chand respondent herein was employed as a workman by the appellants. He filed an application wide: the Workmen Compensation Act claiming compensation for the injuries sustained by him or December 19, 1991 in the course of employment. How he sustained the injuries is disclosed in para -1 of the application. He received burn injuries resulting in permanent disfigurement and disablement in the course of his employment is not disclosed. In support of the claim he examined Som Nath Devia Ram and Dr. Hafiz Ullah Munshi Appellants executed two witnesses namely Hem Lal and Gh. Rasool Rather.
(2.) THE Commissioner after considering the reply of the appellants and the evidence produced by the parties held that the workman had partial disability reducing, his earning capacity to 75%. He accordingly awarded Rs. 84,000/ - to the respondent.
(3.) THE argument of Mr. Bhardwaj is two fold, one assuming that the residential accommodation provided by the employer caught fire and the workman suffered injuries, it cannot be said that he was injured in the course of his employment and two that no reliable evidence exists on the file to hold that the workman has suffered permanent disability to justify the amount awarded to him. Mr. Koul refuted these contentions on the plea that appellant having provided accommodation at site of work any accident involving death or injuries to the workman is deemed to be in the course of his employment. Regarding extent of disability according to Mr. Koul evidence of Dr. Hafiz Ullah Munshi has not been challenged by the appellants. In order to appreciate the rival contention reference to the statements of the witnesses examined by the parties becomes necessary. The case of the respondent -workman is that he has engaged by the appellants as workman in compartment Gadhi of Forest Division Doda where the appellants had provided shed accommodation to all the workmen. On December 19, 1991 while he was asleep the shed caught fire and he received serious bum injuries. He was treated both in Govt. Hospital, Doda as well as Kishtwar. This fact is corroborated by the Statements of RW Som Nath and Devia Ram. Both of them have stated that all the workmen managed to come out of the huts which caught fire during the night but respondent was trapped and suffered serious burn injuries. According to them he was hospitalized for about two months. Appellants have neither denied that they had provided sheltered accommodation to the workman in the forest nor the incident of fire and injuries suffered by the respondent. Statements of Hem Lal and Ghulam Rasool are evasive in as much as they do not say how respondent was injured and that no fire incident took place on December 19, 1991. These statements do not inspire confidence because appellants did not challenge the evidence of PWs Som Nath and Devia Ram regarding the occurrence. So the finding that the workman suffered injuries while the hut provided for the stay of the workmen in the forest caught fire is unexceptional does not fall for interference. However, the contention of Mr. Bhardwaj is that in order to hold the employer liable the accident must arise both out of and in the course of employment. Merely because the employer had provided accommodation to the workmen accident caused by the fire cannot be held to have any nexus to the employment of the respondent nor it was incidental to this duty. In support of this Mr. Bhardwaj relied on the decision of High Court of Orissa in Divisional Manager New India Assurance Co. Vs. G. Krishna Rao & Ors. (1995 ACJ 176)the facts of which were identical to this case. The High Court in the facts and circumstances of the case held as under: - ... The provision made by the employer for residence of the concerned workman may be an incidence of service and the deceased might have slept in the house made available to her by the employer. Such accommodation by itself cannot form the basis to claim compensation on the ground that death by accident was caused out of and in the course of the employment. The accident caused by fire had no nexus to the employment of the deceased nor was it incidental to her duties. In the circumstances, no reasonable or legitimate inference can be drawn that the accidental death arose out of and in course of employment of the deceased. For the aforesaid reasons the employer cannot be held liable to pay compensation under the Act. ;

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