SUPERINTENDENT LOKHART ESTATE Vs. KALIAPPAN
HIGH COURT OF KERALA
SUPERINTENDENT LOKHART ESTATE
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(1.) THESE appeals are from two orders of the Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation, Ernakulam. A. S. Nos. 3 and 125 of 1974 are by the first opposite party and the second opposite party respectively in Workmen's Compensation Case No. 556 of 1969, while A. S. Nos. 5 and 124 of 1974 are by the first opposite party and the second opposite party respectively in Workmen's Compensation Case No. 486 of 1969. The short facts necessary for these appeals are these. The first opposite party, the Superintendent of the Lockhart Estate, Devicolam had engaged the second opposite party. Shri Vakko for the purpose of constructing cooli-lines in the estate. The said Vakko had engaged labourers to carry out the work of construction. In the course of such work, two workmen were injured by the blasting of stones. One died and another lost 4 fingers of his left palm. The injured workman and the heir of the deceased workman moved the two applications before the Workmen's Compensation Commissioner claiming compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act. In both the applications, the Superintendent of the Estate was made opposite party. In W. C. C. 486 of 1969, the Superintendent of the Estate alone was originally a party and on a motion by the said Superintendent, M. C. Vakko was also brought on the party array as second opposite party. In the other case, both were made parties originally, M. C. Vakko being the first opposite party and the Superintendent of the Estate, the second opposite party. For the sake of convenience, we shall refer in this judgment to the Superintendent of the Estate as "estate", Sri Vakko as " contractor " and the deceased workman and the injured workman as " workmen ".
(2.) THE controversy before the Commissioner was whether the Estate was the principal employer and whether the workmen were engaged at the time of the accident, on any work which was ordinarily part of the trade or business of the Estate. The production and manufacture of tea and its sale is the main activity of the Estate and, therefore, it is said that the construction of cooli-lines for the purpose of housing the workmen cannot be said to be part of the business or trade of the Estate. If so, the claim against the Estate, as principal employer must fail. The case of the contractor Sri Vakko in W. C. C. 486 of 1969, is that he has been employed for many years to construct the buildings for the Estate at the rates specified and he too is only an employee. He, therefore, pleads non-liability as an immediate employer and, therefore, non-liability also to indemnify the principal employer. In W. C. C. 586 of 1969, he does not set up a case that he is not a contractor. On the other hand, his case is that he had not employed the injured but had entrusted the work to one Gopalan Asari, whose employee the injured is and, therefore, he is not liable.
(3.) THE Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation found, in W. C. C. 486 of 1969, that the Estate is the principal employer, the contractor Sri Vakko is the immediate employer and, therefore, the compensation should be paid by the principal employer and the immediate employer should indemnify the principal employer. In W. C. C. 556 of 1969 also the principal employer was held liable and the immediate employer was found liable to indemnify the principal employer. A. S. No. 3 of 1974 and 5 of 1974 have been filed by the Estate, which has been found to be the principal employer and A. S. Nos. 125 and 124 of 1974 have been filed by Sri Vakko, who has been found to be the immediate employer. Both disclaim liability.;
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