In a judgment that will benefit lakhs of lowly-paid truck drivers, who transport millions of tonnes of goods across the country, the Supreme Court has held that the truckers are entitled to compensation under the Workmens Compensation Act, a law that was till now restricted to the industrial workers only.
The apex court, in the case of Param Pal Singh vs National Insurance Co, while holding that truckers have a casual connection with the company that booked the goods for transportation, said that in case he dies in an accident or due to the ill effects of haphazard working conditions, his family members are entitled to damages on the basis of the monthly wages and allowances paid to him.
In this case, the 45-year-old Jeet Singh had died, possibly due to heart failure, while driving a truck from Delhi to 1,152 km away at Nimiaghat near Jharkhand in 2002.
While the Workmens Compensation Commissioner had determined the compensation to the truck driver at R2.20 lakh with R2,500 as funeral charges under Section 4(4) of the Workmens Compensation Act, the Delhi High Court had set aside the tribunals order. On an appeal filed by Param Pal Singh, the minor adopted child of the deceased, the top court restored the tribunals decision by holding that there was every reason to assume that constant driving by Jeet Singh was a material contributory factor if not the sole cause that accelerated his unexpected death.
The minor had argued 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 truck continuously over a period of time. The insurance company and the transport company had contested that the victims death was not related to the job since there was no accident, thus no compensation was payable under the Workmens Compensation Act.
Asking the State Bank of India to reinstate the two bank probation officers and give them all consequential benefits like pay, allowances, etc in the two cases led by SBI vs Palak Modi, the Supreme Court held that such officials cannot be terminated unheard for using unfair means at the test. It said bank probation officers may be terminated at the end of the term for unsatisfactory performance or failing to complete the training successfully. In these cases, the question before the apex court was whether the alleged use of unfair means by Palak Modi and Prabhat Dixit in the test held by SBI constituted the basis of the decision taken by General Manager to terminate their services under Rule 16(3) of the State Bank of India (Officers Service) Rules, 1992
The candidates were appointed as probationary officers in May 2006. But an independent expert bodyInstitute of Banking Personnel Selectionin May 2011 found that some candidates, including the duo, were suspected to have used unfair means while appearing in the objective test. Their probation was extended for three more months. However, without waiting for the expiry of the extended probation period, the bank terminated their services in June last year without hearing them.
The duo had challenged their termination orders in the Allahabad High Court on the grounds that the action taken by the concerned authorities of the bank was arbitrary and violative of the rules of natural justice. They pleaded that during the period of probation, no one had informed them about any shortcoming, deficiency or defect in their work and yet their services were terminated without giving them notice and opportunity of hearing.
Senior counsel UU Lalit, appearing for the bank, argued that officers and employees of unquestionable integrity are required by the bank because their work involves high degree of responsibility and any compromise in that regard would be detrimental to larger public interest.
Package insurance for corporates
Rejecting an insurance companys stand that it was not liable to indemnify the managing director of a company who was injured in an accident while riding the company car, the Supreme Court said the executive was entitled to claim damages only if the vehicle is insured under the package policy.
The top court remitted the case of National Insurance Company Ltd vs Balakrishnan & another to the Motor Accident Claim Tribunal to check the details of the policy. In this case, Balakrishnan, the MD of a company, had met with an accident in 2001 while travelling in an office car. He had moved the tribunal, which in April 2007 held that the accident had occurred due to rash and negligent driving of the company driver and awarded R8.63 lakh as compensation with interest.
The insurer appealed to the Madras High Court arguing that the executive was a non-fare passenger; no extra premium was paid to indemnify him; the policy taken by the company did not cover the executive as he was not a third party under the policy. The high court rejected the National Insurance Companys plea by holding that the insurer was liable to indemnify the owner for the claim put forth by the victim. It also opined that if no premium is paid to cover the owner, the insurer is not liable to make good the loss, but if another person travels with the owner and suffers injuries, the insurer is liable to pay compensation.