The order was passed by justices K R Sriram and V M Kanade, on September 5, on a petition filed by the widow of Bharguram Mahadik, who worked as a fitter on a meagre salary of Rs 6,000 with Dhanwantari Engineers Pvt Ltd.
Bharguram was registered with ESIS scheme. On March 27 last year, he complained of chest pain and his colleagues took him to a resting area within the factory premises and asked him to rest for a while. As his condition worsened, he was rushed to the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation at Vashi.
The provisional cause of death in the certificate issued on the same day mentioned that the insured was "brought dead" to the Hospital. The Insured was declared as dead by the Medical Officer of NMMC Hospital and the cause of death was mentioned as "Acute Myocardial Infarction". At the time of death he was about 50 years old.
The employer of the insured raised a claim for the dependents under the ESI Act on April 11, 2012 but it was rejected by ESIS on May 14. One of the ground said that the deceased cannot be treated as an employee under the ESIS Act.
The ESIS refused to pay the claim, saying that the injury sustained by the employee cannot be treated as an Employment injury under the Act. It further said the insured person had died of natural causes and the death was not related to stress and strain of work.
The widow of the insured Bhagyashree Mahadik argued that the insured died in the factory where he was working and the death was caused during the course of employment. Moreover, the insured was covered under the ESIC scheme, her lawyer Preeti Walimbe contended.
ESIS counsel H V Mehta said the petitioner had an alternative remedy to raise the dispute before the Employees' Insurance Court. He said the insured died of heart failure and he was working as a Fitter in the Company and could not have died due to natural causes related to stress and strain of work.
ESIS Counsel argued that circumstances must exist to establish that death was caused by reason of failure of heart because of stress and strain of work and heart attack does not give rise to automatic presumption. Also, there was no medical evidence to indicate that the cause of death was on account of stress and strain.
The high court noted, "It is not the case of the respondents (ESIS) that the petitioner's husband was previously suffering from heart related disease. The entire defence of the respondents is that the petitioner's husband died due to heart attack and it is not an employment injury."
Besides, there is no evidence produced to rebut the presumption that the death has arisen out of the employment. Even the Senior State Medical Commissioner on whose opinion is relied upon by the Respondent has just stated "it is a natural death, there is no involvement of stress and strain of work." It is just a cryptic opinion, said the bench.
The Judges held that the death of the petitioner's husband has happened only during the course of the employment and in the factory premises/rest room. The petitioner is therefore, entitled to get the dependents' benefits.
In view of these findings, the High Court set aside the impugned communication of ESIS dated May 14, 2012, which rejected the request of the petitioner to treat her husband's death as an employment injury.
The bench directed ESIS to settle the eligible dependents benefits in favour of the petitioner in accordance with law within a period of four weeks.