‘Compensate employee for death due to stress during employment’: BHC

The Court was hearing the case of truck driver Vishakha Singh, who died covering his route from Ranchi to Mumbai

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In an interesting case, the Bombay High Court (BHC)has instructed a Maharashtra-based travel company to compensate a truck driver who died on the job. The Court observed that the stress and strain that the driver experienced during his employment was one of the primary reasons for his death.

Truck driver Vishakha Singh who was on the route back from Ranchi to Mumbai on 3 November, 2003, succumbed to heart disease in Nashik. He was supposed to cover the 3600 km distance in 18 days. His family claimed that Singh was continuously on the road for 17-18 days before his demise, which led to increased stress and strain.

The case was initially brought to the Labour Court, which held that Singh had succumbed to natural causes. Since there was no direct link between his demise and his profession, the employer cannot be held accountable. The kin of the deceased driver approached then approached the Bombay High Court in 2007.

The employer, Tarvinder Singh, has been instructed by the Court to compensate the kin of the deceased with Rs 2,78,260, along with an interest of 12 per cent per annum beginning from December 3, 2003, the date on which the driver had died.

Justice NJ Jamadar, who was hearing the case at BHC, observed that the Commissioner and Labour Court had wrongly relied on past judgement of the Supreme Court in this case. He observed that the heart condition was likely accelerated as the driver had been on the road for 18 days. Tarvinder Singh testified that his drivers do not get tired as they take breaks in between. The Court, however, observed that since the distance travelled was long, 3600 km in 18 days, stress and strain was inevitable; that it would definitely exist at the subconscious level.

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