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Zaibunnissa Vs. Southern Railway - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtKarnataka High Court
Decided On
Case NumberMiscellaneous First Appeal No. 232 of 1963
Judge
Reported in(1967)IILLJ177Kant
ActsIndian Railways Act - Sections 82A and 82H; Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923
AppellantZaibunnissa
RespondentSouthern Railway
Excerpt:
.....not been made by the husband to secure his wife to the matrimonial home. on the contrary, respondent on oath has deposed that a panchayat was convened and an attempt made by her to join the matrimonial home has failed which shows that she has not deserted, on the contrary it is the appellant who has deserted her. - the appellant before us, who is the widow of hussainsab, submitted her claim before the commissioner for workmen's compensation both on her own behalf as well as on behalf of her children in january 1963. 2. but there was also a claim made by the widow for payment of compensation under s. it is, however, a well-recognized rule of construction that although the statement of objects and reasons might be looked into for the purpose of ascertaining the historical background of..........commissioner that the widow of the deceased produced a statement before him that she elected to claim compensation under the indian railways act in preference to the compensation claimable under the workmen's compensation act in case it was held that she could not claim compensation under both the laws. 3. after the adjudication made by the claims commissioner, the railway administration sought a refund of the sum of rs. 3,500 which had been deposited by the administration before the commissioner for workmen's compensation. that application was opposed by the applicant on the ground that it was possible for her to claim compensation under the workmen's compensation act, in addition to the compensation which she had already recovered under s. 82a of the indian railways act. the.....
Judgment:

Somnath Ayyar, J.

1. On 4 June 1962, Hussainsab Doddamani, who was a brakes man in the Southern Railway, was involved in a railway accident between Kundgol and Saunshi stations and died. The Divisional Superintendent, Southern Railway, Hubli, deposited a sum of Rs. 3,500 in the Court of the Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation; Dharwar, for payment of compensation to the dependents of the deceased Hussainsab. The appellant before us, who is the widow of Hussainsab, submitted her claim before the Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation both on her own behalf as well as on behalf of her children in January 1963.

2. But there was also a claim made by the widow for payment of compensation under S. 82A of the Indian Railways Act in the Court of the ex-officio Claims Commissioner and Civil Judge, Senior Division, Dharwar, who made an order on February 16, 1963, that the railway administration should pay the compensation of a sum of Rs. 8,000 to the widow of the deceased Hussainsab. It is seen from the order made by the ex-officio Claims Commissioner that the widow of the deceased produced a statement before him that she elected to claim compensation under the Indian Railways Act in preference to the compensation claimable under the Workmen's Compensation Act in case it was held that she could not claim compensation under both the laws.

3. After the adjudication made by the Claims Commissioner, the railway administration sought a refund of the sum of Rs. 3,500 which had been deposited by the administration before the Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation. That application was opposed by the applicant on the ground that it was possible for her to claim compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act, in addition to the compensation which she had already recovered under S. 82A of the Indian Railways Act. The Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation, Dharwar, repelled that contention, and not only disallowed the appellant's claim for compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act but also directed the refund to the administration of the amount which had been deposited before him.

4. The widow of the deceased Hussainsab appeals.

5. Sri Narayana Rao, appearing on behalf of the appellant, has contended before us that the view taken by the Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation rested on a misinterpretation of the provisions of Ss. 82A and 82H of the Indian Railways Act. Those two sections read :

'82A. Liability of railway administration in respect of accidents to trains carrying passengers. - (1) When in the course of working a railway an accident occurs being either a collision between trains of which one is a train carrying passengers or the derailment of or other accident to a train or any part of a train carrying passengers, then-whether or not there has been any wrongful Act, neglect or default on the part of the railway administration such as would entitle a person who has been injured or has suffered loss to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof-the railway administration shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, be liable to pay compensation to the extent set out in Sub-section (2) and to that extent only for loss occasioned by the death of a passenger dying as a result of such accident, and for personal injury and loss, destruction or deterioration of animals or goods owned by the passengers and accompanying the passenger in his compartment or on the train sustained as a result of such accident.

(2) The liability of a railway administration under this section shall in no case exceed twenty thousand rupees in respect of any one person.'

'82H. Saving as to certain rights. - (1) The right of any person to claim compensation under S. 82A shall not affect the right of any such person to recover compensation payable under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923, or any other law for the time being in force; but no person shall be entitled to claim compensation more than once in respect of the same accident.

(2) Nothing in Sub-section (1) shall affect the right of any person to claim compensation payable under any contract or scheme providing for payment of compensation for death or personal injury or for damages to property or any sum payable under any policy of insurance.'

6. It is seen that S. 82A provides for the liability of the railway administration for loss occasioned by the death of a passenger dying as a result of a railway accident and for personal injury and loss of property, whether or not there is negligence on the part of the railway to which the accident was attributable. Section 82H on which the Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation obviously depended for negativing the claim made by the appellant for compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act, provides that although the right of a person to claim compensation under S. 82A shall not affect the right of such person to recover compensation payable under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923, or any other law for the time being in force, a claim to compensation shall not be made more than once in respect of the same accident Sub-section (2), however, provides that the prohibition against a claim for compensation more than once in respect of the same accident does not affect the right to claim compensation under any contract or scheme or policy of insurance.

7. It is that part of S. 82H which says that no person shall claim compensation more than once in respect of the same accident which forms the foundation of the view taken by the Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation that since the appellant had already been paid compensation under S. 82A in respect of the accident which killed her husband, it became impossible for her to claim compensation in respect of the same accident once again under the Workmen's Compensation Act. The submission made before us for the appellant was that that interpretation placed by the Commissioner on S. 82H does not flow from its language. The words 'no person shall be entitled to claim compensation more than once in respect of the same accident,' according to Sri Narayana Rao, the learned counsel, mean that no person shall claim compensation more than once under any one law in respect of the same accident and that these words do not mean that a claim to compensation under one law shall bar a claim to compensation under any other law which provides for payment of compensation which is claimable in respect of an accident.

8. Sri Nanjundayya, appearing for the railway administration, has drawn attention to S. 82H as it stood before it was amended by Central Act 7 of 1962 which came into force on March 31, 1962. It is the amended section which governs the matter before us since the accident in this case happened on June 4, 1962.

Section 82H, as it stood before it is amended, read :

'Saving as to certain rights.- Nothing contained in the foregoing sections relating to the right of any person to claim compensation under S. 82A shall affect the right of any such person to recover any compensation payable under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923 (8 of 1923), or any other law for the time being in force or under any contract or scheme providing for payment of compensation for death or personal injury or for damages to property or any sum payable under any policy of insurance.'

9. It was explained to us by Sri Nanjundayya that the interpretation of the old section by the Courts made it possible for a person to recover compensation not only under S. 82A of the Indian Railways Act but also under other laws such as the Workmen's Compensation Act in respect of one and the same accident and that Parliament, therefore, considered it necessary to remedy the evil or mischief by so amending S. 82H as to make it clear that in respect of one and the same accident, a person could claim compensation only under one law and not under any other. In support of this argument, Sri Nanjundayya asked attention to the statement of objects and reasons annexed to the Bill which formed the foundation of the amending Act.

10. It was contended before us by Sri Narayana Rao that it was impermissible for us to look into the statement of objects and reasons as an aid to the construction of S. 82H and that we should depend for our interpretation of that section on the language of that section as it now stands without resorting to any elucidation which might be available in the statement of objects and reasons explaining the purpose for which the Bill concerning the amending Act was initiated in Parliament.

11. It is really not necessary for us, in my opinion to say anything in this appeal on the question whether we should or should, not, for understanding S. 82H of the Indian Railways Act, derive any aid or assistance from the statement of objects and reasons on which Sri Nanjundayya has depended. It is, however, a well-recognized rule of construction that although the statement of objects and reasons might be looked into for the purpose of ascertaining the historical background of the amending legislation, it is not legitimate to derive any support from that statement of objects and reasons for the interpretation of the law as it stands after its enactment.

12. Now we should understand the meaning of S. 82H only from its language, having recourse to such extrinsic aid as can properly be resorted to for ascertaining the legislative intent which would become necessary only in the event of there being any ambiguity presented by the phraseology.

13. It seems to me, however, that it is not necessary to us to resort to any such extrinsic aid for understanding the meaning of S. 82H of the Indian Railway Act. It is seen from S. 82A that it provides for payment of compensation for loss occasioned by the death of a passenger as a result of a railway accident and for personal injury and loss of property whether or not any negligence on the part of the railway administration which would normally create a liability for payment of compensation is established.

14. Section 82H, which is really in the nature of a complementary legislative provision, provides for two matters. It first provides that the right to compensation under S. 82A shall not bring about a deprivation of the right to compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act or under any other law for the time being in force. What it next provides is that no person shall claim compensation more than once in respect of the same accident. The argument presented before us for the appellant was that a person may claim compensation not only under S. 82A of the Indian Railways Act but that he shall be at liberty to claim compensation in respect of the same accident under the Workmen's Compensation Act if such claim is possible or under any other law providing for payment of compensation in that context.

15. If that be the meaning of the first part of S. 82H, it was argued that we should understand the second part of that section as standing no more than that under each one of those laws under which a claim for compensation becomes possible under the first part of S. 82H compensation cannot be claimed more than once.

16. It seems to me that the interpretation of S. 82H is quite unsupportable. The clear meaning of the first part of that section is that it is open to a person who can claim compensation in respect of a railway accident to claim such compensation either under the Indian Railways Act or under the Workmen's Compensation Act or under any other law under which he can claim such compensation and that he is not bound to claim compensation only under S. 82A of the Indian Railways Act without having the liberty to make that claim under the other laws if he chooses to do so.

17. But the question is whether a person who elects to make a claim under S. 82A of the Indian Railways Act and recovers compensation under its provisions in respect of an accident, can once again claim compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act or under any other law for the time being in force.

18. Section 82H, as it stood before its amendment in the year 1962, did not contain any clear provision in that regard. But, when it was amended, that section made it clear that no person shall be entitled to claim compensation more than once in respect of the same accident. The plain meaning of these words occurring in S. 82H, to my mind, is that in respect of an accident such as the one referred to in S. 82A of the Indian Railways Act, a person can claim compensation only once whether that claim is made under S. 82A of the Indian Railways Act or whether it is made under any other law. It is obvious that this provision was introduced into S. 82H with the intention of making it impossible for a person to claim compensation in respect of any loss occasioned to him in consequence of a railway accident once under the Indian Railway Act and again under the Workmen's Compensation Act, and once again, if it is possible to do so, under some other law which entitles him to such compensation. That in respect of loss occasioned by a railway accident there should be only one claim and under only one of the laws which create a right to such compensation is the clear meaning of S. 82H is what is plain from the concluding part of that section.

19. I am not impressed by the interpretation suggested by Sri Narayan Rao that those words only mean that the right to compensation created by S. 82A or that the right to compensation created by any law can be enforced only once under each one of those laws and that a person entitled to compensation cannot again and again claim compensation under the same law although he could claim compensation under each one of the laws which entitles him to claim such compensation. It is clear that even without the words 'no person shall be entitled to claim compensation more than once in respect of the same accident,' a person entitled to compensation in respect of an accident claimable in consequence of a railway accident can claim such compensation only once under any given statute. It will be thoroughly unreasonable for anyone to suggest that if those words had not been introduced into S. 82H it would be possible for the appellant to claim compensation under S. 82A more than once under the Indian Railways Act or under the Workmen's Compensation Act or under any other law again and again.

20. So it becomes manifest that the legislative intent for incorporating in S. 82H those words was not to forbid successive claims for compensation under the same law but to prohibit claims for compensation in respect of the same accident under more than one law.

21. In that view of the matter if a person has recovered compensation under S. 82A of the Indian Railways Act, for loss occasioned by a railway accident, it would not be open to him to claim compensation in respect of the same accident once again under the Workmen's Compensation Act or under any other law creating a right to such compensation.

22. But Sri Narayan Rao suggested that that interpretation might result in inconvenient or unjust consequences. He urged that if in consequence of a railway accident a claim, for compensation had been made and that claim had succeeded and that railway accident had caused personal injury to a passenger and that injury resulted in graver consequences such as death at a subsequent point of time which would entitle the dependents of that passenger to higher compensation under the Work, workmen's Compensation Act or under some other law, it would be extremely unjust and unreasonable to say that compensation for loss occasioned in consequence of personal injury should constitute an impediment to a claim for compensation for loss claimable on account of subsequent death. Sri Narayan Rao further urged that it is a coincidence in the case before us that the deceased Hussainsab was a railway employee and that the railway administration was the employer.

23. He submitted that if the deceased had not been a railway employee but was an employee under some other employer, it would be quite unreasonable to suggest that the recovery of compensation from the railway administration who were not his employers should destroy the right to claim compensation from the other employer, if it could be claimed under the Workmen's Compensation Act. It was next contended that the deceased was not only a passenger but also an employee and that he filled both the roles when he was travailing on the train which met with an accident, and that if compensation was paid to his widow under S. 82A which is payable for the death of a passenger, it was not right to think that the payment of compensation in that way should destroy the right to compensation claimable from the railway administration for the death of deceased Hussainsab in the role of an employee of the railway administration.

24. It is not, in my opinion, necessary for us to say anything on the validity of these submissions. It is not necessary for us to discuss what would be the position and whether additional compensation is claimable in the first contingency envisaged by Sri Narayana Rao. It is also not necessary for us to express any opinion on the question whether compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act could have been claimed if Hussainsab had not been a railway employee. I should also add that in support of the argument that the deceased Hussainsab filled two roles, one as a passenger and another as employee of the railway administration, no foundation was laid before the Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation.

25. In this view of the matter, it seems to me that the recovery of compensation by the appellant under S. 82A of the Indian Railways Act did preclude her in the circumstances of this case from claiming any compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act since the claim to such compensation disappeared under the provisions of S. 82H of the Indian Railways Act the moment there was an adjudication by the Claims Commissioner for payment of compensation under S. 82A.

26. This appeal, in my opinion, should, therefore, be dismissed. No costs.

Chandrasekhar, J.

27. I agree.


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