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Bhuvaneshwari Rice Mill (by T. Satyanarayana, Manager) Vs. Mannava Pullayya - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1962)IILLJ29AP
AppellantBhuvaneshwari Rice Mill (by T. Satyanarayana, Manager)
RespondentMannava Pullayya
Excerpt:
.....i am not satisfied that this is a case where another person is liable as a contractor and that the deceased was working in the employment of that contractor for purposes of carrying out the work entrusted to him. i experience no difficulty whatsoever in coming to the conclusion that when the deceased was returning pulling the cart to the rice mill for the collection of a fresh load of rice bags, the entire area where he is working including the road be bad to pass must be regarded as premises on which the work is to be undertaken, and to that extent the execution of the work between the two places and also when the cart is passing over the public streets must be regarded as being within the control or management of the contractor. a palmyra tree which was standing on the bank of a canal,..........principal, the principal shall be liable to pay to any workman employed in the execution of the work any compensation which he would have been liable to pay if that workman had been immediately employed by him, and where compensation is claimed from the principal, this act shall apply as if references to the principal were substituted for references to the employer except that the amount of compensation shall be calculated with reference to the wages of the workman under the employer by whom he is immediately employed. * * *(3) nothing in this section shall be construed as preventing a workman from recovering compensation from the contractor instead of the principal.(4) this section shall not apply in any case where the accident occurred elsewhere than on, in or about the premises on.....
Judgment:

Sanjeevarao Nayudu, J.

1. This appeal is directed against the judgment and order of the Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, dated 26 September 1959, in W.C. Case No. F. 96 of 1959 on the file of the said Court.

2. The deceased Nagendram was employed to cart rice bags from the mill of the appellants to the railway station, for purposes of loading the same into the wagons. On 9 March 1958 he bad taken a load of rice bags in his cart from the appellants' rice mill to the railway station and having unloaded the same was bringing his cart back to the rice mill premises of the appellants apparently for the purpose of taking a further load. As he was pulling the cart along the public road, a lorry dashed against him and be died on the spot. The father of the deceased preferred a claim for compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act of a sum of Rs. 3,000. The learned Commissioner accepted the evidence furnished by the appellants that the workers of the type of the deceased were earning on an average Rs. 45 per month and fixed the compensation payable at Rs. 1,350. He further allowed a sum of Rs. 26 towards costs. The quantum of compensation is not in dispute.

3. The only point that Mr. Srinivasamurthi, the learned Counsel for the appellants, urged is that as the deceased was in the employment of a contractor by name Narsimloo, the liability of the appellants could arise only under Section 12 of the Workmen's Compensation Act (hereinafter referred to as the Act) and that bating regard to Sub-section (4) of that Section, the liability of the appellants is excluded, and that, therefore, the Commissioner was not justified in awarding the compensation. Section 12 of the Act is in the following words:

12. (1) Where any person (hereinafter in this section referred to as the principal) in the course of or for the purposes of his trade or business contracts with any other person (hereinafter in this section referred to as the contractor) for the execution by or under the contractor of the whole or any part of any work which is ordinarily part of the trade or business of the principal, the principal shall be liable to pay to any workman employed in the execution of the work any compensation which he would have been liable to pay if that workman had been immediately employed by him, and where compensation is claimed from the principal, this Act shall apply as if references to the principal were substituted for references to the employer except that the amount of compensation shall be calculated with reference to the wages of the workman under the employer by whom he is immediately employed.

* * *(3) Nothing in this section shall be construed as preventing a workman from recovering compensation from the contractor instead of the principal.

(4) This section shall not apply in any case where the accident occurred elsewhere than on, in or about the premises on which the principal has undertaken or usually undertakes, as the case may be, to execute the work or which are otherwise under his control or management.

4. In deciding: whether Section 12 is applicable to the facts of the case, two questions have to be considered:

(1) whether it has been established that the deceased workman was employed by a contractor who in turn had been employed by the appellants for carrying out the work in question;

(2) If so, whether the liability under Section 12(1) of the Act is excluded by reason of Sub-section (4) of Section 12.

5. On the first point, the learned Commissioner was apparently not satisfied that the evidence produced in the case on behalf of the appellants is sufficient to establish that the work in question was given to a contractor by the appellant. It is true that he did not give a definite finding. I have been taken through the evidence in this case and on a consideration of the evidence of the partner of the appellants-mill and the evidence adduced on behalf of the claimant, it would appear that the person Narsimloo was only a maistry to whom a number of workmen including the deceased were attached for toe purposes of work. No evidence has been placed in this case to establish that the appellants had given a contract to Narsimloo to carry out the work in question, and if that were correct there would have been a document entered into between the appellants and the contractor from which the terms of the contract could have been gleaned. Nor have the appellants produced any documentary evidence such as accounts, correspondence, etc., from which it could be proved that there was a contract given to any person for carrying out this particular work. On the other hand, it would appear that the work of exporting rice was a normal feature of the appellants' business, and for purposes of employing labour to carry out this work, the deceased, along with other workmen who formed into a group of workmen with Narsimloo as the maistry was employed. If really there was a contractor intervening between the appellants and the workmen, surely some evidence would have been forthcoming. I am not satisfied that this is a case where another person is liable as a contractor and that the deceased was working in the employment of that contractor for purposes of carrying out the work entrusted to him. In that view, it is not disputed that the accident arose out of and in the course of the employment of the deceased by the appellants, so that there could be no question of the appellants not being liable to pay compensation for the death of the deceased.

6. As the alternative question that would arise in the event of it being assumed that the deceased was in the employment of a contractor who is engaged by the principals, the appellants, had been dealt with by the Commissioner and finding given thereon, I shall advert to it briefly. Assuming, therefore, for purposes of discussion that there was a contractor on the scene and that the deceased workman was in the contractor's employment, the liability of the appellants to pay compensation is clear from Section 12(1) of the Act. What Mr. Srinivasamurthi contended is that this liability has been excluded by Sub-section (4) of Section 12 in that accident did not occur on, in or about the premises on which the principal has undertaken or usually undertakes as the case may be, to execute the work. This being an exception containing an excluding provision has to be construed strictly. The expression 'premises' has not been denned. But the nature of the work which had to be executed by the contractor in this case involved the loading of the bags into the carts at the mill premises, the carrying of these bags from the mill premises to the railway station, the unloading of those bags there and bringing back the carts from the railway station to the mill premises for taking the next load, This process of loading the bags at the rice mill, unloading them at the railway station, returning to the rice mill and reloading the carts at the mill goes on during the hours of work from morning till evening, so that the work that has to be executed by the contractor involved the process of having the carts loaded and having them pulled and pushed by workmen to the railway station, getting the bags loaded at the railway station and again bringing the carts back to the mill premises. Hence the work of the contractor must be deemed to be in execution throughout the period during which the various processes had to be followed. In such cases as these, the expression 'premises' where the work la executed would necessarily cover not only the mill premises but also the railway station premises where unloading takes place and the place or the land in between over which the carts had to pass on the forward and return journeys. In this connexion it would be useful to refer to a decision reported in Atkinson v. Lumb 1903 (1) K.B.D. 861. In that case a contract was entered into for constructing the reservoir by means of machinery worked by some steam power and had staked out and taken prossesion of the land in which the pipes were to be laid. A workman in the employment of the contractor was engaged in laying pipes in a trench at a point 500 yards distant from the reservoir by means of a crane worked by hand power. While using the crane he met with an accident which caused injuries to his hands. It was therein held that notwithstanding the considerable distance that existed between the place where the workman was laying the pipe and the place where the reservoir was being constructed, the workman was employed on, or in or about the engineering work within the meaning of Section 7, Workmen's Compensation Act, 1897 [60 and 61 Vic Chap. 37]. It was therein found as a fact that the area of the engineering work embraced the place where the accident happened and that was sufficient for the purposes of the case. Mr. Srinivasamurthi, the learned counsel for the appellants, relied on Andrews v. Andrews and Meats (1908) 2 K.B.D. 567 in support of the proposition that the expression 'premises' cannot be construed as including public streets and highways along which the persons carrying out the work had to pass. In that case the workman was employed in connexion with certain paving operations by a sub-contractor, his duties being to cart materials for the work and remove rubbish. While so engaged, he was accidentally killed in a public street at a distance of 2 miles from the site of the work. In that case the engagement was to take the cart containing the rubbish to another place in any direction and situate at any distance from the workspot. In other words, the choice of dumping the rubbish at the place where the rubbish has to be dumped has been left to the contractor and to his own convenience. In those circumstances, the learned Judges in that case held that

to say that any portion of the roads radiating from the Albert Hall (where the work was being carried on) and extending to any distance over which the subcontractor might be minded to take his cart can be considered as premises on or in or about which Mears had undertaken to execute the work or which were otherwise under his control or management, seems, to be giving a wholly unnatural and unjustifiable meaning to the language of the proviso to the section.

It was therein held that the dependants of the deceased workman had a remedy against their own immediate employer and not against the principal. The instant case differs materially from this decision on the facts. Here, there is the role mill premises and the work to be executed consisted in the carting of the role bags from the mill to the railway station and going back and repeating the process. There is no uncertainty as to the distance or to the destination. It is clear that whatever work was being executed was between the two places specified and the mere fact that there were two routes, one nearer but more crowded and the other slightly longer but more free from traffic would make no difference so long as the work was being carried out between the two places and the accident occurred in course of snob, execution of the work. I experience no difficulty whatsoever in coming to the conclusion that when the deceased was returning pulling the cart to the rice mill for the collection of a fresh load of rice bags, the entire area where he is working including the road be bad to pass must be regarded as premises on which the work is to be undertaken, and to that extent the execution of the work between the two places and also when the cart is passing over the public streets must be regarded as being within the control or management of the contractor. In this connexion reference may usefully be made to Guruswami Mudaliar v. Executive Engineer, Mettur Canals Division 1956-II L.L.J. 44 where reliance has been placed on Powell v. Brown 1899-I. Q.B. 157 and it was held that the words 'on or in or about' meant either on the land or premises of the employer or the land or premises where he was engaged with his workmen in doing the work, or in close proximity to such places. Their lordships observed as follows:

The words 'on, in, or about' have received judicial interpretation in connexion with railways, factories, mines, engineering works and building operations, and have been held to be a geographical expression involving the idea of certain physical continuity to the premises or works in question.

In that oase the work related to the digging of a canal. A palmyra tree which was standing on the bank of a canal, the earth under which bad been removed to facilitated being pulled down, fell on a workman in the excavation work on account of a sudden strong wind, in consequence whereof the workman died. It was sought to be contended that the place where the accident occurred cannot be regarded as coming within the scope of 'on, in or about the premises' where the work was being undertaken, which contention was repelled and the dependants of the deceased were held entitled to compensation. It is unnecessary to multiply authorities on the subject. The test to apply in such cases is whether the accident occurred at a place where the work in question was being executed. It makes no difference whether that place is a public place or a private place or a place belonging to the principal or not. In the instant case even assuming for the sake of argument that the deceased was in the employment of a contractor and the liability of the appellants arose only under Section 12(1) of the Act, I experience no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the appellants are liable to pay compensation and that the order of the learned Commissioner is sound and does not call for any interference. This appeal, therefore, falls and is dismissed bat, as the respondent is not appearing, I make no order as to costs.


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