A.H. Khan, J.
1. Under Section 27 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, the Commissioner for Compensation has referred this case to the High Court. The facts leading to this reference in brief are that Shrilal, a workman, in the Gwalior Sugar Co. Ltd., Debra, died on 23-1-1956 of the injuries he sustained when the Boiler of the Company accidentally got burst. The Company admits its liability and has deposited Rs. 1500/-for being given to the heir of the deceased if any. A notification was published calling applications from persons who were the dependants of the deceased and entitled to compensation.
2. First of all one Dhani Ram applied, but his claim was rejected by the Commissioner. Thereafter, the present applicant Bhawani, a minor brother of the deceased under the guardianship of Chironji, put in his claim for compensation. From the evidence that was produced in this connection, it appeared that Bhawani was a uterine brother of the deceased Shrilal, i.e., the mother of Bhawani and Shrilal was the same, though they were begotten by different fathers.
The question referred to the High Court is whether according to Section 2(d) of the Workmen's Compensation Act a uterine brother is or is not a dependant? In other words does the term 'Minor brother' occurring in Clause (d) referred to above include a minor uterine brother also?
3. The reference has been made because of a judicial conflict on the point. The Lahore High Court in In re. Dependants of Kartar Singh, AIR 1931 Lah 752 (2) (A), has held that the term 'minor brother' includes a consanguine minor brother. A consanguine brother is one where the father is the same but the mothers are different. In the present case the mother is the same though the fathers are different: In principle, a consanguine brother and a uterine brother stand on the same footing in that both are half-blood brothers commonly known as stepbrothers.
4. The Rangoon High Court in a case reported in In re. Maung Kyan, AIR 1931 Rang 173 (SB) 03), has taken a contrary view and held that the term 'minor brother' does not include a minor half-brother.
5. The Lahore High Court in coming to the conclusion that a 'minor brother' includes a'consanguine brother' relied upon Section 27 of the Indian Succession Act, which says that for the purpose of succession there is no destruction between those who are related to a deceased person by the full blood and those who are related to him by half-blood. The learned Judge of the Lahore High Court also referred to the principle of Mohammedan Law, according to which consanguine brother and sisters are classified as residuaries (heirs).
6. The Rangoon High Court held the view that the term 'brother' in its primary sense means a brother of the whole blood and that in its secondary and extended sense it includes a brother of half-blood also. The Rangoon Bench also observed that the Workmen's Compensation, Act is a quasi penal statute and it should not receive a benevolent interpretation in the interest of those who are made beneficiaries under it.
7. After giving my serious thought to the question, I agree with the view expressed by the Lahore High Court and hold that the term 'minor brother' includes a minor uterine brother also. My reasons for the view are:
8. According to the general principle as embodied in Section 27 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, the policy of the law seems to be to do away with the distinction between the full blood and the half-blood. At one time the trend of thought was to differentiate between the two and this caused much heart-burning in the family. But when the pendulum of thought swung towards socialism this artificial barrier between the two was borne down.
The law now makes no distinction between brothers of the half-blood and brothers of the full blood and they stand on the same footing in matters of succession. It would be interesting to note that at one time according to English Law relations of half-blood were excluded from inheriting real property for feudal reasons, but later on by 3 and 4 Will IV-C, the distinction was abolished. See William's Real Property page 106 (Tenth Edition). From English cases in Grieves v. Rawley, (1852) 22 LJ Ch 625 (C); In re. Reed, (1888) 36 WR 682 (D); and In re, Cozens, (1903) 51 WR 220 (E), it appears that the term 'brother' used in gifts or Wills indicated not only a brother of the whole blood but also a brother of the half-blood.
In Grieves v. Rawley (C), (case referred to above), the question was whether the daughter of a testator's half brother was or was not the niece of the testator. Sir George Turner, Vice-Chancellor, after discussing the point eventually held that the daughter of the testator's half-brother was a niece entitled to a share in the bequest Page C. J., differed from the view, but assigned no cogent reasons. I feel inclined to follow the trend of English Law.
9. I think that the learned Judges of the Rangoon High Court were influenced in then view mainly by the fact that they regarded Workmen's Compensation Act as a quasi penal statute. But with great respect to the Judges, I must submit that it is not a penal statute; it is the outcome of the growing complexity of the machine-age, of the increasing use of machinery & the consequent danger to workman. Add to it the comparative poverty of the worker and with the advance of social ideas, it became necessary to protect the worker and his dependants from hardship arising from accidents.
Some generous employers voluntarily made amends and gave compensation. But this wasnot the universal practice. The law has now put it on sound principles. To me the law does not seem to be quasi-penal but if I may be permitted to say so, it has its roots in charity, sympathy, and the advance of socialistic ideas.
10. For reasons stated above, I, hold thatthe term 'minor brother' includes a minoruterine brother. The reference is disposed ofaccordingly and the record may be sent back tothe Commissioner who made the reference.