(1) This appeal has been preferred by Sarup Singh under S. 30 of the Workmen's Compensation Act against the order of Shri Des Raj, Commissioner under the said Act, disallowing the claim of the present appellant. It appears that Sarup Singh appellant was employed by Shri Mukand Lal on 12-8-1954 at Rs. 4/- per day to cut wood and to repair canal embankment by wooden support (killas and other fences) between Burji No. 148-49 on Uper Bari Doab Canal.
In the course of this employment he climbed a shisham tree and fell down, as a result of which he received injury on his right arm of the elbow which was fractured. On 4-6-1955, he applied to the court of the Senior Subordinate Judge for payment of Rs. 3,500/- as compensation. This application was, however, put in on a form meant for claims under the Payment of Wages Act of 1936. Notice of this application was issued by the Senior Subordinate Judge who acted as Commissioner under the Payment of Wages Act for 9-7-1955. On that date Sarup Singh realising that the petition had been erroneously filed on a printed form under the Payment of Wages Act, filed an application for amending his original petition stating that by oversight this mistake had been committed and that the defect being of purely a formal nature, he may been permitted to amend the petition.
Of this application for amendment, notice was given to the respondent and on 21-10-1955 an amended petition was actually put in. the respondent, in his written statement, contested the petition on various grounds denying even the employment of the appellant at Rs. 4/- per day. It was pleaded that the appellant was a casual labourer and knowledge of actual injury was also denied. It was further pleaded that Mohinder Singh & others had been employed as contractors to close the breach in the canal and therefore it was the duty of the contractor to employ any person he liked. Preliminary objections on the ground of limitation and absence of notice under S. 80 of the Code of Civil Procedure as also of non-liability of the respondent were also raised.
(2) On the pleadings the following issues were fixed for trial:
1. Is the application maintainable under Workmen's Compensation Act?
2. Was the application employed by the respondent as a workman?
3. Did the respondent employ the applicant in his personal capacity?
4. If not, is the application maintainable against the respondent?
5. Did the applicant meet with the accident as alleged in the application during the course of his employment?
6. What injury or disability resulted from the accident?
7. Was the accident due to the applicant's negligence and to what effect?
8. Is the application within time?
9. Was notice under S. 80, Civil Procedure Code, not necessary?
10. To what amount of compensation is the application entitled.?
(3) On the first issue, the learned Commissioner found in favour of the maintainability of the application. On issue No. 2, it was found that the appellant had not been employed by the respondent. Under issue No. 3 also, the decision was in the negative which means that the appellant had not been employed by the respondent in his personal capacity. Under issue No. 4, however, it was held that the respondent came within the definition of the word 'employer' and was, therefore, liable to compensate the appellant though it would perhaps ultimately be the State which may have to provide him (the respondent) with the requisite funds. Under issue No. 5, the statement of the appellant was held to be un-rebutted and the learned Commissioner found that the injury was suffered by the applicant during the course of his employment. Under issue No. 6, the amount of compensation was held to be 70 per cent of the permanent disablement as is laid down by entry No. 1 in Schedule I of the Workmen's Compensation Act. Under issue No. 8 the learned Commissioner held the application to be barred by limitation as, according to him, the amended petition was filed on 21-10-1955 after the expiry of one year from the date of accident which was 12-8-1954.
Under issue No. 9, notice under S. 80 was held not to be necessary as conceded by the learned counsel for the respondent. The respondent's counsel had, however, also raised a point that notice under S. 10 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, was necessary but this objection having not been raised earlier, it was considered to have been waived. Under issue No. 10 also there being un-rebutted testimony of the appellant that he had been employed at Rs. 4/- per day which would work out to Rs. 120/- per month the amount, to which the appellant was entitled, if his suit had not been held to be bared by time was determined at Rupees 3,430/-. As a result of the above findings, the learned Commissioner disallowed, the appellant's petition who has, as stated earlier, appealed here under S. 30 of the Workmen's Compensation Act.
(4) The learned Advocate for the appellant has contended that the application should have been held to be within limitation because he had applied for amendment of his original application dated 4th of June 1955 within one year from the date of the accident. the counsel contends that as soon as the amendment was permitted the date of the order should relate back to the date of his original application seeking amendment. In the second place, it is contended that he was also entitled to the benefit of section 14 of the Limitation Act because his original application which had, by oversight, been drafted on a printed form for claims under the Payment of Wages Act had been so filed by inadvertence and oversight and, therefore, the time spent by him in prosecuting, with due diligence, those proceedings, should be excluded.
(5) Lastly, the counsel contends, in this connection, that under S. 10 of the Workmen's Compensation Act it is open to the Commissioner to entertain and decide a claim to compensation, notwithstanding that the claim has not been preferred in due time, if he is satisfied that the failure to do so was due to sufficient cause. The counsel submits that the learned Commissioner has approached the consideration of sufficient cause from a wholly erroneous point of view and the proper principle, applicable to such case, has not been applied. The counsel thus claims benefit of S. 10.
(6) Mr. A. M. Suri, on behalf of the respondent, has submitted that it is not a universal rule that on order passed on an application for amendment should always relate back to the date of the petition. In support of his contention he has placed reliance on Manindra Chandra Nandi v. Ranghalal Manda, AIR 1918 Cal 443 and Tun Thein Maung v. Maung Sin, AIR 1937 Rang 124. AIR 1918 Cal 443 is an authority on its own facts because there a plaint had been filed in a suit for possession of certain plots of land; by subsequent amendment certain other plots were also included in the plaintiff's claim. It was, in my opinion, rightly held, on those facts, that the suit with respect to the other plots could only be deemed to have been filed when the amended plaint was put in
The learned Judges actually held that that was not a case of amendment of plaint but of an addition of entirely new lands and therefore the doctrine of relation back was not applicable. In AIR 1937 Range. 124 also the amendment of the plaint consisted in adding new parties which in view of S. 22 of the Indian Limitation Act meant that the suit was instituted when the newly added plaintiff or defendant was so made a party. The ratio of these two cases is clearly distinguishable as it deals with cases which are provided by S. 22 of the Limitation Act.
Cases of amendment of pleadings to which the above section does not apply would, generally speaking, attract the doctrine of relation back provided there is a proper order permitting amendment. In the instant case the Commissioner has observed that his predecessor had permitted amendment, could not be allowed because initially the petition on the form of the Payment of Wages Act had been made to a different authority and a petition dated 25-8-1954 was made to quite a different one; these different authorities, according to the Commissioner, had been created under different statutes. The Commissioner, however, also considered the question of amendment immaterial because in application in proper form under the Workmen's Compensation Act was before the proper authority.
He further through that the date of the retention must be considered to be 21st of October, 1955 when it came before the appropriate authority, with the result that it was held to be barred by time. With respect to the applicability of S. 14 of the Limitation Act and extension of time under S. 10 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, the main argument advanced by the counsel for the respondent is that there is no affidavit of the bona fides of the appellant in initially filing an application under the Payment of Wages Act. He has repeated the reasoning of the learned Commissioner and has contended that the two officials appointed under the Payment of Wages Act and under the Workmen's Compensation Act were appointed by different notifications and were thus distinct officials.
Merely because the powers under both the statutes have been conferred on the same judicial officer, would, according to him, be immaterial. I will now deal with these contentions. It is axiomatic that rules of procedure are really meant for the purpose of promoting justice for which alone the Courts and the quasi-judicial tribunals exist. Procedural statutes have always been considered to occupy a secondary status when they conflict with rights. Such provisions relating to procedure should generally be so construed as to protect the right sought to be vouchsafed thereby.
The application for amendment was filed on 9th of July, 1955 and it clearly states that by oversight a different printed form had been filled in All the facts have been correctly stated, the amount of compensation claimed has also been correctly filled in and it is only the label with respect to the law under which the application has been filed, which may be considered to be incorrect; it is, strictly speaking, the wrong printed form which was used, though the relief claimed was unambiguously stated to be Rs. 3,500/- by way of compensation.
There is no mention of any wages said to have been withheld. The impugned order states, as already observed, that the original application had been permitted to be coveted into an application under the Workmen's Compensation Act, and it has not been urged by the counsel for the respondent that this has been wrongly stated. While discussing issue No. 8, the learned Commissioner has observed that the amendment could not be allowed. In my view, the original petition having been allowed to be converted by his predecessor into an application under the Workmen's Compensation Act as appears from the clear observation contained in the impugned order, it is questionable if the successor Commissioner had any jurisdiction or power to hold that the amendment could not be allowed.
Without realising the importance of this question and its implications on the plea of limitation, the Commissioner has observed that this question is immaterial; he then proceeds to conclude that the date of proper application should be 21st of October, 1955. In my view, if the petition had in fact been allowed to be converted into an application under the Workmen's Compensation Act, then the doctrine of elating back might well be attracted. But be that as it may, in my opinion, on the facts as disclosed on this record, the appellant is, in any case, entitled to extension of time under section 10 of the Workmen's Compensation Act. Before dealing with this section I may dispose of the claim for extension of period under S. 14, Limitation Act.
Under S. 20 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, the State Government is authorised by notification in the Official Gazette to appoint any person to be a Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation for such local area as may be specified in the notification. The Punjab State Government on 11th of September, 1952 appointed Senior Subordinate Judges in the Punjab to be the Commissioners for Workmen's Compensation in respect of their respective districts except that the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Kulu, was appointed Commissioner in respect of Kalu Sub-Division of Kangra.
Under S. 15 of the Payment of Wages Act, the State Government is similarly authorised by notification in the Official Gazette to appoint any Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation or other officer with experience as a Judge of a Civil Court etc., to be the authority to hear and decide, for any specified area, all claims arising out of deductions from the wages, or delay in payment of the wages of persons employed or paid in that area. It appears that the Punjab Government, by means of a notification and in exercise of the powers covered by S. 15(1) of the Payment of Wages Act read with S. 22 of the General Clauses Act, appointed all the Commissioners for Workmen's Compensation as authorities to hear and decide within their respective jurisdiction all claims arising out of deductions from the wages or delay in payment of wages of persons employed or paid within their jurisdiction.
This is clear from letter No.4634-E/VI.Z. 37 dated 29th of April, 1955 from the Registrar of this Court to all District and Sessions Judges in the Punjab. In fact, it is not disputed before me that Shri Des Raj was empowered both as a Commissioner under the Workmen's Compensation Act and as an Authority under the Payment of Wages Act. It is contended by Mr. Bhagirath Das that under S. 14 of the Indian Limitation Act his client is entitled to exclude the period spent in pursuing his petition under the Payment of Wages Act.
It, however, does not seem to be quite clear it S. 14 applies to this case. in the first instance, S. 14 only talks of suits and it is doubtful if proceedings under the payment of Wages Act can be considered to be a suit for this purpose; next it is also not clear if the Authority under the Payment of Wages Act can be considered to be a Court and not a persona designate. The counsel for the petition has not cared to cited any authority or precedent in support of his contention nor has he developed this point. He was merely satisfied by making a bare submission that he was entitled to the benefit of S. 14 of the Indian Limitation Act.
Whether or not by virtue of S. 29 of the said Act the petitioner can take advantage of S. 14 is a question which in the absence of further arguments at the Bar I should not like to decide in the present case. I am however inclined to take the view, as stated above, that time should have been extended by the learned Commissioner under S. 10 of the Workmen's Compensation Act. The learned Commissioner does not seem to be right in observing that the filing of the original application was due to negligence on the part of the workman which disentitled him to the extent of time.
The authority under the Payment of Wages Act has been enjoined, by the Payment of Wages (Procedure) Rules, 1837, (vide rule 7), to refuse to entertain an application when the applicant is not entitled to present the application or when the proviso to S. 15 of the Payment of Wages Act bars the application or when the applicant shows no sufficient cause for a direction under S. 15 of the Act. Had the Authority applied its mind before entertaining the application, it would have discovered that the petition was not for a direction within the purview or contemplation of section 15(3) of the Payment of Wages Act, with the result that the Authority would have refused to entertain this application.
It appears to me that the petition was entertained as a matter of routine without the Authority properly applying its mind to its contents. Had the Authority discharged its functions with the care it deserves, the workman in question would certainly have been in a position to rectify the technical mistake committed by oversight and to have put in his claim on a proper printed form under the Workmen's Compensation Act.
(7) In a welfare State which is being progressively industrialized, legislative measures like the Workmen's Compensation Act should be construed in a more liberal sense in favour of the workmen so that deserving workmen get full and speedy benefit and advantage of these beneficent measures. Such liberal interpretation would accomplish the humane and beneficial purposes of this legislation, the provisions of which are truly responsive to the social and economic needs which have been recognised by our Society and by our Constitution. The rights of workmen deserve to the generously treated while applying the statutory provisions because the procedure under this statute provides a speedier, simpler, cheaper and more efficient machinery for the determination and payment of compensation to the workmen. Judicial and quasi-judicial officers should therefore not treat matters of procedure to rigidly as to deprive the citizens of the advantage and benefits of this beneficial legislation on unsubstantial and technical grounds. It is of the utmost importance that no construction on provisions relating to procedure should sacrifice the rights of the poor workmen due to technical mistakes, omissions or inaccuracies. Provisions relating to limitation have, as already noticed, also to be construed with a liberal spirit so that, consistently with the language of the statute, if interests of real justice can be promoted, such a result should be sought to be achieved. I have, therefore, no hesitation in holding that the learned Commissioner was clearly wrong in law in finding the appellant's application to be barred by time. That I can determine this question on appeal ha snot been denied at the Bar, and rightly so, this appeal being a continuation of the original proceedings (see Union of India v. Hanskumar Kishan Chandra, AIR 1958 SC 947 at page 952)
(8) The learned Advocate for the appellant submitted that the learned Commissioner having actually decided issue No. 4 against the respondent, the appellant's claim deserves to be allowed. Mr. Anand Mohan Suri has on the other hand contended that the definition of the words 'employer and managing agent' as giving in S. 2(1) (e) and (f) do not cover the present case.
According to the learned counsel, the respondent who is a S. D. O. cannot be considered to be a managing agent as defined, because he is an individual manager subordinate to the employer, which is the Punjab State in the present case. He has also submitted that the respondent has not been appointed nor is he acting as the representative of the State Government for the purpose of carrying on its trade or business. In this connection my attention has been drawn on behalf of the appellant to a Division Bench decision of the Madras High Court in Periyakkal v. Agent S. I. Rly. Co., Ltd., Trichinopoly, AIR 1935 Mad. 721 where a workman, while employed in attending to work done to a bridge, sustained injuries and he was held to be employed in the course of principal business of the Railway Company.
This decision, however, is not of much help to the appellant because the work of a Railway Company can hardly be compared with the functions of State Government. I am, however, of the opinion that the word 'business', in the context in which it is used, and in the light of the provisions of S. 2(2) of the Workmen's Compensation Act, must include the repairs which were sought to be done to the canal in the instant case. It is a common place in the interpretation of statutes that a construction which promotes or carries out the object of particular enactment must be adopted if the words are capable of more than one construction. That the appellant was a workman has rightly not been disputed before me; the amount of compensation payable, has similarly not been questioned by the respondent.
(9) The learned counsel for the respondent has, however, contended that really the appellant should have filed an application for compensation against the State Government, as he was, strictly speaking, being employed for doing the work of the State Government; he has also submitted that on this very account the present case is being defended by the State on behalf of Shri Mukund Lal, S. D. O.
If that is so, then it is somewhat disappointing to find that the State Government should have tried on hyper-technical grounds to deprive the appellant, who has admittedly suffered injury in the course of employment of the Punjab State, of compensation payable to him. The injury was sustained in 1954 and the matter is still being adjudicated; such abnormal delay can hardly advance the true object and purpose of payment of compensation to poor workmen. In a democratic State of a socialistic pattern where the Government functions with the object of advancing welfare of its citizens, it is not easy to appreciate the attempt on the part of the authorities to defeat the just claims of its workmen citizens on such technical grounds. The State in dealing with its citizens, must Act as an honest person and should not rely on technicalities to defeat their just claims: Firm Kaluram Sitaram v. Dominion of India, AIR 1954 Bom 50.
(10) For the reasons given above this appeal prevails and setting aside the order of the learned Commissioner I would grant the appellant's application for the amount which has been found by the learned Commissioner to be due. In the circumstances of the case, however, the parties are left to bear their own costs.
(11) Appeal allowed.