1. One Gulsher Singh, aged about 19, was employed in a factory and in the course of that employment he met with a fatal accident and died. He was covered by the insurance provided by the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948. He was unmarried. His father Kamal Singh and his mother Jamna Bai made an application under Section 53 of the Employees' State Insurance Act for compensation, alleging that they were dependent on the earnings of their deceased son. In Support of the application, evidence was Galled to show that the father of the deceased, that is, Kamal Singh, petitioner, had given up his own work of making knives and selling them some eight years before Gulsher Singh's death, and evidence was also called to show that since the age of 10 years Gulsher Singh had been assisting his father in his small business of making knives. At the time of his death, of course, Gulsher Singh was employed in a factory receiving Rs. 55 a month as wages, and had been so employed for about two months. Evidence was called to show that the deceased used to hand over his wages to his parents.
2. The question mainly arising before the Employees' Insurance Court was whether the parents, Kamal Singh and Jamna Bai, could be called 'dependants' of Gulsher Singh within the meaning of the Employees' State Insurance Act. In that Act the term 'dependent' has the same meaning as that expression has in the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923, where it is in respect of parents defined as 'if wholly or in part dependent on the earnings of the workman at the time of his death.' The question, therefore, was whether at the time of Gulsher Singh's death his father and mother were either wholly or in part dependent on his earnings. The Court was not satisfied about this matter largely because the evidence, that Gulsher Singh had started helping his father at the age of 10, did not appear possible. The Court did not otherwise disbelieve the remaining evidence and, in fact, found it probable that after Gulsher Singh had attained the age of 15 he had begun to help his father. The Court also apparently accepted the fact that after his employment in the factory Gulsher Singh had been handing over his wages to his parents who, of course, ran the house. In spite of these facts the Court concluded that the evidence was not sufficient to show that Gulsher Singh's parents had been wholly or partly dependent on him, and, on this conclusion, the application for compensation on their behalf was dismissed. The two petitioners appealed to this Court and the appeal was, in the first instance, heard by Mehar Singh, J., sitting alone, but he thought that the question In the case was sufficiently important to be considered by a larger Bench.
3. Before us it has been urged that in reality no question of law arises in the case and the present appeal is not competent, as an appeal lies only on a substantial question of law. The submission is based on the ground that the Employees' Insurance Court was the final judge of the credibility of the evidence, and, having disbelieved a part of it, it could draw an inference of fact from the remaining evidence which the Court has done, and in this manner no question of law arises. Actually, however, it appears from the arguments presented before us that there is no dispute either about any fact or inference of fact and the whole dispute is about the meaning of the term 'dependent.' That certainly is a question of law, and the findings of fact of the Insurance Court are not in dispute before us.
4. Mr. Safeer, in support of the present appeal, contends that the Insurance Court misunderstood the real meaning of the expression 'dependent' and, therefore, came to the erroneous conclusion that the present appellants were not dependent on the earnings of Gulsher Singh, deceased, in part, at any rate. It is true that the case originally set up was that the appellants were solely dependent on Gulsher Singh's earnings, and it was, therefore, stated in evidence that the father, Kamal Singh, was not earning anything himself. That part of the evidence has perhaps been disbelieved by the Insurance Court, and it is unnecessary to say anything about it now. The Court has, however, believed that during the two months that Gulsher Singh was employed in the factory he did hand over to his father and mother his entire earnings. The question is whether it does not follow that Gulsher Singh's parents were, in part, dependent on his earnings. It is said on behalf of the respondent that it is not enough to show that the deceased contributed something to the family income, assuming of course that the father was also gainfully employed, but that it is further necessary to show that but for the contribution made by the deceased the parents would not have been able to live as well as they actually did. This approach tends to raise the controversy to a wholly abstract level without being in any manner helpful. The argument rests on certain observations made by the House of Lords in a case reported as Main Colliery Co. Ltd. v. Davies 1900 A.C. 358, which has been referred to by the learned single Judge also. It was suggested in the judgment that it is possible that a father may be so well oft that he needs nothing from his son, and even, therefore, if the eon does pay something to the father, it could sot be fairly said that the father 18 dependent on the son. This reasoning was accepted as sound, but did not of course affect the decision of the case, because it was based on a hypothesis which did not exist in that case. In the present case also the argument should be sound but would fail to touch the fact of this case as it cannot possibly be suggested here that the father, that is, Kamal Singh, op his wife Jamna Bal, were ever in circumstances, even remotely resembling those where it could be said that the contribution from the son was perhaps unnecessary. The fact is that the present appellants are poor and so was their son Gulsher Singh, and it is to fly in the face of the facts to even suggest that the son's contribution to the expenses of the family was unnecessary. The Insurance Court appears to have been largely influenced by the circumstance that the contributions were only for a short period of two months, but that admittedly is not relevant, for the question of dependence has to be settled with reference to the time of the death of the deceased and is not concerned with the duration. It seems tome, therefore, that the Insurance Court misdirected itself on a question of law touching the meaning of the expresssion 'dependent' as used in the Employees' State Insurance Court and that on the facts, which the Insurance Court found there follow an irresistible conclusion in law that the present appellants were, in part, dependent on the earnings of their deceased son. It is, of course, not possible, to lay down any general rule to determine who would be a 'dependant,' for that would turn on the facts of each case, and all that I am saying now Is that on the facts found in the present case it does follow as a matter of law that Gulsher Singh's parents are his 'dependants' entitled to receptive compensation under the Employees' State Insurance Act.
5. In the result, I would allow this appeal, set aside the order of the Insurance Court dismissing the petition, and send the case to that Court to determine the amount of compensation payable to the appellants in accordance with law. The appellants will get their costs of the present appeal.
6. I agree.