(1) This is an appeal under section 82 of the Employees State Insurance Act, 1948, against an order of the Employees Insurance Court, Delhi, dated 17th July 1956.
(2) The respondent who was the Chief Telephone Operator in the Indian Air Lines Corporation, New Delhi, proceeded on leave form 2nd August 1954 to 11th August 1954. He went to his village in District Sultanpur. He applied for more leave, on the expiry of that leave, up to 3rd September 1954. A medical certificate (Exhibit R. 2) was produced by him from Dr. D. N. Nigam, the Medical Officer in charge Gauriganj Government Dispensary, to the effect that he was suffering from acute gastro-enteritis for which he got treatment from the Dispensary from 1st August 1954 to 3rd September 1954.
The certificates was dated 3rd September 1954 and it was mentioned therein that he would be fit to resume his duty form 4th September 1954. This certificate was rejected by the Regional Director. Thereupon the respondent applied under section 77 of the Act. It was stated by him in his application that the medical certificate produced by him was from a recognised Medical Officer of a Government Dispensary and was sufficient evidence according to the proviso contained in regulation 53 of the Employees' State Insurance (General) Regulations, 1950, and that the same had been rejected by the Regional Director, Employees' State Insurance Corporation, on arbitrary and unjustifiable grounds.
It was prayed that the rejection of the aforesaid certificate be declared wrong and illegal and a decree for Rs. 85 may be awarded to him by way of compensation as medical benefit. The Court, after examining the evidence, came to the conclusion that the discretion exercised by the Regional Director in rejecting the medical certificate had not been exercised on judicial lines and was rather arbitrary in view of the fact that the medical certificate of the same Doctor had been accepted on a previous occasion, the leave, in fact, which was granted was without pay which showed that there were no mala fides on the part of the respondent. The declaration was consequently granted as prayed for.
(3) An appeal under section 82 of the Employees' State Insurance Act lies to the High Court from an order of the Employees' Insurance court if it involves a substantial question of law. The contention raised by the learned counsel for the appellant is that the question of exercise of discretion under the proviso in regulation 53 could not be interfered with by the Court and this raised a substantial question of law with regard to the jurisdiction of the Court to review or sit in judgment on the exercise of discretion by the competent authority under the aforesaid provision. The regulation referred to us in the following terms:
'53. Evidence of sickness and temporary disablement: Every insured person, claiming sickness benefit or disablement benefit for temporary disablement, shall furnish evidence of sickness or temporary disablement in respect of the days of his sickness or temporary disablement by means of a medical certificate given by an Insurance Medical Officer in accordance with these regulation sin the form appropriate to the circumstances of the case:
Provided that the Corporation may accept any other evidence of sickness or temporary disablement if in its opinion the circumstances of any particular case so justify.'
The argument raised is that the evidence of sickness has to be furnished by means of a medical certificate given by an Insurance Medical Officer but if any other evidence of sickness is to be furnished, then, according to the proviso, the Corporation has unfettered discretion to accept it or to reject it.
My attention has been invited to a number of decisions, namely, Maclean v. Workers' Union, (1929)1 Ch D 602, Evans v. Bartlam, 1937 AC 473, and Wilson v. Esquimalt and Nanaimo Rly. Co., AIR 1921 PC 234, in support of the view that has been pressed that the decision of a domestic tribunal cannot be attacked on the ground that it is against the weight of evidence nor can the Court interfere with the exercise of discretion by the Tribunal.
In the first case the plaintiff was member of the defendant union, the rules of which provided that members who are branches which issued addresses or circulars are not duly approved by the executive committee or by the general secretary would be fined and subjected to certain disqualifications. The plaintiff issued certain circulars without complying with the rules. He was later on fined and disqualified. He then filed an action claiming a declaration that a resolution which was subsequently passed accusing him of serious breach of rules was ultra vires and void.
It was held that the courts had only a limited jurisdiction over domestic tribunals and could not give redress to members of associations on whom hardship was worked by decision given honestly and in good faith under the rules of such associations, even though the rules or decisions were unfair or unjust. In the second case the House of Lords examined the grounds on which a Court of Appeal could interfere with the exercise of discretion by the lower Court. At page 488 of that report Lord Wright referred to the observations of Bowen L. J., in Gardner v. Jay, (1885) 29 Ch D 50 at p. 58, which were as follows:
'When a tribunal is invested by Act of Parliament or by Rules with a discretion, without any indication in the Act or Rules of the grounds upon which the discretion is to be exercised, it is mistake to lay down any rules with a view of indicating the particular grooves in which the discretion should run, for if the Act or the Rules did not fetter the discretion of the Judge why should the Court do so?'
It is significant that in this very case it was laid down that while the Court of Appeal will not normally interfere except on ground of law with the exercise of the Judge's discretion, if it is seen that on other grounds his decision would result in injustice being done, the Court of Appeal has both the power and the duty to remedy it. In the third case the Lieutenant Governor in Council had been given certain powers with regard to Crown grants.
The Privy Council expressed the view that he was not bound by the technical rules of British Columbia Law touching the reception of hearsay evidence as it could not be suggested that he had proceed without any regard to the rights of the parties concerned and the procedure followed by him must be presumed, in the absence of some conclusive reasons to the contrary, to have been adopted in the exercise of his discretion under the statute as a proper mode of discharging the duty entrusted to him.
His decision taken in the exercise of his discretion was final and not reviewable in legal proceedings. In Province of Bombay v. Madhukar Ganpat Nerlekar, AIR 1952 Bom 37, where the question arose out of proceedings taken on the dismissal of a police officer, it was observed that the High Court had no power to Act as a Court of Appeal and sit in judgment on the judgment of a domestic tribunal on merits nor could it go into the matter of appreciation of evidence.
(4) The learned counsel for the respondent points out that all the authorities referred to above related to different facts and what was being examined was the power and the jurisdiction of Civil courts to interfere with the exercise of discretion by subordinate authorities or domestic tribunals. In the present case the Employees' Insurance Court is not an ordinary Civil Court in which a regular action or suit had been instituted by the respondent.
It is, in fact, a domestic tribunal itself constituted under the Employees' State Insurance Act for deciding all matters falling under section 75. Sub-section (1)(e) of that section read with sub-section (2)(f) covers the mates which have been decided in the present case. These matters have to be decided by the Employees' Insurance Court under the statute itself and while deicing the same that Court exercises original jurisdiction and does not Act as a Court of Appeal or as a Civil Court reviewing the decision given by a domestic tribunal.
In my view this contention is well-founded and I can find no analogy between the powers to the Employees' Insurance Court with regard to giving a decision on the matters set out in section 75 and the powers of ordinary Civil Courts, original or appellate, to review and examine the exercise of discretion by a domestic tribunal. To my mind the Employees' Insurance Court itself is a domestic tribunal specially constituted for the purpose of deciding any controversy that may arise on the maters enumerated in section 75.
(5) The learned counsel for the appellant has not contended that the decision which has been given in the present case was not on one of those mattes which are covered by the provisions contained in section 75 referred to before. In this view of the true position no substantial question of law arises at all in the present appeal as the decision given by the Insurance Court is on a pure question of fact.
(6) Even if the finding of fact given by the Insurance Court is examined, I have little doubt that the decision at which the Court arrived is perfectly correct. According to the evidence given by Shri P. L. Marwah, Assistant Regional Director, who appeared as R. W. 1, one of the grounds on which the medical certificate (Exhibit R. 2) was rejected was that it was considered that the disease was not such that the certificate could be accepted.
This ground does not appear to be relevant so far as the proviso in regulation 53 is concerned which does not appear to contemplate a consideration of the nature of the sickness or temporary disablement but refers only to the mode of proving such sickness or disablement. In other words, considered in the light of the purview, the proviso authorised the Corporation to accept any evidence of sickness other than the certificate of the Insurance Medical Officer.
The apparent reason for inserting the proviso is that in a particular locality if the Insurance Medical Officer is not available and a medical certificate cannot be obtained form him, it can be obtained from some other responsible Medical Officer and the Corporation is given a discretion to accept the same. It can even reject is that the medical certificate has not been given by a doctor who is considered to be competent enough or responsible enough to issue the same if he is other than the Insurance Medical Officer.
The court was fully justified in holding on another ground that the discretion exercised by the corporation had been exercised in an arbitrary manner because on a certain other occasion the respondent had sent the certificate of the same Medical Officer In Charge from whom Exhibit R. 2 had been obtained the second time. The Court gave an additional reason for finding that there were no mala fides on the part of the respondent, namely, that no leave was due to him and he was granted leave without pay. This essentially meant that the respondent would not merely have made an excuse of sickness, if, in fact, he was not so unwell that he could come.
(7) In the result, this appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.
(8) Appeal dismissed.