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The Management, Balajee Cotton Mills Ltd., Salem Vs. M.C. Manickam - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1981)1MLJ350
AppellantThe Management, Balajee Cotton Mills Ltd., Salem
RespondentM.C. Manickam
Cases ReferredArya Muni v. Union of India and
Excerpt:
.....that machine should be cleaned only after switching it off, he attempted to clean it without so doing. in the course of the order, the additional commissioner for workmen's compensation also refers to the production of the warning board in tamil in addition to the records and it is thus obvious that a warning board in tamil, with which the respondent is well acquainted, had been put up to indicate that it is dangerous to meddle with the running machine. it must also be borne in mind that a mill employee like the respondent must be aware of the consequences that are likely to result if he should meddle with a machine which is working. (3) the order or rule was couched in terra and in words which indicated clearly the purpose; in other words, the respondent bad, by his own imprudent..........addition, the appellant pleaded that warning notices with instructions not to interfere with the running machines and expressly prohibiting the same had been exhibited in all the sections of the mill and that the respondent meddled with the cording machine while it was running by cleaning it with a gunny piece and thereby exposed himself to peril in utter disregard of the instructions given and brought about the injury by his own act and consequently, under proviso (b) (ii) to section 3(1) of the act, the appellant will not be liable in any manner.3. the additional commissioner for workmen's compensation framed the following two points for decision (1) whether the respondent is a worker or not, and (2) whether the accident was due to wilful disobedience of the respondent on the first.....
Judgment:

V. Ratnam, J.

1. This is an appeal under Section 30(1) of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923 at the instance of the management of Balaji Cotton Mills Limited against the order of the Additional Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation, Coimbatore, dated 20th August, 1979 in W. C. No. 50 of 1978. The respondent herein filed the petition under Section 10 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923(hereinafter referred to as the Act) claiming compensation from the appellant in respect of an injury stated to have been sustained by him. According to the respondent, he was a workman employed by the appellant and that on 4th February, 1978, while working and cleaning the cording machine, his right hand was pulled into the machine and was crashed and cut off upto the arm which necessitated amputation of the right hand below the shoulder level. Claiming that his monthly wages earned amounted to Rs. 156 the respondent claimed a compensation in a sum of Rs. 18,816.

2. This claim of the respondent was resisted by the appellant principally on two grounds. The first was that the respondent approached the appellant management to provide him an opportunity to learn the work in the mill as an apprentice and he was so permitted to join as an apprentice without wages and as such, the respondent was not a workman within the meaning of Section 2(1) (n) of the Act. In addition, the appellant pleaded that warning notices with instructions not to interfere with the running machines and expressly prohibiting the same had been exhibited in all the sections of the mill and that the respondent meddled with the cording machine while it was running by cleaning it with a gunny piece and thereby exposed himself to peril in utter disregard of the instructions given and brought about the injury by his own act and consequently, under proviso (b) (ii) to Section 3(1) of the Act, the appellant will not be liable in any manner.

3. The Additional Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation framed the following two points for decision (1) whether the respondent is a worker or not, and (2) whether the accident was due to wilful disobedience of the respondent On the first point, the Additional Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation, held, relying upon the statement of the respondent, that he was, a workman as defined under Section 2(1) (n) of the Act. As regards the second point it was held that he accident was not due to the wilful disobedience of the petitioner/respondent herein. Calculating the compensation on the basis of a daily wage of Rs. 6 the compensation was fixed at Rs. 18,816 and the appellant was directed to pay this amount to the respondent. It is the correctness of this order that is challenged in this civil miscellaneous appeal.

4. The learned counsel for the appellant raises two contentions. Firstly, it is contended that the respondent was an apprentice and not a workman within the definition of the Act. The second contention is that even on the footing that respondent would fall within the definition of a workman under the Act, yet, by reason of the wilful disobedience on his part of the instruction not to meddle with a machine when working, intended to secure the safety of the workman, the employer would not be liable. Per contra, the learned counsel for the respondent contends that the respondent is a workman as defined under the Act and therefore, the accident had taken place in the course of such employment. In addition, it is also contended that having regard to the circumstances under which the accident had taken place, a general awareness on the part of the respondent that if he meddles with a machine he is likely to be injured will not suffice, unless the management is in a position to establish that specific instructions in this regard had been given and those instructions have been disregarded. It is unnecessary to go into the merits of the first contention as it is common ground that even if the respondent is held to be a workman under the Act, the employer/ appellant may not be liable, if the respondent had wilfully disobeyed an order expressly given or a rule expressly framed for the purpose of securing the safety of the workmen. In order to appreciate the contention raised in this behalf, it is necessary to notice the relevant statutory provision. Section 3(1) of the Act in so far as it is necessary for considering this question runs thus:

3(1). If personal injury is caused to a workman by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, his employer shall be liable to pay compensation in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter:

Provided that the employer shall not be so liable:

(a) in respect of any injury which does not result in the total or partial disablement of the workman for a period exceeding three days;

(b) in respect of any injury not resulting in death, caused by an accident which is directly attributable to-

(i) the workman having been at the time thereof under the influence of drink or drugs, or

(ii) the wilful disobedience of the workman to an order expressly given, or to a rule expressly framed, for the purpose of securing the safety of workmen; or

(iii) the wilful removal or disregard by the workman of any safety guard or other device which he knew to have been provided for the purpose of securing the safety of workmen.

As stated earlier, the respondent had sustained the injury in the course of his employment. Since the injury had not resulted in the death of the workman, provisos (a) and (b) to Section 3(1) of the Act would apply. Proviso (b) (iii) to Section 3(1) relied on in the present case exonerates the employer from liability for injury caused by an accident, if the injury had not resulted in the death of the workman. In addition, there must be a wilful disobedience of an order or rule by the workman and such order or rule must have been made or framed expressly for the purpose of securing the safety of the workmen and the accident is directly attributable to such wilful disobedience. The use of the expression 'wilful disobedience' comprehends within its scope a deliberate and intended disobedience and involves the doing of something with the knowledge or a certainty that it is likely to result in a serious injury or with a reckless disregard of the consequences. In other words, the idea intended to be conveyed by the use of the expression 'wilful disobedience' is that it is diametrically opposed to the idea of 'accident', It is in this context that the evidence placed before the Additional Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation has to be scrutinised. The respondent who has been examined has stated thus:

A reading of the above evidence of the respondent in the course of his cross-examination, clearly reveals that he was aware of the consequences of meddling with the carding machine while running and that though that machine should be cleaned only after switching it off, he attempted to clean it without so doing. The evidence of the partner of the appellant indicates that there is a board put up that the machine should not be touched and that nobody should attempt to clean the machine while it is running and it was only on account, of the carelessness of the respondent that the accident had taken place. In the course of the order, the Additional Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation also refers to the production of the warning board in Tamil in addition to the records and it is thus obvious that a warning board in Tamil, with which the respondent is well acquainted, had been put up to indicate that it is dangerous to meddle with the running machine. It must also be borne in mind that a mill employee like the respondent must be aware of the consequences that are likely to result if he should meddle with a machine which is working. If the accident had occurred owings to a reason which can be termed as an incident of the employment, then, the claim for compensation must succeed, unless, of course, it is established that the workman had exposed himself to a danger or peril by his own imprudent act. This is pointed out by the Supreme Court in Mackinnon Mackenzie and Co., Ltd. v. Ibrahim Mahommed Issak : (1970)ILLJ16SC . The learned counsel for the respondent strongly relies upon the decision reported in Arya Muni v. Union of India and others (1965) 1 LLJ 24 and contends that the requirements to exonerate the appellant from liability in the circumstances established in the present case have not been made out. Particularly, considerable reliance is placed upon the fulfilment of the following requirements:

(1) that an order or rule was already in force at the time when the accident happened;

(2) the purpose of that rule or order was that of securing the safety of workman;

(3) the order or rule was couched in terra and in words which indicated clearly the purpose;

(4) that the terms thereof were brought to notice of the workman injured;

(5) the order or rule was disobeyed by the workman;

(6) the disobedience of the rule or order was wilful and deliberate and not the result of negligence or a mistaken mode of doing a particular task; and

(7) the accident was directly attributable to the disobedience.

5. It is admitted even by the respondent that the carding machine should not be cleaned while it is running and an order or instruction that such a running machine should not be cleaned is undoubtedly intended for the safety of the workmen. That there was a board in Tamil warning the workmen to desist from meddling with the running machine is also established by the evidence of the partner of the appellant and by the production thereof before the Additional Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation. It is not the case of the respondent that he was unacquainted with Tamil and that he was unaware of what was written in the board. Indeed, the respondent had admitted that dangerous consequences will ensue, if he should meddle with a running machine. The accident having taken place as a result of meddling with a running machine, it is obvious that the order that the running machine should not be meddled with prominently displayed in Tamil in the place of work, had been disregarded. The circumstances also establish the disobedience of the rule because even according to the respondent he was aware of what is likely to happen if there was an attempt to clean the machine while running and inspite of it, be had done so without switching off the machine before cleaning. This indicates that the rule that a running machine should not be meddled with had been deliberately flouted by the respondent and the accident certainly cannot, therefore, be attributed to a mistake in' the mode of performing a particular task. It is obvious that the accident was directly attributable to the disobedience of the instructions, or the order as otherwise the accident would not have happened if the machine had been stopped and cleaned as it should be done. It is, therefore, evident that the respondent was not only fully aware of the consequences of his intended act, but had been warned by the prominent display of the order that a running machine should not be meddled with; but in spite of it the respondent chose to clean the carding machine, while it was running, which brought about the accident. In other words, the respondent bad, by his own imprudent act, invited the accident and, therefore, cannot claim compensation from the employer on the footing that the injury had been sustained in spite of his obedience to the order or warning given that a running machine ought not to be meddled with. Under these circumstances, it is not possible to sustain the order passed by the Additional Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation awarding compensation to the respondent. That order is, therefore, set aside and the C. M. A. is allowed. No costs.


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