Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel can be treated as workman’ and claim compensation for injury suffered on duty under the Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923 despite it being an armed force of the Union, the Supreme Court has ruled.
A bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Manoj Misra dismissed an appeal filed by a commanding officer of the Railway Protection Special Force (RPSF), a unit of RPF, challenging the 2016 order of the Gujarat High Court which had upheld the compensation awarded by the Workmen Compensation Commissioner to the kin of a constable, who died on duty.
Justice Misra, who penned the verdict on behalf of the bench, formulated two questions including whether an RPF constable can be treated as a workman under the 1923 law, even though he was a member of the armed forces of the Union by virtue of the Railway Protection Force Act, 1957.
The bench, after perusing various provisions and Acts, said, “In our considered view, despite declaring RPF as an armed force of the Union, the legislative intent was not there to exclude its members or their heirs from the benefits of compensation payable under the 1923 Act or the Railways Act, 1989.”
The top court rejected the RPF’s contention that the compensation claim of heirs of the deceased constable was not maintainable as he was in the armed force of the Union and can’t be treated as a workman under the 1923 law.
It said the right of a person to claim compensation under the law was subject to the condition that he shall not be entitled to claim compensation more than once in respect of the same accident.
“In the instant case, there is nothing to indicate that the respondent’s (wife of constable) claim under the 1923 Act was made after receiving compensation for the same accident under any other Act or law,” the bench said, in its order dated September 26.
It said, “We hold that the claim set up by the respondent under the 1923 Act is maintainable. The appeal lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed.”
The case pertains to a constable, who had joined RPF on December 27, 2006 and died on April 23, 2008 in an accident in the course of his employment. The deceased was aged 25 years and getting monthly wages of Rs 8,000.
On the claim filed by his wife, the Workmen Compensation Commissioner had held that the constable died in an accident in the course of his employment and he being a ‘railway servant’, as per the provisions of the Railways Act, 1989, would be deemed to be a workman.
The commissioner determined the compensation payable to his heirs at Rs 4.33 lakh and directed that the amount be paid within 30 days from the date of the order with nine per cent interest.
The RPF challenged the order before the high court on the ground that the deceased was not a workman and part of the armed forces of the Union and the claim petition under the 1923 Act was not maintainable.
The high court had dismissed RPF’s appeal while affirming the commissioner’s order.