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Declining claim for reason that deceased was engaged as helper, not cleaner wholly unjustified: SC

Declining claim for reason that deceased was engaged as helper, not cleaner wholly unjustified: SC
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court has set aside an order of the Rajasthan High Court denying the insurance cover to a man employed as "helper" terming the order as wholly unjustified.

A bench of justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian said there is no clear demarcation of duties of helper and cleaner.

"We have heard counsel for the parties and find that the high court has accepted appeal on a make-believe argument that cleaner or helper engaged by the employer are engaged in two different duties and that a helper is not covered by the insurance policy.

"The high court has recorded a finding that admittedly deceased was a helper. In the absence of any clear demarcation of duties of a helper or a cleaner and in view of the fact that helper and cleaner are interchangeably used, therefore, declining claim for the reason that deceased was engaged as a helper and not cleaner is wholly unjustified," it said.

The top court was hearing an appeal filed against an order of Rajasthan High Court whereby the appeal of the insurance company under Section 30 of the Employees Compensation Act, 1923 was allowed.

In this case, deceased Tej Singh was engaged by the employer as a helper who died on his borewell vehicle due to collapse of soil surrounding the well.

The petition was filed before the employees commissioner under the Act for grant of compensation. The commissioner passed an award for a sum of Rs 3,27,555 along with Rs.2,500 as expenses for the last rites.

The legal heirs of deceased were also granted interest 18 per cent per an in from the date of accident.

The insurance company filed an appeal under before the high court.

The high court accepted the appeal holding that the deceased was a helper though the policy covered cleaner or driver of the vehicle in question.

The high court reduced the interest to 12 per cent per cent per annum the insurance company has paid the amount, liberty was granted to it to recover the sum from the present appellant.

The top court said the employer sought indemnification of five other employees engaged in loading or unloading activities by paying extra premium.

The bench said that it was for the insurance company to cross examine the witnesses produced to prove the fact that deceased was not engaged in loading or unloading activities.

"We find that the high court has drawn a distinction between helper and a cleaner when none existed," the apex court said.

"Consequently, the order of the high court is set aside to the extent the insurance company was absolved of its responsibilities to pay the amount of compensation so as to indemnify the employer. However, the order regarding payment of interest 12 per cent per annum does not warrant any interference," the bench said.

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