17 Nov 2022 12:54 PM GMT
Livid at home products-manufacturer JIK Industries for opposing the very adjudication of a watchman's compensation claim - 18 years after he was burnt in a factory fire, the Bombay High Court has imposed Rs 50,000 costs on the company. Justice MS Karnik dismissed the employer's "frivolous petition" that challenged the Labour Court's decision to condone the watchman's delay of two years...
Livid at home products-manufacturer JIK Industries for opposing the very adjudication of a watchman's compensation claim - 18 years after he was burnt in a factory fire, the Bombay High Court has imposed Rs 50,000 costs on the company.
Justice MS Karnik dismissed the employer's "frivolous petition" that challenged the Labour Court's decision to condone the watchman's delay of two years and restored his 2007 claim under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923.
"The employer at every stage is resorting to challenging the interlocutory orders passed by the Labour Court obviously with a view to defeat and delay the adjudication of the main application on merits," the court said.
The judge added that the employee has been dragged to the Court "unnecessarily and vexatiously" by the employer "who should have gracefully accepted" the Labour Court's decision and "contested the claim application of the employee on merits."
Maruti Mene was working as a watchman with JIK on July 28, 2004 when at about 8.00 pm there was a chemical explosion of a reactor vessel (Tank) in the company. Mene was severely burnt, his leg had to be amputated and he never worked as a watchman again.
In 2007, Mene filed a compensation claim and sought condonation of delay. The application was dismissed in default the following year. In May 2010, the employee filed an application for restoration along with the application for condonation of delay and for contesting the claim on merits before the court.
JIK raised a preliminary objection and accused Mene of defrauding the court. It alleged that someone else may have signed the affidavit for him. But Mene's lawyers argued that the difference in the signatures was due to his burn injuries. The matter reached the SC that ruled in the watchman's favour.
In 2018, the Labour Court allowed the original claim to be heard on merits by condoning the delay and restoring the petition. However, the employer challenged the order on the ground that the labour court shouldn't have decided both aspects together. The company should have been allowed to oppose the restoration application, it submitted.
At the outset, the HC found the Labour Court's order well-reasoned.
The bench said that accepting the employer's contention would be adopting a "hyper technical" approach. The Labour Court rightly relied on Esha Bhattacharjee vs. Managing Committee of Raghunathpur Nafar Academy and others for condoning delay, it said.
"The employee suffered serious injuries in 2004. The claim application for compensation awaits a decision on merits though filed as far back as in the year 2007. A hyper technical objection was raised once by the employer earlier. The hyper technical objection is once again repeated by filing this writ petition. I therefore have no hesitation in imposing exemplary costs on the petitioner-employer of Rs.50,000/- to be paid to the respondent-employee within a period of four weeks from today," the court said directing the costs to be paid within 4 weeks.
The HC also expedited the original case.
"I find this to be a fit case to impose exemplary costs on the employer who has filed such a frivolous petition," the court added.
When Live Law contacted the victim it was found that his leg was amputated after the accident and he had paid of his agricultural land to pay hospital bills of over Rs. 2 lakh. Last month, the villager from Wada also suffered a paralysis attack.
The present HC order will be the first time he would receive any money officially from the employer.
Advocates S. P. Munshi i/b. Mr. Sudhir N. Deshpande for the petitioner.
Advocates Amrin Khan a/w Ms. Meenakshi Pahuja i/b. Mr. Avinash M. Gokhale for the Respondent
Case Title: JIK Industries Co. Ltd. vs. Maruti Nashik Mene
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 444