Equity demands equality. It is the duty of state to value each life equally. The law mandates that if any employee dies during course of employment, his family or legal representatives are entitled to compensation from the employer, whether private or Government. For injury or death of worker due to working conditions, the employer has to compensate the injured or family of the deceased employee as per Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923. This Act says, if personal injury caused to a worker by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment his employer shall be liable to compensate..... There are plethora of judgments of Supreme Court and High Courts holding that categories of ‘injury’ included ‘death’ and ‘accident’ meant and extended to ‘decease’ contacted at workplace. Being largest employer, state is expected to be benevolent to perform its duty to take care of its employee’s family, if he dies during course of his duty. The ‘ex gratio’ paid by the Governments to policemen killed during performance of their duty or army men killed in war is in fact, their legitimate right to get compensated.
A pathetic appeal came from a bereaved mother. She lost her young son, son Dr. Dinesh Kumar Singh was Sr. Resident (Anaesthesia) at Chacha Nehru Bala Chikitsalaya, who died on 3-3-2015 because of exposure to Swine-flu while on duty
The family was not paid compensation. Public Grievance Monitoring System (PGMS) rejected her grievance petitions thrice. She filed RTI request with PIO of CMO for reasons of rejection and copy of file-note-sheet. The CMO transferred the application to offices of (1) Health & Family Welfare, (2) Finance and, (3) Divisional Commissioner. The Finance department has sent it back to H&FW department. It is not known why CMO transferred it to them, and why none gave any information. The PIO of Health and Family Welfare, neither talked about his health, nor his family’s welfare, but strangely spoke rules to deny information as usual. First appeal did not yield any information, hence knocked the doors of CIC.
In fact, the Delhi State Government was kind enough to enhance compensation to Rs 1 crore for officers in uniform if killed on duty. In April 2016 Rs. 1 crore was given to kin of NIA officer Mohd Tazil Ahmed, who was killed by two assailants. Same amount was given to kin of Narottam Das, CRPF Jawan killed in February 2016 in Maoist Attack in Bihar, and to family of Constable Vinod Kumar killed in December 2013. Delhi Government has also given Rs 1 Crore while Union Government announced Rs 25 lakh to family of NDMC estate officer M M Khan who was killed by some assailants.
On April 1, 2015 the Delhi Government announced: “The policy will cover officers of the Delhi Police, personnel of the armed forces and paramilitary forces hailing from Delhi, personnel from other forces serving the Delhi government, civil defence and home guards. As per media report, Dy. Chief Minister Mr. Sisodia stated: “If any of these personnel die in the line of duty, the Delhi Government will provide a compensation of Rs 1 crore to their families. This is to honour a life laid down in the service of the people”. This Cabinet decision made Delhi the state awarding the highest compensation to families of uniformed personnel killed while performing duties to safeguard the lives and properties of citizens.
The Election Commission rules from 2014 made following policy:
It is not clear whether the policy of the Delhi State covers a doctor’s family to get compensation for his death due to decease. Like a police officer, a doctor is also risking life by exposure to deadly deceases, which is no less than facing bullets. For any family, loss of doctor-son will be an irreparable damage. Either police or doctor, both serve and sacrifice for state and thus need to be treated equally. No policy can discriminate life of a doctor from that of soldier for purposes of compensation. Deadly decease like swine flu is as worse as a killing assailant. If there is no such security measure, it is difficult to give moral strength to young doctors to treat suffering citizens. The state has a duty to form uniform policy and inform the people about it to provide compensation to the family for unforeseen death of employee during service. In this case the young doctor’s family has right to know whether they are entitled to compensation, if so, why not one crore rupees as given to officer killed on duty? State has to explain reasons for not treating a doctor on par with police.
In this case, the CMO has chosen to transfer the RTI request to three departments instead of informing the appellant about their policy or reasons for absence of policy. People legitimately expect a uniform policy from CMO. Besides, appellant has a right to know why a family’s claim is rejected by a PGMS?
The PGMS (Public Grievance Monitoring System) of Delhi Government receives the grievance and registers it. An SMS alert and email will be sent to the applicant informing registration number. Applicant will get another sms alert if grievance is disposed of, but email is not sent. The PGMS suffers two serious deficiencies, given password does not work, even if it works, the status of rejected will be revealed, but he does not have reasons for rejection and he has no way to secure the reasons.
RTI Act, 2005, Section 4(1)(c) makes it mandatory for state to give reasons for such policy or absence of it. Under Section 4(1)(d) it is the duty of the state to give reasons for rejecting the application for compensation.
As per Section 19(8)(a) (i) the Commission requires CMO to provide access to information of reasons for rejection of the grievance, and under (iv) to make necessary changes to its practice in relation to the maintenance, management of grievance status related records to inform the applicant the reasons for rejection of application through email and also publish the same in the portal, and make the process of access possible and easy through password and email informing the appellant reasons for rejection.
The CMO was directed to inform the policy, whether it uniformly applies to doctors suffering death on duty or explain reasons for discrimination, if any, and in this case, give reasons for rejecting the request of appellant. The CM and Dy CM should consider a uniform policy for compensation. The H&FW department was directed to furnish the file notes, correspondence/entire file relating to the request of the appellant for compensation, reasons for rejection, etc. They have to explain why penalty should not be imposed and why compensation should not be paid to the mother who was denied compensation and information about. (based on decision in CIC/SA/A/2016/000353, Anita Singh v. Health & Family Welfare Department, GNCTD, on 31st May 2016.
Professor Madabhushi Sridhar is a Columnist, Media Law Researcher and Central Information Commissioner.
Views are personal of the author and does not reflect LiveLaw’s views.