Supreme Court - For the claim of total disablement, the determining factor would be functional disability and not physical disability.
In the case of Indra Bai v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. & Anr. [Civil Appeal No. 4492 OF 2023 (Arising out of SLP (Civil) No.138 of 2023)], the Appellant had worked for respondent no. 2 as a loading/unloading labourer. One day while loading the raw materials one of the poles/pillars fell on the arm of the Appellant, which totally disabled him. Thus, the Appellant sought compensation. The Respondent No. 2 was insured under Respondent No.1. However, no compensation for the total disablement was provided to the Appellant, which led him to approach the Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner under the provision of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923 (“Act”). The Commissioner upon the certificate deposed by the doctor declaring that the Appellant has suffered 50% disability and was unfit to do the labour work, computed the total disablement compensation of Rs. 3,74,364/-, under section 4(1) of the Act.
Aggrieved by the order of the Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner, the Respondent No. 1 filed an appeal before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The High Court referred to the judgements given in cases of National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Mubasir Ahmed [(2007) 2 SCC 349] and Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. v. Mohd. Nasir & Anr. [(2009) 6 SCC 280]. The High Court assessed the Appellant’s disability at 40% and the compensation awarded by the Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner was reduced. Aggrieved by the judgement of the High Court, the Appellant, under Article 132 of the Constitution, filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court, after observing all the facts and evidence, referred to the judgements given in Pratap Narain Singh Deo v. Srinivas Sabata [(1976) 1 SCC 289] and Chanappa Nagappa Muchalagoda v. Divisional Manager, New India Insurance Co. Ltd. [(2020) 1 SCC 796], wherein it was opined that the real question to be considered is whether due to the disability caused, the person cannot do all the work he was doing at the time of the accident?
Furthermore, the Supreme Court also observed that the Madhya High Court has erred in relying upon the case of Mohd. Nasir & Anr. (Supra). Moreover, it was observed that there was a complete loss of grip in the Appellant’s left hand. Now being a labourer who loads/unloads materials, one needs both hands. The court further noted that the appellant was not skilled to do any other work, nor could she perform the work using machines.
Thus, the court held that “there was no perversity in the decision of the Commissioner in awarding compensation by treating the disability as total on account of her functional disability. In our considered view, the High Court erred in partly setting aside the order of the Commissioner and assessing the disability as 40% instead of 100%, as assessed by the Commissioner”.