Nothing could have been more gruelling for M. Chinnathambi, now 39, of Melur near here, than having to fight for more than 18 years to obtain a compensation of Rs.67,200 from his employer for having lost his right hand while feeding paddy crop bundles into threshing machine in 1991.

The daily wage labourer was 21 and working for a salary of Rs. 40 a day when his hand accidentally got caught into the machine on the afternoon of March 5, 1991. He was hospitalised for nearly three months and the doctors concluded that he could not use his right hand forever leading to 100 per cent professional disability.

His medical certificate reported loss of three right carpal bones, exterior tendon, nerve supply, dosal skin and total loss of finger movement. After his efforts to obtain sufficient compensation from the employer, through talks, failed, he filed an application under the Workmen’s Compensation Act claiming over Rs.1 lakh.

Disposing of the application on November 3, 1993, a Deputy Labour Commissioner directed the employer to pay Rs.67, 200 within 30 days. But the money was not paid much to the dismay of the labourer. On July 18, 1994, the then Collector ordered recovery of the amount by confiscating the employer’s properties.

Unfortunately, the Collector’s order was not implemented by his subordinates forcing the labourer to move the principal seat of the Madras High Court in Chennai in 1999. The High Court on December 15, 2005 directed the Collector to recover the money within four weeks by treating it as arrears of land revenue.

Only thereafter, the Melur Tahsildar published a notification in the district government gazette on May 16, 2006 to sell the employer’s properties. The agony did not end with this as the employer’s elder brother filed a writ petition before the Madurai Bench of the High Court challenging the gazette notification.

The writ petitioner claimed that the properties attached by the Tahsildar were joint family properties owned by him, his mother, four brothers and three sisters. He also claimed that his youngest brother, who had employed the labourer, had already sold his share of the land to a third party on September 28, 2005.

Rejecting his contentions, Justice T.S. Sivagnanam on Thursday held that the employer’s had tried to evade payment of compensation by selling the property to none other than his nephew. Holding that such a sale would not bind the Government, he directed the officials to proceed with the sale and recover the money within the next three months.


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