High Court rules Labour Officers not legally trained to decide on compensation

Ramesh, a lorry driver from Bantwal, has been bedridden since April 2012 after he suffered a serious back injury after his truck met with an accident in Hassan. He is yet to get compensation. Mr. Ramesh is struggling to meet expenses for his treatment. His younger brother and elderly parents are running the family on meagre earnings from agriculture land.

But Mr. Ramesh, like hundreds of other workmen injured while on duty, has no immediate hope of receiving compensation. For, there is no forum which can decide his case after a recent order of the Karnataka High Court.

The high court on August 27 stayed proceedings such cases that have been pending before Labour Officers, who have been so far hearing and deciding the compensation under the Employees Compensation Act, 1923.

The high court said the Labour Officers, who are designated as Commissioners under Section 20 of the Act, are not legally trained to adjudicate the cases as required under the Act. While staying further proceedings, the high court sought to know from the State government whether the Labour Courts can be designated as the Commissioners to decide on compensation cases.

Following this order, the Labour Department issued circular on September 2 asking all the Labour Officers in the State to stop hearing cases under the Act. As many as 150 cases from Dakshina Kannada are pending before the two Labour Officers. Some of the cases have been filed way back in 2008.

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