The Supreme Court has held that the death of a truck driver in a restaurant on way to the goods delivery destination due to heart failure was in an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment and his family was entitled to compensation.

A Bench of Justices T.S. Thakur and Ibrahim Kalifulla said: “It is common ground that in this case the vehicle, which was driven by Jeet Singh, did not meet with any accident on July 17, 2002.”

While driving from New Delhi to Nimiaghat in Jharkhand, Singh felt giddy and parked the vehicle on the roadside. He then went to a restaurant, where he was stated to have collapsed, it said.

Justice Kalifulla said: “We cannot lose sight of the fact that a 45-year-old driver meets with his unexpected death, may be due to heart failure, while driving the vehicle from Delhi to a far away place in Jharkhand, which is about 1,152 km. He would have definitely undergone grave strain and stress due to such long distance driving.

“The deceased being a professional heavy vehicle driver when undertakes the job of such driving as his regular avocation it can be safely held that such constant driving of heavy vehicle, being dependant solely upon his physical and mental resources and endurance, there was every reason to assume that the vocation of driving was a material contributory factor if not the sole cause that accelerated his unexpected death to occur which in all fairness should be held to be an untoward mishap in his lifespan.

“Such an ‘untoward mishap’ can therefore be reasonably described as an ‘accident’ as having been caused solely attributable to the nature of employment indulged in with his employer which was in the course of such employer’s trade or business.”

The Bench said there must be a casual connection between the injury and the accident and the work done in the course of employment. The onus was upon the applicant to show that it was the work and the resulting strain that contributed to or aggravated the injury. Physiological injury suffered by a workman, mainly due to the progress of a disease unconnected with employment, may amount to an injury arising out of and in the course of employment if the work which the workman was doing at the time of the occurrence of the injury contributed to its occurrence.

“In this case, having regard to the evidence placed on record there was no scope to hold that the deceased was simply travelling in the vehicle and that there was no obligation for him to undertake the work of driving. On the other hand, the evidence as stood established proved the fact that the deceased was actually driving the truck and that in the course of such driving activity as he felt uncomfortable he safely parked the vehicle on the side of the road near a hotel soon where he breathed his last,” it said.

In such circumstances, the court said, “We are convinced that the conclusion of the Commissioner of Workmen’s Compensation that the death of the deceased was in an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment and the conclusion to the contrary reached by the High Court deserves to be set aside.”

The Bench set aside the Delhi High Court order and restored the order of the Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation, awarding a compensation of Rs. 2,20,280 to the appellant’s son, Param Pal Singh, which was resisted by the insurance company.