FCI cannot ask employees to opt for hospitals empanelled by it, says HC

Court upholds order of employees’ compensation commissioner asking FCI to reimburse an employee’s medical expenses. It cannot be said that the employee has to prefer hospitals coming under the panel, instead of seeking treatment where the best medical care is available, says the court.

Published - May 13, 2024 08:00 pm IST

The Kerala High Court has observed that the right of an employee of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to seek treatment at hospitals of his choice cannot be curtailed by the circulars issued by the officers of FCI stipulating that the employees should undergo treatment only at the hospitals included in the panel prepared by the corporation. 

Justice G. Girish, while recently upholding the order of the Kozhikode Industrial Tribunal and Employees’ Compensation Commissioner directing the FCI to reimburse an employee’s medical expenses, observed that from a humanitarian perspective, there was no rationale or justification in saying that when an employee sustains injury in an accident during the course of employment, he has to prefer hospitals coming under the panel, instead of seeking treatment where the best medical care is available. 

Dismissing an appeal filed by the FCI against the commissioner’s order, the court observed that no circular issued by the employer could override the mandate of section 4(2A) of the Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923, as per which the employee shall be reimbursed the actual medical expenditure incurred by him for treatment of injuries caused during the course of employment.

The court added that being a social welfare legislation, the purpose of the Act cannot be permitted to be defeated by the circulars or internal orders passed by the officers of the appellant corporation. The court also enhanced compensation awarded by the commissioner to P.T. Rajeevan, the employee who sustained injuries in an accident in 2014, from ₹50,000 to ₹1 lakh.

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