Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
Before concluding this chapter we deal with a question which, while not strictly a matter affecting workmen's compensation legislation, is connected with it. Persons injured by accident may have a remedy by a suit for damages against their employer in the civil court, and it is suggested that the law there applicable is inequitable because two defence may be evoked by the employer to defeat claims which he should justly be called upon to meet. One is the defence of " common employment " by which an employer can plead that an accident was due to the default of a fellow-workman, and the other is the defence of " assumed risk " by which an employer is not liable for injury caused to workmen through the ordinary risks of employment, and a workman is presumed to have assumed risks which were apparent when he entered upon his occupation. When the Indian Workmen's Compensation Act was first introduced, it had, in addition to the provisions for workmen's compensation, clauses designed to abrogate these defence in certain cases; but the Joint Select Committee of the Legislature deleted the clauses in question, apparently because they were not satisfied that the doctrines to which we have referred, which were derived from the British common law, would be accepted by Indian courts. They observed at the same time that, if the doctrines in question were so accepted and were regarded as inequitable, they should be removed for all workmen and not for the limited classes to which the Workmen's Compensation Bill was to apply. Those who now advocate legislation have produced little evidence to show that the existing position gives rise to hardship; but it is possible that suits are not pursued because of the admitted ambiguity of the law and, as the defences in question are in our view inequitable, there is need for ensuring that they cannot be invoked. It should be remembered that ordinarily the workman receiving more than Rs. 300 does not come under the Workmen's Compensation Act, and his only remedy is in the civil court; if our recommendations are adopted, the monetary limit will be applicable to all workmen. The majority of us consider, therefore, that a measure for this purpose should now be enacted, and that it might follow the, lines of the clauses deleted in 1923, but should, of course, be applicable to all workmen. Sir Victor Sassoon and Sir Alexander Murray point out that the Joint Select Committee likewise expressed the opinion that it was on the whole wiser to restrict the scope of the Bill to workmen's compensation and to avoid anticipating a difficulty which might not arise. They adhere to this view and are not aware that there has been any change since 1923 to justify legislation of the type suggested. They consider that the substantial increases in the scales of compensation and the wide extension of the scope of the Workmen's Compensation Act, now recommended, not only reduce any need there may be for such legislation but also form the correct line of advance in social legislation of this kind.