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Heart failure damages' Prove work stress first

New Delhi, Nov. 18: The family of an employee who dies following a heart attack while on duty can seek compensation under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, but only if it is proved that the heart failure was because of work-related stress, the Supreme Court has ruled.

A bench headed by Justice S.B. Sinha said the onus was on the claimant to show that it was the strain of work that contributed to or aggravated the heart condition.

Courts will not presume that heart failure was due to stress and strain of work, the bench said, noting that “sufferance of heart disease amongst young persons is not unknown. A disease of heart may remain undetected”.

“Circumstances must exist to establish that death caused by reason of failure of heart was because of stress and strain of work,” it added. Only because “a person dies of heart attack, the same does not give rise to automatic presumption that the same was by way of accident”.

The court pointed out that the act was enacted to ensure compensation against injury by accident. It had to be proved that a workman received an injury and such injury was caused by an accident, which arose out of or in the course of his employment, the bench said.

The ruling came as the bench dismissed an appeal by a woman who claimed that she was entitled to compensation as her son, a truck cleaner, died due to a massive heart attack while on duty on September 27, 2002.

Prakash Chandrakant Shreshti, who was travelling on the truck carrying milk, complained of chest pain while getting down and was later declared dead in a government hospital.

The apex court noted that in a case of this nature, it had to be established that the heart attack occurred due to stress and strain arising during the course of employment. “The deceased was travelling in a vehicle. The same by itself cannot give rise to an inference that the job was strenuous.

“An accident may lead to death but that an accident had taken place must be proved. Only because a death has taken place in course of employment will not amount to accident. In other words, death must arise out of accident. There is no presumption that an accident had occurred,” the court said.

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