"I realise that some of my criticisms may be mistaken; but to refuse to criticize judgements for fear of being mistaken is to abandon criticism altogether... If any of my criticisms are found to be correct, the cause is served; and if any are found to be incorrect the very process of finding out my mistakes must lead to the discovery of the right reasons, or better reasons than I have been able to give, and the cause is served just as well."

-Mr. HM Seervai, Preface to the 1st ed., Constitutional Law of India.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

"A Employee" and the Employee's Compensation Act, 1923

The Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923 was amended in 2009 through the Workmen's Compensation (Amendment) Act, 2009. One of the main purposes of the amendment was to make the said law applicable to all categories of employees and to bring about a gender neutral term. 

For that purpose, the Short Title to the Act was changed to "Employee's Compensation Act, 1923" instead of "Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923". The term "workman" and "workmen" were replaced with "employee" and "employees". To do so, Section 5 of the Workmen's Compensation (Amendment) Act, 2009 provided:

"5. Throughout the principal Act, for the words "workman" and "workmen", wherever they occur, the words "employee': and "employees" shall respectively be substituted, and such other consequential amendments as the rules of grammar may require shall also be made." (emphasis added).

In effect, Section 5 stated that wherever the term" workman" occured, it should be substituted with "employee" and corresponding grammatical changes would also be made. For instance, if the phrase "a workman relinquishes" it would have to be changed to "an employee relinquishes" although Section 5 of the the Workmen's Compensation (Amendment) Act, 2009 calls for substitution of the term "workman" with "employee".

Unfortunately, we see in the Employee's Compensation Act, 1923, as is uploaded in the India Code website that the consequential grammatical changes were not made although "workman" was substituted with "employee". Some examples of this situation is provided in the table below:


Text of the Statute


“when the services of a [employee] are temporarily lent or let on hire”


“earning capacity of a [employee] in any employment”


“incapacitates a [employee] for all work which he was capable of performing”


“paid by the employer of a [employee]”

 The Act is replete with such errors in various other provisions. This requires correction.

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