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Railway Protection Force (RPF) Personnel Covered by Compensation Acts Despite ‘Armed Force’ Status: Supreme Court

Commanding Officer, Railway Protection Special Force, Mumbai V/S Bhavnaben Dinshbhai Bhabhor & Others [Civil Appeal No.3592 Of 2019]

The Supreme Court ruled that Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel are covered by compensation acts despite ‘armed force’ status. 

The division bench of Justice B.V. Nagarathna and Justice Manoj Misra viewed that mere declaration in Section 3 of the Railway Protection Force Act, 1957, that the RPF shall be an “armed force of the Union” is not sufficient to take it out of the purview of the 1923 Act.

The husband of the first respondent was appointed as a Constable in the Railway Protection Special Force, a unit of the Railway Protection Force, on 27.12.2006. 

He died on 23.04.2008 in an accident in the course of his employment. On his death, the first respondent along with other heirs of the deceased filed a claim petition under the Employees Compensation Act, 1923 for compensation by claiming, inter alia, that on the date of his death, the deceased was aged 25 years and getting monthly wages of Rs. 8,000/-. 

The claim was resisted by the appellants, inter-alia, on the ground that the deceased was part of the Armed Forces of the Union and, therefore, not a workman; hence, the claim petition under the 1923 Act is not maintainable.

The court observed that since a railway servant continued to be a workman as per Section 2(1)(n)(i) of the 1923 Act, the provisions of the 1923 Act would continue to apply to a member of the RPF as he does not belong to any of those categories specified in Schedule II of the 1923 Act. More so, when there is nothing in the Railways Act, either new or old, which may exclude the applicability of the 1923 Act on a railway servant. Rather, Section 128 of the Railways Act, 1989, makes it clear that the right of any person to claim compensation under Section 124 or Section 124-A of the 1989 Act shall not affect the right of any such person to recover compensation payable under the 1923 Act.

It was noted by the court that Section 19 of the 1957 Act, which was simultaneously amended vide Act No.60 of 1985, with effect from 20.09.1985, along with Section 3 of the 1957 Act, declaring RPF as an armed force of the Union, did not make any provision to exclude the applicability of the 1923 Act. Not only that, Section 10 of the 1957 Act was also amended vide Act No.60 of 1985. It too, declared every member of the Force (RPF) to be regarded as railway servant for all purposes other than Chapter VIA of the 1890 Act, which relates to limitation on duty hours, etc.  

The Apex court further observed that despite declaring RPF as an armed force of the Union, the legislative intent was not there to exclude its members or their heirs from the benefits of compensation payable under the 1923 Act or the 1989 Act. 

It was also noted by the court that though Section 19 of the 1957 Act declared that nothing contained in the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 or the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 or the Factories Act, 1948 or any corresponding law relating to investigation and settlement of industrial dispute in force in a State shall apply to members of the Force (RPF), there is no exclusion of the applicability of the provisions of the 1923 Act.

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