19. Reference to Commissioners.
(1) If any question arises in any proceedings under this Act as to the liability of any person to pay compensation (including any question as to whether a person injured is or is not a workman) or as to the amount or duration of compensation (including any question as to the nature or extent of disablement), the question shall, in default of agreement, be settled by 1[a Commissioner].
(2) No Civil Court shall have jurisdiction to settle, decide or deal with any question which is by or under this Act required to be settled, decided or dealt with by a Commissioner or to enforce any liability incurred under this Act.
Liability of the employer
The liability of the employer arises as soon as the injury is caused and at any subsequent occasion. It cannot be suspended; State of Punjab v. Vidya Devi, (1990) II LLN 579 (P&H).
Liability of the insurance company
If the insurance company has agreed to discharge the liability of the employer under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, the liability of the insurance company to indemnify the insurer shall have to be determined by the Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation in the very same proceedings by virtue of the provisions contained in section 19(1) of the Act; Razak Haji Jumma v. United India Insurance Co., 1995 (I) LLJ 168 (Bom).
Scope of expression “any person”
The insurer also will come within the scope of “any person” contemplated in section 19 of the Act and thus within the jurisdiction of the Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner; New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Joseph, 2000 (I) LLJ 1063 (Ker): (1999) 96 FJR 575.
Scope of sub-section (2)
The scope and scheme of sub-section (2) is not to take away from the civil court its jurisdiction to give relief in tort, but to provide alternate optional remedy for certain classes of persons in certain special circumstances and for certain happenings. There are two requirements, which need to be satisfied by the Commissioner to act under this Act— (1) the party must forego its right under the common law of the land, (2) the facts giving jurisdiction to the Commissioner must also exist side by side. When these two conditions are strictly fulfilled, the Act seeks to bar jurisdiction of the civil court on the aspects, namely, settling, deciding and dealing with any question involved in the proceeding; Gangnani & Co. v. Saraswati, 2001 (II) LLJ 1022 (Bom): 2001 (II) CLR 842.
Section 19 does not take away the jurisdiction of the civil court
Section 19 of the Act does not take away the jurisdiction of the civil court to grant relief in tort since section 5 indicates that the workman has an option to claim compensation either under the Workmen’s Compensation Act or can take recourse to the civil court for damages and the injuries sustained by him; Minerals & Chemicals v. Thevan, 1991 (II) LLN 951 (Ker).
1. Subs. by Act 15 of 1933, sec. 12, for “the Commissioner”.