Kerala High Court Upholds Employees' Rights to Medical Treatment Choice

Mainstream
07-May-2024
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In a landmark ruling underscoring employees' rights to medical autonomy, the Kerala High Court declared that government circulars impinging upon an employee's prerogative to choose their medical treatment facility would contravene the Employees' Compensation Act. The judgment, delivered by Justice G Girish in the case of The Area Manager Food Corporation of India v P T Rajeevan, reaffirms the fundamental principle of medical freedom for injured workers.

Quashing the notion of compelling employees to seek treatment exclusively from institution-designated hospitals, Justice Girish remarked, "The right of the employee to seek treatment from the hospital of his choice cannot be curtailed by the circulars issued by the officers." The ruling elucidated the humanitarian imperative of prioritizing an injured employee's access to optimal medical care, transcending bureaucratic constraints.

The legal impetus stemmed from the plight of the respondent, a headload worker at the Food Corporation of India (FCI), who incurred injuries during work and sought medical assistance at non-designated hospitals. Despite FCI's contention that the employee was ineligible for medical expense reimbursement, citing non-compliance with circular directives, the court upheld the respondent's entitlement to seek treatment where deemed fit.

Amidst a legal labyrinth, the court delineated the sanctity of Section 4(2A) of the Employees' Compensation Act, asserting that employers are duty-bound to reimburse actual medical expenses incurred by injured employees. This legal safeguard, the court affirmed, supersedes any institutional circulars contravening the statute's welfare objectives.

Advocate Vivek Varghese PJ represented FCI in the legal skirmish, while Advocate MR Jayalatha advocated for the respondent's rights, navigating the nuanced contours of labor legislation and medical jurisprudence.

In its final decree, the court dismissed FCI's appeal, affirming the respondent's entitlement to ₹1,00,000 in compensation, along with 12% annual interest for medical expenses. The ruling not only rectifies a miscarriage of justice but also reaffirms the judiciary's role as a vanguard of employee welfare and equitable legal recourse.

Author: Anushka Taraniya 

News Writer, MIT ADT University