Can’t Deny Compensation To Victim Of State’s Negligence Coz Of Dispute B/w Govt Agencies As To Who Was Negligent, Says Delhi HC [Read Judgment]
Parents of boy who died of electrocution awarded over Rs 27L compensation
The Delhi High Court has held that inter se dispute between two government agencies as to who amongst them was negligent in maintenance of electrical installations in a public park cannot be a ground for denying compensation to the family of a boy who died due to electrocution, and has directed the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) and BSES to pay a compensation of Rs 27.38 lakh with 9 per cent interest to the parents of the teenager who was electrocuted during a game of cricket.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao said the EDMC and BSES should first pay 50 percent of the compensation amount to the family and thereafter settle the dispute over liability between themselves.
While passing the order, the bench set aside the order of the single judge who had dismissed the parents’ plea for compensation due to dispute between EDMC and BSES over who had the responsibility to maintain the electrical installations in the park while relying on Supreme Court judgment in case titled Chairman, Grid Corporation of Orissa Ltd. and Ors. v. Sukamani Das (Smt.) & Anr.
The bench headed by the Chief Justice, however, held that the single judge was not right in relying on the said case as in that case the very fact of death being caused by negligence was under dispute whereas in the instant case, the factum of death being caused by electrocution was proved beyond doubt.
In the instant case, 14-year-old Akshat was playing cricket with his friends in EDMC-maintained Sanjay Park, New Govind Puri, on the evening of July 5, 2014.
While Akshat was playing with his friends, his father went for a walk around the park. The children were playing cricket and in the course of playing, Akshat was required to fetch the ball from under a high mast light pole.
While picking up the ball, Akshat’s hand touched an electric cable which was lying there. Consequently, he was electrocuted and died on the spot.
Before the court, EDMC sought to be exonerated from the case saying it is the job of BSES to maintain electrical installations while BSES contended that it only supplies power to the park and the maintenance is the duty of EDMC.
Appearing for Akshat’s parents, advocate Uday Gupta contended before the division bench that the fact with regard to the accident occurring due to the negligence of the respondents is established and noted by the writ court despite which, on account of inter se disputes between the respondents, it has dismissed the writ petition.
Advocate Uday argued that the court should have fastened the liability on both the respondents.
After hearing all parties, the bench of CJ Menon said, “The negligence appears to be writ large and these facts are not disputed. Having held so, only because there was an inter se dispute between respondents No.1 (EDMC) and 2 (BSES), as to who amongst them is negligent, the writ Court refused to exercise its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for holding that there are disputed questions of facts and for doing so relied upon the judgment in the case of Chairman, Grid Corporation of Orissa..In our considered view, in doing so, the learned writ Court wholly misdirected itself and committed an error of law and fact in dismissing the writ petition.
“The judgment in the case of Chairman, Grid Corporation of Orissa (supra) will have no application in the facts and circumstances of the present case when negligence in the maintenance of electrical equipment and installation within the park was proved and death of the child due to electrocution was also proved. In the case of Chairman, Grid Corporation of Orissa (supra), the very fact about the negligence resulting in occurrence of the accident was itself in dispute,” it said.
Relying on various precedents, the bench said, “It is clear that merely because there is an inter se dispute between the respondents, it would not disentitle the petitioners from claiming the relief under Article 226 of the Constitution of India as negligence resulting in a breach of Fundamental Rights is held to be established.”
“On the contrary, as has been done in various cases including the case of Varinder Prasad v. BSES Rajdhani Power Limited and Ors., the Court should have held both the respondents jointly and severally liable for payment of compensation, imposed 50% liabilities on them and thereafter left it to them to work out their inter se dispute, particularly so when both the respondents are functioning under the control of the Government,” said the court.
Taking note of the accident committee report in the instant case and other documents, the bench said, “…we have no hesitation in holding that in the facts and circumstances of the case, both the respondents have failed to discharge their public duty in the manner as expected of them in law and once we find that the respondents have failed in their duty which resulted in the accident, there is no reason as to why compensation should be denied to the victims of the suffering.”
The court then took into account the annual income of Akshat’s parents, to assess the annual income of the child if he would have been alive and started earning, and held that the parents were entitled to compensation of Rs.27,38,607.81 with interest @ 9% per annum to be calculated from the date of the presentation of the writ petition till actual payment is made.
“The aforesaid amount of Rs.27,38,607.81 along with interest @ 9% per annum shall be paid jointly and severally by the respondents. At the first instance, both the respondents shall pay 50% of the aforesaid amount and thereafter they are granted liberty to work out the inter se dispute between them and settle their claim in accordance with law,” the bench concluded.Read the Judgment Here