When Those Knowingly Consuming Spurious Liquor Can Be Given Rs 10 Lakh, Innocent Victims Deserve No Less: Madras HC In Burn Victim's Case

Upasana Sajeev

10 July 2024 8:25 AM GMT

  • When Those Knowingly Consuming Spurious Liquor Can Be Given Rs 10 Lakh, Innocent Victims Deserve No Less: Madras HC In Burn Victims Case

    While granting compensation to the family of a man who succumbed to burn injuries sustained while disposing of bio-medical waste, the Madras High Court recently remarked that when the government could pay families of persons who knowingly consumed spurious liquor Rs. 10 Lakh, the innocent victims deserved no less. “I need not engage in mathematical calculations by applying formulae...

    While granting compensation to the family of a man who succumbed to burn injuries sustained while disposing of bio-medical waste, the Madras High Court recently remarked that when the government could pay families of persons who knowingly consumed spurious liquor Rs. 10 Lakh, the innocent victims deserved no less.

    I need not engage in mathematical calculations by applying formulae to quantify compensation. Recently, a number of people died after consuming illicit liquor. The State of Tamil Nadu announced ex-gratia of Rs.10.00 lakhs to each family. When the family of a person who knowingly consumed spurious liquor and died can be given Rs.10.00 lakhs, certainly, the petitioner, the father of an innocent victim like Kalaiyarasan deserves no less,” the court remarked.

    Justice GR Swaminathan added that it was unfortunate that the State resisted such applications in which it should have conceded the prayer straightaway. The court noted that it was an apposite case for invoking the Doctrine of Benevolent exercise of Power and thus granted compensation to the family.

    The court was hearing a petition filed by Arjunan, father of Kalaiyarasan, who was working as a domestic breeding checker at the Government Primary Health Centre, Maravanur, Trichy. He informed the court that while his son was working in the hospital, on June 26, 2023, he was sent to the Government Primary Hospital Centre, Puthanatham, and asked to dispose of discarded medical waste and garbage. While doing the job, the expired medicines exploded and Kalaiyarasan suffered 80% burn injuries and later succumbed to his injuries. Thus, contending negligence on the part of the authorities, Arjunan had approached the court.

    The authorities resisted the petition and submitted that Kalaiyarasan had burned the medical waste on his own without obtaining any instruction or guidance from the superior officers. It was submitted that a requisite procedure was being adopted for disposing of the bio-medical waste in the urban Primary Health Centre and that they could not be fastened with any liability.

    The court noted that before succumbing to his injuries, Kalaiyarasan had given a dying declaration to the Judicial Magistrate, Tiruchirappalli in which he said that he was asked to burn the waste using sanitizer. The court noted that as per the maxim “Nemo moriturus praesumatur mentire”, enshrined in Section 26 of the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, 2023 (Section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act), a man will not meet his maker with a lie in his mouth. The court added that if it was satisfied that the dying declaration was true and voluntary, it could be acted upon without corroboration. In the present case, the court was satisfied with the dying declaration.

    The court further noted that as per Section 119 of BSA (Section 114 of Evidence Act), the court could presume the existence of a fact, that it thought was likely to happen. In the present case, the court observed that Kalaiyarasan would have gone to the hospital to dispose of the garbage only upon instructions.

    The court observed that as per Article 42 of the Constitution, the state shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work. The court observed that a worker's right to life cannot be deemed contingent upon the mercy of the employer or the State as it was their duty to ensure the same.

    The court also noted that Kalaiyarasan should not have been put to the job in the first place since all bio-medical waste in the hospital was to be disposed of as per the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules 2016. Thus, the court noted that there was an egregious breach of rules in the present case.

    Thus, the court fastened the state with tortious liability and directed it to compensate the family.

    Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr.G.Sujeeth

    Counsel for the Respondent: Mr.P.Thambi Durai, Government Advocate, Mr.Albert James, Government Advocate (Crl. Side)

    Citation: 2024 LiveLaw (Mad) 277

    Case Title: Arjunan v The Government of Tamil Nadu and Others

    Case No: W.P(MD)No.6039 of 2024

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