While clarifying that state cannot be held responsible for every accident caused by a stray animal, the Punjab and Haryana High Court refused to direct the state to grant compensation in one such case.
The single-Judge bench of Justice Rajeev Narain Raina said,
"If stray bulls roam the village, then the villagers owe a duty to keep themselves safe against any injuries that may be caused by the stray animals coming in the way of commuters all of a sudden and especially in the dark hours. It [State] owed no duty of care and caution. The State is also not responsible for every fatal accident caused by a stray animal…"
The Petitioner, Krishna Devi, was the wife of deceased who fell to death after being hit by a bull, which suddenly came out of the fields along the village road. The deceased's family sought compensation from the Municipal Corporation, Fatehabad and the State of Haryana.
The court noted that the deceased's family had already been offered Rs.1 lakh by the State Government under its policy as compensation for death due to injury caused by a bull. Further, the incident had occurred at a spot which did not fall within the limits of Municipal Corporation, Fatehabad.
The court said the State was not obligated to maintain the roads or farmlands of an area that did not fall within its jurisdiction. It distinguished from the ruling in Sushma Rani v. State of Punjab & Ors., 2016(2) RCR (Civil) 289, where compensation was granted in an accident caused by collision with a stray bull on a road. Therein, the court said, the accident had occurred at a place falling within the urban area and within the territorial jurisdiction of the municipality concerned.
The court went on to determine contributory negligence of the deceased, who was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, and thus sustained brain injuries.
"It can safely be inferred that the deceased did not exercise reasonable care to protect himself even when the law enjoins motorcyclists to wear protective gear when a vehicle is in motion. This is a contributing factor this Court has taken into consideration on principles of res ispa loquitur, there being no indication in the DDR or in the writ petition to the contrary," the court said while dismissing the petition.
Case Title: Krishna Devi & Ors. v. State of Haryana & Ors.
Case No.: CWP No. 14829/2017
Quorum: Justice Rajeev Narain Raina
Appearance: Advocate RK Saini (for Petitioners); DAG Haryana Saurabh Mohunta and Advocate Vishal Garg (for Respondents)
Click Here To Download Order