Section 304 IPC Not Attracted Against Builder For The Death Occurred Because Of Building Collapse During Earth Quake, SC Dismisses Plea Of Man Whose Family Members Got Killed In Gujarat Earthquake

Section 304 IPC Not Attracted Against Builder For The Death Occurred Because Of Building Collapse During Earth Quake, SC Dismisses Plea Of Man Whose Family Members Got Killed In Gujarat Earthquake

 “We can understand the anguish and agony of the appellant who lost his family members because of the unfortunate catastrophe. But when it comes to culpability, the accused can be tried only for such offence which can be made out in law.”

We can understand the anguish and agony, but the accused can be tried only for such offence which can be made out in law, a Supreme Court bench has said while dismissing appeal filed by a man whose two sons, daughter-in-law and grandson, who were residing in a tower, got killed as it collapsed in an earthquake that hit Gujarat in 2001.

Ninety-eight persons, including family members of Nitinchandra Somnath Raval, were killed as the tower, in which they resided, collapsed due to earthquake. An FIR/complaint was registered against the builder, owner and architect under Sections 304, 420, 120(b) (1) of the IPC and for violation of Sections 3(2), (C) (D), 7(1), (I) (II) of the Gujarat Ownership Flats Act. On an application filed by the accused, the trial court dropped the charge under Section 304 IPC. This order was later upheld by the high court.

Raval, who argued the case himself, before the bench comprising Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, contended that ‘knowledge’ can be attributed to the accused persons that the construction in question which was sub-standard in nature is likely to cause death when earthquake of this magnitude occurs as that would result in the collapse of the building.

He further submitted that that the primary reason for collapse of the building was sub-standard construction of the building. He also contended that as per the National Building Code, Ahmedabad, is classified as main a seismic zone and keeping in mind this fact, the architect and the builders should have taken due care in constructing the said building and had that been done withstanding the earthquake the building would not have collapsed.

Observing that it is ‘difficult to accept’ this contention, the bench said: “In the first place, as noted above, earthquake at the Richter scale of 7.7 had hit the city of Ahmedabad. This was of a very high intensity. Not only this the earthquake engulfed almost the entire State of Gujarat which was a severe calamity. Secondly, out of four towers erected by the accused persons only one tower had collapsed. Thirdly, it is not only this tower of the building in question but almost 12 such buildings collapsed in Ahmedabad. In all other cases, no charge under Section 304 has been framed, as noted above.”

Referring to case-laws in this regard, the bench said: “In view of the aforesaid categorical pronouncements, it is difficult to accept the submissions of the appellant that charge under Section 304 is made out. We can understand the anguish and agony of the appellant who lost his family members because of the unfortunate catastrophe. But when it comes to culpability, the accused can be tried only for such offence which can be made out in law.”

The court also noted that the trial court has framed charge under Section 304A IPC. Dismissing the appeal, it said: “Insofar as allegation of negligence is concerned, there is already a charge on the ground whether the said charge is proved or not would depend upon the evidence that will be produced at the time of trial. Insofar as the framing of charges is concerned, as we note that the relevant provision under which the charge could be framed namely, Section 304A has already been framed, There is no reason to interfere with the impugned order of the High Court refusing to frame the charge under Section 304 IPC.”

Read the Judgment Here