Read Order: Ishiqa @ Yashika v. State of Haryana and Others
Chandigarh, June 1, 2022: In a significant ruling, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam to pay compensation to the tune of Rs 95 lakh with interest to the petitioner who, at the age of ten, came into contact with live electric wires attached with broken electric pole lying on the street leading to amputation of both of her arms causing 100% permanent disability.
The Bench of Justice Jaishree Thakur, while invoking the principle of ‘strict liability’, asserted, “When an incident of this nature is involved, inference can surely be drawn that there has been an element of carelessness on the part of the Electricity Board in maintaining the supply line. The facts of the case in hand lead to application of the principle of “strict liability””.
Accordingly, the Bench held, “Therefore, in view of the well settled law, this Court has no hesitation in holding that the respondent-Nigam is liable to pay compensation to the petitioner in the instant case”.
The petitioner approached the High Court under Article 226/227 of the Constitution of India praying for issuance of a writ in the nature of mandamus, directing the respondents to pay compensation to the tune of Rs. 2 crores to the petitioner, who got electrocuted from a broken electric pole lying on the street with live electric wires attached to it, resulting in amputation of both arms of the petitioner.
In brief, the facts are that the petitioner, who was aged 10 years at the time of the unfortunate incident, was returning from school when she came into contact with live electric wires attached with broken electric poles lying on the street, which were unguarded. Considering the critical condition of the petitioner, the doctors decided to amputate both her arms in order to save her life leading to 100% permanent disability to her.
The father of the petitioner approached various authorities about the negligence of the concerned officials of the respondent-Nigam in performing their duties but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Later, an FIR was registered under Section 338 IPC.
The factum of the broken electric pole was in the knowledge of the officials of the respondent-Nigam, however, due to their negligence in not taking appropriate timely action, the petitioner came into contact with live electric wires and lost both her arms.
The counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner submitted that the petitioner lost both her arms and the accident caused her 100% permanent disability owing to the negligence on the part of the respondents and therefore, they were liable to compensate the petitioner. He relied upon the judgment rendered by the Supreme Court in M.C. Mehta and another Vs. Union of India and Others, to contend that if any harm results to any one on account of an accident in the operation of hazardous or inherently dangerous activity, the enterprise running such activity is absolutely liable to compensate, regardless whether it is carried on carefully or not, as it is under obligation that such activity must be conducted with highest standards of safety.
He further relied upon the judgment rendered by the Supreme Court in M.P. Electricity Board Vs. Shail Kumari, wherein it was held that the electricity board was liable to pay compensation even in cases where there was no negligence on its part.
Per contra, the counsel for the respondents submitted that the electric pole was broken down due to a motor vehicular accident caused by an identified vehicle. No information was provided to the respondent-Nigam in that regard by any passer-by or villager and meanwhile, the petitioner came into contact with live wires attached to the broken pole and therefore, there is no negligence on the part of the officials of respondent-Nigam. The officials of the respondent-Nigam on receiving the information regarding the broken electric pole immediately repaired the same and therefore, neither the respondent-Nigam nor its employees are liable to pay any compensation.
After considering these rival submissions, the Court observed at the very outset that the respondent-Nigam being the supplier of electricity was bound to maintain live wire and other electricity systems used for the purpose of transmission of electricity.
The Court added that in case of an incident involving an electricity line, burden is essentially on the Electricity Board to plead and prove that it was not their fault and the snapping of the live wire can be described to be an act of negligence. Further, it was opined that when an incident of this nature is involved, inference can surely be drawn that there has been an element of carelessness on the part of the Electricity Board in maintaining the supply line. The facts of the case in hand lead to application of the principle of “strict liability”, Justice Thakur asserted.
Additionally, in order to look into the principle governing liability of such establishments the Court made reference to the Supreme Court in Union of India Vs. Prabhakaran Vijaya Kumar and others (2008) 9 SCC 527 and to Shail Kumari (Supra), to unhesitatingly hold that the respondent-Nigam was liable to pay compensation to the petitioner in the instant case.
Further, on the aspect of quantum of compensation, the Court deemed it appropriate to award a compensation of Rs. 95 lakhs to the petitioner with interest payable @7% per annum from the date of filing of the writ petition.
The aforesaid amount was directed by the Court to be deposited by the respondent-Nigam in the form of an FDR in a nationalized bank within a period of three months from the date of receipt of certified copy of this judgment.
“The interest accrued therein at the end of each month will be transferred in a separate Savings Account to be opened in the same Branch in the name of the petitioner, to be operated jointly with the parents, payable to the petitioner on regular monthly basis, which shall take care of the daily expenses of the petitioner”, the Court held.
The petitioner on her attaining the age of 25 years was held entitled to have the amount released in her name and operate the account solely. The Writ Petition was thus, allowed.