Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court: Sanjeev Kumar, J., applied the principle of strict liability to grant compensation to the petitioners who had lost their son due to negligence of the Power Development Department.
The petitioners were the parents of one Parvez Ahmad Gujjar, aged 12 years, who got electrocuted on 09-06-2008 when he incidentally touched the standing green tree touching electricity transmission line. An FIR was registered against the Department of Power Development on the allegation that 33 KV transmission line maintained by the Department of Power Development (PDD) was touching a green tree which created a short circuit in which the son of the petitioners died.
The police, after investigation, proved the case under Section 304-A RPC against the PDD and the medical opinion on record clearly demonstrated that the cause of death of son of the petitioners was due to electrocution.
Opining that the danger of these green trees touching the live wires and creating short circuit cannot be ruled out, the Bench stated,
“The maintenance of electric lines would include cutting and pruning of trees, for, there is likelihood of such trees and their branches coming into contact with live wires during rainy season or otherwise.”
Hence, the Bench held that apart from being vicariously liable for the negligent acts of its employees, who were maintaining and distributing the electricity through transmission lines essentially dealing with a dangerous activity which, having regard to its nature, was hazardous, the department was liable to compensate the petitioners on the principle of strict liability as it was the duty of the respondents to take all care and caution to prevent any mishap.
Reliance was placed by the Court on its recent decision in Abdul Aziz Bhat v. State of J&K, 2013 SCC OnLine J&K 182, wherein it had been held that “…a hazardous or an inherently dangerous activity can be tolerated only on the condition that such an enterprise would indemnify all those who suffer on account of carrying on of such dangerous activity, regardless of whether it is carried on with reasonable and due care. Therefore, even in a case where due care and caution had been taken…”
Accordingly, considering the policy of payment of ex-gratia relief to the Departmental or non-Departmental persons killed or grievously incapacitated due to electric related incidents promulgated vide Order No. 328-PDD/2011 dated 24-11-2011, the Bench held that the petitioners would be entitled to payment of lump-sum compensation of Rs 3.00 lac along with interest at the rate of 6% interest per annum to be calculated from the date of the death. Taking an stricter view, the Bench added, if the compensation awarded is not paid within eight the amount shall become payable along with interest at 9% per annum. [Jamal-ud-Din Gujjar v. State of J&K, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 771, decided on 07-10-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For the Petitioners: B.S.Bali, Advocate
For the State of J&K: F.A.Natnoo AAG