Manipur High Court: In a writ petition filed challenging the compensation awarded by the Lower Court, the division bench of Sanjay Kumar, C.J. and M.V. Muralidaran, J. has set aside the order, and held that Manipur State Power Distribution Corporation Limited (‘MSPDCL’), was involved in distribution of potentially dangerous and hazardous commodity, and it is incumbent upon them to abide by all prescribed statutory norms of safety.
The minor petitioner was electrocuted when she came in contact with the transformer near her house. In consequence, she sustained 60 percent burns all over her body and her right hand had to be amputated high above her elbow. A sum in excess of Rs. 1,50,000 lakhs were spent on her hospitalization and treatment. It was asserted that the concerned authorities were in negligence of maintenance and safety of the people, thus violated the rights of the petitioner.
The Court observed that due to the negligence of the authorities as required by statutory norms, the minors’ rights under Articles 14, 21 and 300 of the Constitution were violated, including an action in tort is maintainable under the principles of res ipsa loquiter, strict liability and restitution in integrum.
In view of the statutory position and noting the facts, the Court observed that the transformer should not have been installed on such low ground and that no safety measures were put in place, as the wooden fencing around it had wide gaps, which made it easily accessible for the minor petitioner to reach with ease, further, the child is of such tender age that no contributory negligence can be attributed to her.
Relying on the decisions in Rudul Sah v. State of Bihar, (1983) 4 SCC 141, Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa, (1993) 2 SCC 746, D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, (1997) 1 SCC 416 and M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (1987) 1 SCC 395, the Court affirmed its position to compensate monetarily, amenable to its writ jurisdiction under Article 226.
The Court examined the various statutory provisions and noted that Chapter IV of National Bureau of Indian Standards, requires specific ‘danger notices’ to be placed in a conspicuous place, while Rule 46 of Chapter IV requires ‘periodical inspection and inspection of installation’ and observed that MSPDCL could not provide any proof of inspections and safety for the transformers. Further, no prescriptions have been produced before the Court for fencing material to be used as per Indian Bureau of Standards, or if wooden fencing would qualify as sufficient protection under the norms.
The Court observed that it was not disputed that the wooden fencing was put in place by the villagers themselves, and not the authorities. In effect, no protection was provided by the authorities around the transformer, it was only after the accident that a barbed wire fence was put in place. Therefore, the Court directed that the petitioners be paid the balance compensation of Rs. 10,00,000 after deducting the amount already paid.
[State of Manipur v. Baby Tinchonghoi Mate, Writ Application No. 28 of 2021 decided on 20-10-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
S. Nepolean, Government Advocate, for the Appellants;
Tungrei Ngakang, Advocate, for the Respondent.