Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

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.

Appearance by:

For the Petitioners: B.S.Bali, Advocate

For the State of J&K: F.A.Natnoo AAG

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: D Dash J. dismissed the appeal and held the appellants liable for compensation.

The facts of the case are such that the husband of the Plaintiff’ in the original suit, aged 44 years, earning Rs 8000 a month was going to his agricultural field suddenly came in contact with 11 K.V. electric wire, electrocuted and met an instantaneous death by said electrocution. Plaintiff 1 being wife and Plaintiff 2 being mother of the deceased filed the suit claiming compensation from the Defendants i.e. Central Electricity Supply Utility of Orissa and its officials. The trial court held that the Plaintiffs are entitled to be compensated by the defendants on account of negligence. The Defendants then preferred an appeal challenging the said judgment and decree passed by the trial court and Plaintiff filed a cross-appeal for increasing the quantum of compensation. Accordingly, while dismissing the appeal, the lower appellate court has allowed the cross-appeal enhancing the quantum of compensation. Assailing the said dismissal order instant second appeal under Section 100 Civil Procedure Code i.e. CPC was filed.

Counsel for the appellants Mr B. Dash submitted that the basis of the evidence that the overhead live electric wire being snapped when touches the ground, the supply of electricity through that wire is totally disrupted from end to end which has gone unchallenged; the courts below ought not to have said that the death of the husband of Plaintiff was due to the electrocution for the reason that the deceased came in contact with snapped overhead electric wire when he was on his way to the agricultural field. It was further submitted that the factual aspect is beyond pleadings and based on evidence.

Counsel for the respondents Mr B. Mohanty submitted that the court did commit no mistake in recording the said findings under attack and those are based on just and proper appreciation of evidence on record. It was submitted that the assessment of compensation as made by the lower appellate court is also in consonance with the settled principles as have been holding the field.

The Court observed that the principle of law is settled that a person undertaking an activity involving hazardous or risky exposure to human life is liable under law of torts to compensate for the injury suffered by any other person, irrespective of any negligence or carelessness on the part of the managers of such undertakings. The basis of such liability is the foreseeable risk inherent in the very nature of such activity. The liability cast on such person is known, in law, as “strict liability”.

The Court further observed that it is an admitted fact that the responsibility to supply electric energy in the particular locality was statutorily conferred on the Board. If the energy so transmitted causes injury or death of a human, being, who gets unknowingly trapped into if the primary liability to compensate the sufferer is that of the supplier of the electric energy.

The Court thus held “that the mistake committed by the trial court on those factual aspects by ignoring certain evidence on record and in not taking judicial notice of certain facts has been well rectified in appeal and in that way, it is found that the lower appellate court has so exercised its jurisdiction and power within the four corners of law.”

 In view of the above, appeal was dismissed.[Central Electricity Supply Utility of Odisha v. Damayanti Samal, 2021 SCC OnLine Ori 166, decided on 15-03-2021]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi: Bench comprising  of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sheo Kumar Singh, Judicial Member and Nagin Nanda, Expert Member took suo moto cognizance of Vizag Gas Leak incident.

Tribunal noted that on the basis of media reports that there was leakage of hazardous gas, Styrene from a chemical factory owned by LG Polymers India Private Limited and it resulted in death of 11 persons and hospitalization of more than 100 people of whom at least 25 were reported to be serious.

More than 1000 persons are reported sick. This particular incident damaged the environment and habitat as well.

Thus the said media reports gave rise to substantial question of environment, that need to be gone into by the Tribunal under Sections 14 and 15 of NGT Act, 2010.

Styrene gas is a hazardous chemical as defined under Rule 2(e) read with Entry 583 of Schedule I to the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989.

It is to be observed that, leakage of hazardous gas at such a scale adversely affecting public health and environment, clearly attracts the principle of ‘Strict Liability’ against the enterprise engaged in hazardous or inherently dangerous industry.

Tribunal also stated that,

Without prejudice to any other proceedings, this Tribunal has to perform its statutory obligation of providing relief and compensation to the victims of “environmental damage”, as statutorily enacted, and restitution of damaged property and environment.

Thus in view of the above, notice is issued to Andhra Pradesh State PCB, District Magistrate, Vishakhapatnam, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and LG Polymers India Private, Limited.

A 5-Member committee is also constituted by the tribunal to seek report on the same issue.

Further, LG Polymers India Private Limited is directed to deposit an initial amount of Rs 50 Crore with District Magistrate, Visakhapatnam.

Matter to be listed on 18-05-2020. [Gas Leak at LG Polymers Chemical Plant in RR Venkatapuram Village Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, In Re., 2020 SCC OnLine NGT 128, decided on 08-05-2020]