High Court Awards 10 Lakh Compensation under Article 226 For Death of a Student by Electrocution

Munni Devi filed a writ petition before Delhi High Court seeking writ of mandamus against Power Company to pay compensation of Rs 30 Lakhs for the death of her son.

Munni Devi submitted that her son Mintu Kumar Jha who was 23 years old was pursuing a degree in Bachelor of Science from Indira Gandi Open University. While passing through House No.D-62, DDA Flats, Kalkaji, New Delhi on his bicycle on 16.05.2007 at around 8.05 pm he lost his life due to electrocution when an exposed live electric wire fell down upon his bicycle. This act was totally attributable to the negligence of the respondents.

It was stated that the post-mortem report of the deceased son which was conducted by AIIMS on 16.05.2007 clearly shows that death was caused due to electrocution and all injuries of the deceased were ante-mortem in nature.

She submitted that her son was only 23 years old and was at the prime of his youth. However, due to carelessness and negligence of the respondents, the petitioner lost her son at a young age. It is further stated that subsequently Mr.Sonu Kumar Jha, the petitioner’s other son who was suffering from acute depression due to his brother’s death also passed away on 27.10.2010.

Thereafter petitioner’s husband approached the court of Sh.Nishant Garg, MM, Saket Courts, New Delhi calling for a status report of the incident of 16.05.2007. The court passed an order directing Delhi Police to file a status report. The status report dated 08.12.2017 was filed by the Delhi Police where it was clearly stated that the death of the deceased Sh.Mintu Kumar Jha was caused due to electrocution and all injuries were ante-mortem. Despite this, no FIR was registered by the Police against the respondents.

The Counsel appearing for the Power Company/Respondent No.2 submitted that:

  1. The writ petition is not maintainable as a writ seeking relief in the nature of compensation for electrocution is not maintainable and does not come within the purview of Article 226 of the Constitution of India. 
  2. The present writ is misconceived as a proper remedy was available to the petitioner before the civil court. The petitioner after filing a civil suit has chosen to withdraw the same, and has erroneously invoked the writ jurisdiction of this court. 
  3. The present writ is a bundle of disputed questions of facts which requires extensive evidence by the parties and cannot be decided within the ambit of writ jurisdiction. 
  4. Reliance was placed on the judgments of the Supreme Court in the case of Chairman Grid Corporation of Orissa Ltd. (GRIDCO) & Ors. v. Smt.Sukamani Das & Anr., 1999 (7) SCC 298 and S.D.O., Grid Corporation of Orissa Ltd. & ORS. v. Timudu Oram, 2005 (6) SCC 156 to plead that this court should not exercise its jurisdiction. 
  5. The allegations of negligence on the part of the said respondents were denied. 

Decision of High Court

Hon’ble Justice Jayant Nath observed that in the present case  facts speak for themselves and the principle of res ipsa loquitur will clearly apply in these facts. A clear averment was made in the petition that respondent No.2/BSES-RPL was guilty of negligence. A young boy has died after coming in contact with a live electric wire that has fallen on the road. In the counter affidavit vague and evasive denial has been made. Clearly based on the above facts and the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, it is clear that respondent No.2/BSES-RPL is guilty of negligence. 

The court dealt with the preliminary objection as to the maintainability of the Writ Petition, by referring to the  case of Meera & Anr. v. MCD, W.P.(C) 2303/2016 (upheld by Supreme Court in Fatima & Anr. Vs. National Zoological Park &Ors., Civil Appeal No. 9975/2018 dated 25.09.2018.), wherein the Court relying upin the Judgment of Supreme Court in the case of Nilabati Behera Alias Lalita Behera v. State of Orissa, (1993) 2 SCC 746 held that the Supreme Court and the High Courts have wide powers under Article 32 and Article 226 respectively to forge new tools that may be necessary for doing complete justice and enforcing the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. 

Further reliance was placed upon the Judgment of Air India Statutory Corporation v. United Labour Union, (1997) 9 SCC 377, wherein the Supreme Court held that there is no limitation or fetters on the powers of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution except self-imposed limitations 

On the issue of delay the Court referred to the judgment of Supreme Court in the case of 

Vetindia Pharmaceutical Limited v. State of U.P. & Anr, (2020) SCC OnLine 912, wherein the Supreme Court held that it is not a mandatory requirement that every delayed petition must be dismissed on the ground of delay.

Compensation

After considering all the aspects, the court observed that a bald claim of Rs 30 lakh has been made in the Writ Petition, without any calculation. Therefore the Court calculated the same, observing that the deceased was doing his graduation from Indira Gandhi Open University. His earning should have been at least around the minimum wages. He would have earned after completing graduation at least Rs.10,000/- to Rs.15,000/- a month. Accordingly, the Court awarded a sum of Rs.10,00,000/- (Ten Lakhs only) as compensation to the petitioner.  The Amount has to be paid within 3 months, failing which it shall be paid with 10% interest with effect from the date of Judgment.

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