Electricity Board cannot absolve liability on ground that accident took place due to victim's illegal act: Meghalaya High Court

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The High Court of Meghalaya recently observed that the electricity board cannot absolve liability on grounds that the accident took place due to illegal act of the victim and that it is strictly bound to pay compensation.

The Observation came from Justice Sudesh Bansal:

“In cases of Parvati Devi Vs. Commissioner of Police Delhi [(2000)3 SCC 754], M.P. Electricity Board Vs. Shail Kumar [AIR 2000 SC 551], Kumari Kani Vs. Rajasthan State Electricity Board [2016(3) CDR 1499 (Raj.)], Raman Vs. State of Haryana [2015 ACJ 484] and the Executive Engineer Vs. Pramod [2015(1) KCC R 850] wherein the Court held that “the Electricity Board cannot absolve liability on grounds that accident took place due to illegal act on part of victim in trying to draw power from mainline unauthorizedly when once the death is to be in the context of functioning of Board. Principle of strict liability applies and Board is bound to compensate the claimants”, this Court upheld the judgment of trial court of awarding compensation.”

Court was hearing a first appeal filed under Section 96 CPC assailing the judgment and decree dated 31.3.1998 passed by the District Judge, Baran, whereby and whereunder the plaintiff’s suit under the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855 for compensation of Rs.3,30,000 along with interest @12% per annum had been decreed to be paid by defendants jointly and severally.

In the present matter, the daughter of the plaintiff had died by touching a wire and getting electrocuted.

The electricity department (defendant) stated that the wire for strengthening the pole was already fixed and the plaintiffs by encroaching upon took that wire in the bathroom for which the plaintiffs themselves were responsible.

It was averred that It was impossible for the department to fix the wire in any house. Further, it was stated that plaintiffs never moved any application for removing the wire nor any application was moved for maintaining the wire. It was stated that the incident of electrocution was not reported to the department, therefore, no compensation shall be awarded. It was further stated that on the electric pole municipality Baran has installed tube-light and other features to maintain the same, the responsibility was of Municipality Baran and plaintiffs have not impleaded Municipality Baran, therefore the suit was liable to be dismissed.

Counsel for plaintiffs submitted that due to the negligence of defendants, current was flowed in the stag wire and passed through in wall of bathroom of plaintiffs and their daughter died due to electrocution, hence, defendants were liable to pay compensation and the trial court had rightly awarded so.

Court noted that as per evidence available on record and discussion, it was an undisputed fact that electric pole was installed nearby the plaintiffs’ house and the stag wire fixed in the house of plaintiffs and the same was touching to bathroom wall of plaintiffs.

“As per evidence on record, it is the negligence or fault either on the part of the Electricity Department or Municipal Board, Baran, who is liable for the electrocution of deceased Seema. There was no negligence on the part of deceased Seema who died due to electrocution.” Court said

In view of the above, the court allowed the petition to the extent of grant of compensation.

“As a result, first appeals are partially allowed and the impugned judgment 31.3.1998 stands modified to the extent that the compensation of Rs.3,30,000/- would carry interest at the rate of 6% from the date of filing the suit i.e. 23.8.1996, instead of 12%. The impugned judgment is modified accordingly,” court ordred.