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Allahabad High Court directs petitioner to approach civil court for payment of compensation in accidental death case

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The Allahabad High Court while dismissing the petition said that it is the settled legal position that where disputed questions of facts are involved a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution is not a proper remedy. Mere allegation of negligence could not warrant payment of compensation in cases of accidental death. The petitioners have remedy to approach the Civil Court.

The Division Bench of Justice Mahesh Chandra Tripathi and Justice Prashant Kumar passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Sarika Saini and another.

By means of the petition, the petitioners have sought following reliefs:-

“I. A writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari quashing the impugned inquiry report dated 15.11.2022 prepared by respondent no 4 and order dated 02.03.2023 passed by respondent no 3.

II. A writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus directing the respondent no 3 to provide appropriate compensation to the petitioners for death of husband of petitioner no 1 and father of petitioner no 2, through electrocution.

III. Some other/further writ, order or direction which the Court may deem fit and proper under the facts and circumstances of the case.

IV. To award the cost of the petition in favour of the petitioners.”

The facts and circumstances giving rise to this case, as stated by the petitioners, are that the husband of the first petitioner and father of the second petitioner namely late Kaushal Kumar was working as Assistant Teacher in Primary School Mirapur, Block Noorpur, District Bijnor.

On 10.09.2022 he had gone to the school for teaching purpose and at 1.00 p.m, the husband of the petitioner, while going to the bathroom, came in contact with live 11000 KV electricity line, which was lying snapped on the ground. As a result of electrocution, the husband of the petitioner died on the spot, whereas two other persons namely Jony Kumar, Assistant Teacher and Sumer Chandra, Part Time Sweeper sustained injuries.

The first petitioner had reported to the police station regarding the said incident on 10.09.2022, which was registered as Case under Sections 304-A, 338 IPC, Police Station Chandpur, District Bijnor.

After investigation, the investigating officer had filed report under Section 173 Cr.P.C on 07.11.2022 with the conclusion that the husband of the petitioner died due to electrocution.

In this backdrop, the petitioner claimed payment of compensation which was turned down by the third respondent i.e Executive Engineer, Electricity Distribution, Khand-I, Paschimanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Chandpur, Bijnor vide impugned order dated 02.03.2023 stating that the petitioners are not entitled for compensation.

On the complaint of the first petitioner, an inquiry was conducted by the Deputy Director of Electricity, Security, U.P Government, Moradabad Region, Moradabad (fourth respondent), who had submitted the impugned report on 15.11.2022 in which he had recommended for payment of compensation to the injured persons but denied the claim of the petitioners. Finally, the claim of the petitioners has been rejected by the third respondent on 02.03.2023.

Counsel for the petitioners had vehemently submitted that the said incident was occurred due to lapse on the part of U.P Power Corporation Ltd, which is entrusted to maintain its electricity line and as such, the petitioners are entitled for payment of compensation under the provisions contained in Rule 29, 30(4), 50(1) and 77(3) of Indian Electricity Rules, 1956.

Per contra, Devesh Vikram, Additional Chief Standing Counsel appearing for the State respondent submitted that in the matter, the enquiry officer conducted spot enquiry and submitted its report on 15.11.2022, wherein it was mentioned that the incident occurred on account of negligence of the deceased himself. The post-mortem report indicates that the husband of the petitioner died due to electrocution and the said incident took place on account of negligence of the deceased.

The Court said that,

We have occasion to peruse the record and the judgments so cited by counsel for the petitioners in the aforesaid cases, wherein the Division Bench of the Court had proceeded to consider the statutory provisions contained in Indian Electricity Rules, 1956 and also considered the Circular dated 19.06.2008 issued by the U.P Power Corporation Ltd (Government of U.P Undertaking) and only thereafter necessary directions were issued for payment of compensation.

The negligence is required to be established firstly by the petitioner. Mere fact, that the wire of the electric transmission line belonging to the respondent Corporation had snapped and the deceased had come into contact with it and had died, was not by itself sufficient for awarding compensation. It also required to be examined whether the wire had snapped as a result of any negligence of the Corporation and under which circumstances the deceased had come into contact with the wire.

In view of the specific defences raised by the respondents in each of these cases, they deserved an opportunity to prove that proper care and precautions were taken in maintaining the transmission lines and yet the wires had snapped because of circumstances beyond their control or unauthorized intervention of third parties or that the deceased had not died in the manner stated by the petitioners. These questions could not have been decided properly on the basis of affidavits only.

“In the light of the decisions of the Supreme Court, the Court cannot possibly entertain the petition and grant compensation on the basis of the principle of strict liability though sending the petitioners to civil court will delay the resolution of their claim.

Therefore, the Court has no other option but to hold that the writ petition in the facts and circumstances, which involves disputed questions of facts, is not maintainable and the petitioners will have to approach the appropriate Civil Court to claim the compensation for the death of the husband of the petitioner no 1 on account of alleged negligence of the respondents.

It is, however, made clear that the petitioners shall be entitled to avail all legal remedies available to them in accordance with law and they will be entitled to claim the benefit of Section 14 of the Limitations Act, 1963 to avail the legal remedies available to them”, the Curt observed while dismissing the petition.

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