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Child dies due to PWD negligence, while prosecution files criminal charges against teacher

Child dies due to PWD negligence, while prosecution files criminal charges against teacher

Above: Millennium Park in New Delhi  

Delhi HC slams Delhi govt for wrongful prosecution and no talk of compensation

The Delhi High Court, having taken sou motu cognizance of a report in The Hindustan Times of an 11-year-old boy falling into an open park pit (rainwater harvesting pit) and dying, called the official of the Govt. of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD) to investigate.

On Wednesday (July 3) the high court bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar was surprised at the reply of the officer (counsel) regarding the incident which happened in December 2015.

The incident happened when a number of children, under the supervision of three school teachers, were at a picnic at the Millennium Park in the South Delhi. While the open pit was not the teachers’ fault, it was revealed that a criminal case has been started against the teachers for negligence.

When the bench asked GNCTD counsel Satyakam how much compensation they have paid to the child’s family for the negligence caused, the bench was surprised to hear the reply. The respondent said: “A criminal case is going on in this matter and the chargesheet has been filed against the teachers.”

At the last hearing the court had directed the GNCTD to ensure that such incidents do not recur and to file an affidavit regarding the preventive measures.

On Wednesday the bench said: “It took three hours for the fire brigade to find the child and it is blatant prosecution. How can you prosecute the teachers where you have left the pit open?

Tell us how much compensation you are going to pay?”

The respondent repeated: “We have filed the criminal complaint against the teachers.”

The bench asked: “Why the teachers, what is their fault?”

The respondent was adamant. He said: “They (the teachers) are the controllers of the children and it is their responsibility that they shouldn’t allow children on their own. They left them on their own.”

The bench was not convinced and said: “But it is you who permit everything going on there in the park. An open and unauthorized parking place, a hole left open in the park…”

Trying to explain his stand, the respondent said: “The teachers ordered the children to bring the water and things for them and after that the incident happened. There is a whole investigation.”

The bench ordered as follows:

Suo motu cognizance taken by this court in the report published in The Hindustan Times on Dec 22, 2015 regarding the death of an 11-year-old boy who had gone for a school picnic, after falling in rainwater harvesting pit near the Millennium Park.

“The counter affidavit dated February 9, 2016 was under the signature of Mukesh Kumar, GNCTD of Delhi. This affidavit makes interesting reading in paragraphs 6-7 where it is stated that teachers are responsible for the incident.

“The PWD left the pit open for rainwater harvesting but the water in the tank was not utilized. By admitting that they left it open, they are responsible.

“Wrongful attempt has been made in the affidavit to change the course of justice.

“The PWD admits its responsibility for the incident. An excuse is provided when the PWD said they it left it open for rainwater harvesting. The stand taken in the affidavit is wrong. It is the government’s duty to maintain the health and safety of the public, especially in public areas. To ensure that regular maintenance of the tanks and regular visits should be done to see nothing is left open over there.

“Another issue is unauthorised parking in the green belt area including on the roof of the tanks. If this was so then PWD should have taken the steps to restore this. The PWD does not state why the marking or hoardings showing the green belt were removed from the area.

“Any area where there are such open holes for whatever reason, it is the responsibility of the PWD to ensure they are not left open.

“We also find that PWD admits in the affidavit that there is lack of vigilance and the tanks should be covered. The incident which has occurred is tragic, where a boy on a picnic lost his life due to the negligence of the PWD which failed to discharge its duties and left the tank uncovered.

“The police have registered FIR no. 860/2015 in this case. We were informed by ASC that apart from officers of PWD the police have raided the teacher. It is shocking how the teacher could be liable for an uncovered hole into which the child fell. It is an inadmissible position on the part of the PWD.”

The court scolded the counsel, saying: “How can you prosecute the school teacher for the uncovered hole? The criminal case against the teacher must have detained him from his job. You can put a teacher into disciplinary committee but not in criminal proceedings. It is very unfortunate that you have done that.”

“Status report dated 2016 has been filed under the signature of SHO that the case has been registered and the chargesheet has been filed. The nature of negligence was such that the teacher himself fell into the uncovered hole due to the commission of criminal charges. Please prosecute your officers and don’t prosecute teachers.

“We have been informed by Satyakam that no compensation has been paid. How much would be the compensation in this case Rs 5 lakh, Rs 10 lakh?”

The bench ordered that the teacher should be taken out of the prosecution. The bench has sought a reply from the GNCTD in regards to the compensation to be given to child’s family and matter was listed for tomorrow (July 6).

India Legal Bureau