In May 2017, the Petitioner's 23-year old son lost his life due to electrocution after he was exposed to live electric wire. According to the petitioner, the death of his son was totally attributable to the negligence of the respondents, Delhi government and BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BSES RPL).
The petitioner was a housewife, suffering from acute anemia while her husband, a labourer, earned about Rs. 48000 per annum. It was stated that they had no other source of income and the petitioner was running from pillar to post in Delhi to get justice for their son.
The Delhi government responded that it had no role to play in the incident as it happened in the jurisdiction of the distribution licensee BSES RPL. Several objections were raised by BSES RPL to the claim of compensation, including the issue of maintainability of the petition after twelve years.
The present writ before the Supreme Court was a bundle of disputed questions of facts which required extensive evidence by the parties and could not be decided within the ambit of writ jurisdiction, it was inter alia argued. It was pointed out that the Petitioner had previously filed a suit for compensation and since the same had been withdrawn, no writ petition was maintainable for the same relief.
The Court recorded that: (a) In 2019, it had directed the Delhi government to place on record the report of the Electricity Inspector with respect to the incident of electrocution. (b) the police officer concerned was also directed to explain the steps taken pursuant to the petitioner's complaint. However, the record in question were said to have been destroyed in normal course, it noted.
In view of the post-mortem conducted at AIIMS Hospital, the Court stated that the cause of death of the petitioner's son was shock due to electrocution and all injuries were ante-mortem in nature.
Since, admittedly, BSES RPL was the distribution company of the area in question, the Court held that the principle of res ipsa loquitur will clearly apply.
"..facts speak for themselves and the principle of res ipsa loquitur will clearly apply in these facts.. A clear averment has been 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 death of the deceased took place due to the negligence of respondent No.2," the judgment said.
The Bench also reiterated that it has the power to award compensation in appropriate cases under Article 226 jurisdiction. Considering that the deceased was doing his graduation from Indira Gandhi Open University, the Court stated that his earning should have been at least around the minimum wages and after graduation, he would have earned at least Rs 10,000 to Rs. 15,000 a month.
In view of the above, the Delhi High Court awarded Rs. 10 lakh compensation to the family of the deceased for the negligence by BSES Rajdhani in maintaining electric wires.
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