Death due to electrocution in AP<br> Show-cause notice to Southern Power Distribution Company
Death due to electrocution in AP
Show-cause notice to Southern Power Distribution Company
New Delhi, 16 November 2003
The complainant is the widow of Dirisam Lajer, who died as a result of electrocution on 24.5.1999. According to her, her husband had gone to the field for collecting fodder when he came in contact with live electric wire lying on the ground and was electrocuted. She prayed for grant of financial assistance.
On 28 May, 2001, notice was issued by the Commission to the Secretary, Department of Power, Government of Andhra Pradesh and Chairman, Andhra Pradesh Electricity Board calling for a report. A report received from Chief Engineer, Southern Power Distribution Company of Andhra Pradesh Limited admitted that on 24 May, 1999 R-Phase Conductor of the L.T.3.Ø 4. Wire Line under Katuru Sub-station-II snapped due to heavy gale and rain and had fallen on sugar cane plant without touching the ground. L.T. Section fuses did not blow on that account. Shri Dirisam Lajer while going through the sugar cane field came into contact with the snapped conductor and got electrocuted. It has been further stated that the Managing Director, Southern Power Distribution Company of A.P. Limited, Tirupati had sanctioned an ex-gratia amount of Rs.10,000/- to the legal heir of the deceased. The report received from the Government of Andhra Pradesh dated 29.10.2002 repeated what had been stated on behalf of the Southern Power Distribution Company of A.P. Limited and also conveyed that the amount of Rs.10,000/- had since been paid to Smt. D. Swarooprani.
The Commission finds that the grant of Rs.10,000/- as ex-gratia compensation to the widow of the deceased is grossly inadequate. There is no dispute or doubt that the death of the deceased was caused by the energy transmitted by the supplier of the electric energy i.e. Southern Power Distribution Company of A.P. Limited, Tirupati.
A precious life was lost due to electrocution. The rule of strict liability must apply in such a case. The basis of such liability is the foreseeable risk inherent in the very nature of the activity. This rule of strict liability has been approved and followed in various jurisdictions after it was propounded in the celebrated case of Rylands V.Flectcer - LR 3 HL 330:19 LT 220 as early as in 1868. It is a clear case of negligence on the part of the supplier of electricity in maintaining the services in safe conditions. The liability of the Board in such circumstances has been very clearly laid down by their Lordships of the Supreme Court of India in M.P. Electricity Board V. Shail Kumar and Others, AIR 2002 SC 551. Their Lordships noticed with approval the view taken by the Privy Council in Quebec Railway, Light Heat & Power Company Limited Vs. Vandry and Others (1920 Law Reports Appeal Cases 662). It was noticed:
"The Privy Council has observed in Quebec Railway, Light Heat and Power company Ltd. V. Vandry and others (1920 Law Reports Appeal Cases 662) that the company supplying electricity is liable for the damage without proof that they had been negligent. Even the defence that the cables were disrupted on account of a violent wind and high tension current found its way through the low tension cable into the premises of the respondents was held to be not a justifiable defence. Thus, merely because the illegal act could be attributed to a stranger is not enough to absolve the liability of the Board regarding live wire lying on the road".
Their Lordships went on to hold:
"Even assuming that all such measures have been adopted a person undertaking an activity involving hazards or risky exposure to human life is liable under law of torts to compensate for the injury suffered by any other person irrespective of any negligence or carelessness on the part of the managers of such undertakings. The basis of such liability is the foreseeable risk inherent in the very nature of such activity. The liability cast on such persons is known, in law, as 'strict liability'. It differs from the liability which arises on account of the negligence or fault in this way i.e. the concept of negligence comprehends that the foreseeable harm could be avoided by taking responsible precautions. If the defendant did all that which could be done for avoiding the harm he cannot be held liable when the action is based on any negligence attributed. But such consideration is not relevant in cases of strict liability where the defendant is held liable irrespective of whether he could have avoided the particular harm by taking precautions."
In the light of the settled legal position, it is the considered opinion of the Commission that it is a fit case in which award of "interim compensation" must be recommended u/s 18(3) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, (for short 'Act') to the widow of the deceased.
A notice shall accordingly issue to the Chairman and Managing Director, Southern Power Distribution Company of A.P. Limited, Tirupati to show cause why a sum of Rs.one lakh be not awarded to the complainant as "interim compensation" u/s 18(3) of the Act. Response within four weeks.