Srinagar, Apr 24: High Court of J&K and Ladakh has held family of an employee, who died due to electric shock at Bemina, entitled to a compensation of Rs 15,72,592 along with 6% interest since 2009.
The 38-year-old employee of Irrigation Department, Fayaz Ahmad Bhat had died due to electrocution in July 2009 while performing his duty along with other officials in connection with measurement of a canal at Hamdania Colony, Bemina.
According to the petition filed by his family, Bhat slipped from the bank of the canal and touched the barbed wire installed by 44th battalion of CRPF which was stationed at Hamdania Colony. Bhat, the family said, received a strong electric shock and died on spot. The family alleged that 44th BN of CRPF had taken electric supply connection without the approval of concerned department and connected the same with the barbed wire. While the family said CRPF was responsible for Bhat’s death, it said the PDD was equally responsible for the negligence and dereliction of duty. As such, the family said, the PDD was also liable to pay compensation to it.
With regard to the question as to who is responsible for the death of the employee, the PDD in its reply said “CRPF was responsible for the death of the deceased.”
The PDD said the CRPF, in order to protect their campus, had connected the barbed wire with the electric connection from the transformer and thereby electrified the barbed wire.
While the PDD contended that without putting any caution hoardings, the officials of the CRPF were “negligent and responsible for the death of the deceased,” it said the personnel had of their own without any information to the PDD connected the barbed fencing around their camp with the electric network.
In their reply, the CRPF submitted that high voltage transformer was installed at 3/3.5 feet height from the ground level in front of their camp at Hamdania Colony by the roadside and the concertina wire was laid alongside the bank of the canal. The rubber insulators of the high voltage cable, they said, had melted and the same touched the concertina wire thereby electrifying it which ultimately resulted in death of the employee.
“It is an admitted fact that the CRPF had not obtained electric connection from the Power Development Department for the purposes of electrifying the barbed wire,” a bench of Justice Sanjay Dhar said.
“The stand of the CRPF that the electrification of the barbed wire took place because of melting of rubber insulators of the high voltage cable of the transformer, has been confirmed by the report of the police,” the court observed, adding, “It is the duty of the officials/officers of the Power Development Department to regularly check all electric connections, particularly vital installation, high tension wires and transformers. It is their statutory duty to ensure that no mishap takes place on account of lack of proper maintenance of these installations.”
“Even if it is assumed that the CRPF personnel had, without information of the PDD, electrified the barbed wire,” the court said, “the fact that the same was not detected by the officials of PDD shows that there was no regular supervision of the electric installations on their part which was their statutory duty.”
“Thus, negligence of the officials/officers of the Power Development Department is writ large in the instant case”.
The court also rejected contention by counsel for PDD that the challan filed against the officials of the said Department stands dismissed by the trial Magistrate and, as such, it cannot be stated that the officials of the Department were negligent. “This argument is destined to be rejected because acquittal or discharge of the officials of the Power Development Department does not mean that they were not negligent,” the court said, adding, “There is a distinction between negligence which is punishable under criminal law and the negligence which gives rise to tortious liability.”
Subsequently, the court held Bhat’s family entitled to a compensation of Rs.15,72,592 along with interest @ 6% per annum from the date of filing of the petition (2009) till its realisation.