|CITATION||AIR 1986 Ker 72|
|DATE OF JUDGEMENT||November 6, 1985|
|COURT||Kerala High Court|
|APPELLANT||Kerala State Electricity Board|
|BENCH||Justice P B Menon, Justice K Sreedharan|
A suit was filed by Suresh Kumar against Kerala Electricity Board as due to their negligence, the 11 K.V. line remained sagged on the ground, due to which the appellant suffered severe shocks and major burns. The case is about negligence by the Kerala Electricity Board. The accident impacted the change in the physical and mental capacity of the appellant, degrading his life quality.
The father of the minor plaintiff was working on his piece of land on May 8, 1978. The juvenile plaintiff’s twin sister and he had given their father coffee. The young plaintiff suffered significant injuries when he came into touch with an 11 K.V. line electric wire while leaving the plot through the paddy field. Due to the defendant Board’s employees’ cutting of the stay wire supporting the electric post holding the 11 K.V. line there on May 6, 1978, the post leaned downward, and the cable sagged to a height of roughly 1 meter over the ground. The aforementioned accident happened because the defendant’s Board failed to correct the line and left it remaining on the ground for two days. The young child had serious burns and shocks. He was brought to St. Thomas Hospital, and on May 10, he was admitted to the Medical College Hospital in Kottayam for further care. He had in-patient care there from May 10 to July 4, 1978. He had to continue his therapy even after that. The event caused the child plaintiff to lose one arm and left him with unsightly scars all over his body. His physical and mental capabilities were compromised by the accident, which also eliminated his opportunity to lead an ordinary, fulfilling life. His ability to work normally was permanently damaged, and his prospects of having a fulfilling marriage were also diminished. Over Rs. 2000 was spent on his care by his family.
The plaintiff argued that the defendant Board’s misconduct and carelessness in failing to maintain the 11 K.V. line properly and in failing to take the appropriate safety measures that they were required by law to take led to the tragedy. The plaintiff thus sought Rs. 1,000,000 in damages in addition to Rs. 2,000 that his father had already paid.
In the written statement submitted by the Board, it was argued that the incident occurred when a portion of Board staff were on an indefinite strike. Sabotages and instances of downing electric wires were common at the time in the State. The plaintiff should not have touched the drooping electric wire in these circumstances because the public was well aware of the condition. In the words of the appellant, the negligence was not on behalf of them but rather the plaintiffs.
- Does Kerala State Electricity Board’s incompetence contribute to the 11 KV line drooping?
- Whether the defendant must compensate the plaintiff for damages? If so, how much damages is owed to the plaintiff in such a case?
The Board was directed by the Trial Court to pay the plaintiff’s claim for Rs. 64,900/- plus interest at 6% per year starting from the date of the action. Additionally, the defendant was mandated to cover the whole plaintiff’s legal charge. Within three months of the date of this decree, the defendant was required to deposit the sum awarded. A sum of Rs. 1,700 will be provided to the next friend of the young plaintiff from the money submitted by the defendant Board. For a period of seven years, the remaining sum of Rs. 63.200 would be put in a nationalized bank.
Negligence: “Negligence is the breach of a legal duty of care by the plaintiff which results in undesired damage to the plaintiff.”
It was argued that the plaintiff should have been more cautious, given the striking situation and the general public’s understanding of the state’s repeated sabotage. The drooping of the wire was caused by sabotage, which was obviously out of the Board’s control rather than by negligence on their part. Additionally, the Board’s electrical system is never accessible to the general public, especially considering how low the cable was dangling. Thus, the occurrence happened as a result of the respondent’s own carelessness. It was argued that the claim that the stay wire had been severed two days before the tragedy is untrue.
The Board said that despite the Board officials’ above-average attention, the mischief was not discovered since there was no damage to the circuit of current as a result of the sabotage. As a result, the Board did not act negligently, and as a result, the Board cannot be held accountable for the plaintiff’s own carelessness.
The Board argued that the claim that the plaintiff had lost cogency was untrue. According to the argument, the Board decided to pay the plaintiff ex gratia compensation even though it was not legally required to do so because it felt bad for him. However, the respondent’s claim for compensation is excessively hefty.
The plaintiff argued that the defendant Board’s misconduct and carelessness in failing to maintain the 11 K.V. line properly and in failing to take the appropriate safety measures that they were required by law to take led to the tragedy. The plaintiff thus sought Rs. 1,000,000 in damages in addition to the Rs. 2,000 his father had already paid for medical care.
The event caused the minor plaintiff to lose one arm and left him with horrible scars all over his body. His physical and mental capabilities were compromised by the accident, which also eliminated his opportunity to lead an ordinary, fulfilling life. His ability to work normally was permanently damaged, and his prospects of having a fulfilling marriage were also diminished.
The Board has a responsibility to properly maintain the electrical equipment and lines transporting the electrical energy in accordance with the Electricity Rules, 1956, the Court emphasized that Rule 77(3) of the aforementioned regulations clearly requires the Board to ensure that the 11 K.V. overhead lines are maintained at the height of at least 15 feet above the ground. It was decided that if the line were demonstrated to be drooping up to three feet above the ground, it would be reasonable to assume that the Board was negligent.
The Assistant Executive Engineer’s testimony, in which he testified that the Board workers or their allies were responsible for the sabotage, was taken into consideration by the court. Additionally, a nearby neighbor stated that starting on May 6, 1978, the 11 K.V. electric line that runs across the paddy field began to droop to a height of roughly 1 meter above the ground. The court ruled that because it is well known that people will be traveling through the bund, it is the Board’s responsibility to maintain the electric lines at a sufficient height to prevent people from coming into touch with live wires.
The Kerala Electricity Board’s callous attitude was criticized by the court because the board failed to exercise adequate care and caution in preventing potential employee sabotage. The Board received criticism from the court for failing to uphold its responsibility for public safety and its statutory obligations. The Court noted that it is important that the sabotage-related personnel receive punishment, and it expressed its dismay that no efforts had been taken to apprehend the offenders.
The Kerala State Electricity Board was ordered to pay the plaintiff damages after the Court determined the first issue against the appellant Board and found that its carelessness caused the 11 K.V. line to sag.
The father of the young plaintiff was ordered to get Rs. 1700 in recompense for costs he exhausted in treating the wounded, and the court upheld that decision.
In light of the plaintiff’s agony and suffering, the court determined that the lower court’s judgment of Rs. 20,000/- was disproportionate.
The court then took into consideration the Rs. 43,200 that was granted as compensation for the anticipated financial loss. The Court noted that the learned judge used a multiple of 15 to calculate the amount, which came to Rs. 1,08,000, and that the wounded person may reasonably expect to find employment earning Rs. 600 per month.
As a consequence, in the current case, the Kerala High Court granted the plaintiff, who had sustained severe injuries as a result of the electrical board’s carelessness, compensation, including general damages. The sagging of the wire was upheld to be the negligence of The Kerala Electricity Board and not that of the members on strike or of the plaintiff who had walked on the wireline. This case is a clear case of negligence.
BY HARSHIKA BHUTDA, Student at Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad, Intern at Legal Vidhiya