Rejecting the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB)’s contention that snapping of a transmission line on a public road was an act of god, the Madras High Court has directed the Board to pay a compensation of Rs.44.56 lakh to the family of an LIC Administrative Officer who was electrocuted in Tirunelveli last year. The court also ordered costs of Rs.14,000 to the family.

In his order on a writ petition, Justice K.K.Sasidharan, said the Board could not escape liability by pleading that it was nothing but an act of god. The factual matrix showed that the department miserably failed to maintain the electricity line and it was the sole reason for the tragedy.

In the petition, S.Kumari said that her husband, Selvaraj (52), was working in LIC in Tirunelveli. They had four children. On February 12 last year, her husband was riding a motorcycle and she was seated on the pillion. While crossing a road, an electric transmission line got snapped and fell on him. He was thrown off the vehicle. He succumbed to his injuries nearly a week later.

The incident was solely on account of the negligence of the board officials. She sought compensation.

The TNEB Superintending Engineer, in his counter, said that on the date of the incident, there was a heavy wind and the support wire of a service connection snapped. The Assistant Executive Engineer had directed the wireman to rectify the service line. Electricity employees rushed to the spot and they were in the process of switching off the line. Selvaraj rode the two wheeler in a rash and negligent manner.

Mr.Justice Sasidharan said the Board’s counter affidavit did not contain any indication as to the time taken by the employees to arrive at the spot and to switch off the distribution transformer.

The Board was expected to take all precautionary measures to avoid untoward incidents. It had a statutory duty to maintain the live wires and other systems used for transmission.

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