Legal battle against ‘act of God’

For the kin of those who were electrocuted when they came in contact with snapped power cables in public places, it is usually a long legal battle to secure monetary compensation.

Past court cases show that the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Company is not too forthcoming to compensate the kin of victims. Instead, it has attempted to stonewall legal claims by denying negligence of its staff as the cause of the accident.

In fact in most cases, the Tangedco as a matter of routine informed the court that electrocution related deaths were “an act of God” and hence was beyond their control and it was in no way responsible for the death of the petitioner’s relative.

“It becomes the burden of the petitioner to prove that the death was caused due to the negligence of the electricity officials. The compensation is based on the severity of the negligence and so the petitioner has to acquire documents and prove the degree of negligence,” points out advocate Kaniappan Elangovan.

Eventually, in many cases it is left to individual judges to come to the rescue of the petition. In a judgment in August 2012, Justice S. Manikumar of the Madras High Court cited an order which held that the usual plea of ‘Act of God’ or mechanical failure cannot be considered as a defence while deciding a plea for compensation arising out of electrocution.

Not taking the ‘act of God’ for an argument, the same judge last February questioned why the TNEB should deny compensation to the victim, even if God had determined to take away his or her life. “For every action or inaction, poor God, is always blamed. This court fails to understand, whether God also ordered the Board not to pay compensation,” he wondered.

The judge went on to differentiate between the ex gratia and compensation. He said while ex gratia is given by the government, not recognising the liability or the legal obligation to pay just compensation could empower the victim to still approach the court. “The family of the victim can seek compensation from the TNEB even if the victim had claimed it from the insurance company. They can seek compensation provided they prove the degree of negligence of the officials,” Mr. Elangovan adds.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 8:29:24 PM |

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