Karnataka HC comes to the rescue of electricity accident victims, awards total compensation of ₹1.28 crore

A view of High Court of Karnataka.

A view of High Court of Karnataka. | Photo Credit: SREENIVASA MURTHY V

Coming to the rescue of victims of electricity accidents, including two minors, who were deprived of immediate compensation, the Karnataka High Court has directed the public electricity distribution and supply companies to pay a total compensation of ₹1.28 crore in three separate incidents that occurred during 2017-18.

“The action of the respondent in not disbursing the ex-gratia compensation in terms of the Government’s norms is an arbitrary action insofar as the very object of providing ex-gratia compensation stands defeated by non-disbursement,” the Court observed.

Justice S. Sunil Dutt Yadav issued the directions on August 4 while allowing three separate petitions. The petitions were filed by Rekha, the widow of an agricultural labourer who was electrocuted at a coffee plantation in Sakaleshpura of Hassan district, 15-year-old Chandana K. of Lottegollahalli in Bengaluru, and seven-year-old Muizz Ahmad Shariff of Gurananpalya in Bengaluru.

The Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Ltd (KPTCL) and Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) had paid only a nominal amounts of ₹2.5 lakh to Chandana and ₹5 lakh to Muizz in 2020 after the intervention of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Children’s role

“By no stretch of imagination could it be asserted that the child ought to have exercised due care and caution in not going near the high-tension electrical line (HT line) and coming within the induction zone, as the child could not be expected to maintain the buffer distance,” the Court observed while stating that the question of fastening of contributory negligence on the child would not arise.

Rejecting the contention of the KPTCL and Bescom that the litigants will have to approach the trial court for compensation as it involves various disputed facts, the Court said that enforcement of ‘public law remedy’ is de-hors the remedy available to claim compensation under the ‘private law remedy’ before the civil courts.

The Court also said that the question of dispute about the accidents under Section 161 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910, does not arise in these cases as the reports of the Electrical Inspector had confirmed the accidents, their causes and the lapses of the authorities.

Declining to make the owner of the coffee plantation, the owner of a building who built the structure violating the distance to be maintained from the HT line, and the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike as party to proceedings for joint responsibility to pay compensation, the Court said that it is open for the KPTCL and Bescom to proceed against the joint tort-feasors or others in separate proceedings. 

The Court has determined the compensation payable to the victims by applying the formula and parameters like loss of future income, marriage prospects, medical expenses, pain, suffering and disfigurement which is used in computation of compensation in the cases of motor vehicle accidents.

The Court also directed that in future, the electricity distribution and supply companies will have to pay compensation within two months in cases of accidents occurring due to overhead lines as per the government’s norms without waiting for the report of the Chief Electrical Inspectorate to Government.

Victims and compensation

1. Chandana K: Chandana had suffered 75% disability with the amputation of her left hand when she was 13 years and studying in Class IX. She came in contact with a 11KV electricity line when she was climbing the stairs holding an iron mop on October 19, 2017. Her father is an autorickshaw driver. A compensation of ₹2.5 lakh was paid to her March 2020.

Now, the High Court has awarded a total ₹51.76 lakh as compensation. Bescom is directed to pay the remaining ₹49.26 lakh of which ₹40 lakh is to be kept in a fixed deposit in bank and paid in quarterly interest to her father till she attains majority. The remaining ₹9.26 lakh to be released to her father.

2. Muizz Ahmad Shariff: Muizz was five years and eight months old when he suffered 80% burns — 40% deep burns — as he came in the induction zone of a 66KV high tension line when jumping to his neighbour’s building to collect a cricket ball. The accident occurred on September 16, 2017. His father is a contract worker. The KPTCL had paid only ₹5 lakh compensation in March 2020. The Wakf Board and the BBMP had paid ₹1 lakh and ₹50,000 respectively.

Now, the HC has awarded ₹50.82 lakh as compensation. The KPTCL is directed to pay the remaining ₹44.32 lakh of which ₹29 lakh to be kept in a fixed deposit in bank and paid in quarterly interest to his father till he attains majority. Tje remaining ₹15.32 lakh to be released to his father.

3. N.M. Subramanya: 36-year-old Subramanya died of electrocution while harvesting pepper plants using an aluminium ladder which came in contact with a 11KV feeder line on February 22, 2018. No compensation was paid.

Now, the HC has awarded ₹25.52 lakh as compensation. The KPTCL is directed to keep ₹12.76 lakh in a fixed deposit in bank in Rekha’s (his widow) name for five years and paid in quarterly interest to her. The remaining ₹12.76 lakh to be released to her.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2022 6:25:23 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/karnataka-high-court-comes-to-the-rescue-of-three-victims-of-electricity-accidents-awards-total-compensation-of-128-crore/article65731641.ece