The Madras High Court has quashed a criminal case booked against a building owner for the death of a labourer due to a wall collapse.
The court held that the property owner could not be prosecuted when the renovation work had been entrusted to a contractor who was squarely responsible for the safety of the employees.
Justice G. Jayachandran quashed the case booked against Rajesh of Erode under Section 304A (causing death by negligence) and 288 (negligent conduct with respect to pulling down or renovating buildings) of the Indian Penal Code. The judge allowed the prosecution to continue against the contractor and the building supervisor.
The death of the labourer Pankaj Palai had occurred on September 11, 2018, when he was cleaning the floor while others were removing the bricks from a wall which collapsed suddenly. The police booked all three accused and also filed a final report accusing them of not having taken proper precautions and safety measures.
Assailing the case, the building owner had approached the High Court contending that he had nothing to do with the death and that he was not even present in the building at the time of the accident. On the other hand, the prosecution opposed his plea on the ground that there was no written contractual agreement with regard to the renovation.
However, the judge agreed with the petitioner’s counsel S.S. Swaminathan that his client was not directly responsible for the death in view of the renovation work having been entrusted to a contractor and therefore the charges under Sections 304A and 288 of IPC could not be made out against him.