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Justice krishna Iyer inspire Madras High Court in aiding grieving father [Judgment attached]

We are a proud republican State. There is no place for kings to hand out summary sentences. But then, wrongs continue to be perpetrated and tragedies continue to occur..... It becomes our duty to speedily respond. (para 2)

G.Sendhattikalaipandian v. Inspector of Police, Virudhunagar District and Anr., W.P.(MD)No.15166 of 2020, 2nd November, 2020.


The Hon'ble Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, Justice G.R.Swaminathan in the present case where Writ petition is filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, to issue a Writ of Mandamus, has stated that it is time to administer shock to the Governmental system (TANGEDCO) for its proper functioning as a profitable enterprise and as well as maintaining high safety standards.

The Petitioner's son while crossing a customary pathway running across a private land belonging to a local factory, came in contact with a live overhanging wire. He was electrocuted and died on the spot. A case was registered in Alangulam police station for the offence under Section 304(2) of I.P.C. against unknown electricity board officials. The petitioner's petition to the Registrar(Judicial), Madurai Bench, Madras High Court seeking justice was directed by the Justice to be numbered as a writ petition.

The stand of TANGEDCO was that HT line of Alangulam feeder fed from Alangulam Sub-Station, snapped on account of squirrel interference and had fallen on Karuvelam bushes that had grown underneath. Since it did not touch the ground, the feeder had not tripped at the Sub-Station. The learned Standing counsel contended that the officials of TANGEDCO cannot be blamed for what had happened and stated that as per their settled policy, TANGEDCO is ready to disburse a sum of Rs.5,00,000/- to the petitioner.

The Justice is satisfied that the occurrence had taken place on account of rodent interference and categorically rejects the stand taken by TANGEDGO that the petitioner's son had taken the route by disregarding the warning given by some local persons since the Sub-Inspector of Police categorically informed in the presence of the TANGEDCO that the petitioner's son was absolutely unaware of the impending danger.

The issue raised before this court based on the contentions are as follows:

1. Whether on considering the circumstances, TANGEDCO can be exonerated from its liability?
2. Whether the writ petitioner should be satisfied with the sum of Rs.5,00,000/- given as ex-gratia payment on compassionate grounds?
3. Whether the petitioner have to move to the jurisdictional civil court if he wants any higher compensation?

The Constitution Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in M.C.Mehta Vs. Union of India (1987) 1 SCC 395 held that where an enterprise is engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous activity and harm results to anyone on account of an accident in the operation such hazardous or inherently dangerous activity resulting, the enterprise is strictly and absolutely liable to compensate all those who are affected by the accident and such liability is not subject to any of the exceptions which operate vis-a-vis the tortuous principle of strict liability under the rule in Rylands Vs. Fletcher (1868) L.R.3 H.L. 330.

The compensation payable was determined by applying the formula applied for computing damages in motor accident cases and the total amount was computed as Rs.13,86,000/- Invoking the Board proceedings, TANGEDCO was directed to pay a sum of Rs.5,00,000/- and to pay the balance amount of Rs.8,86,000/- within a period of twelve weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. The Hon'ble Supreme Court in Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum V. Union of India (1996) 5 SCC 647, held that the polluter should not only compensate the victims of pollution but also bear the cost of restoring the environment to its original condition. The same proposition is applied by way of analogy to the case on hand and the job of Junior Assistant on compassionate grounds is to be offered to the second son of the petitioner.

The Court thus held that

"TANGEDCO is a public sector undertaking. It is no doubt a corporation but it is “State” within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India. It is very much amenable to writ jurisdiction. Its obligations are also correspondingly higher." (Para 15)
" This cannot be the end of the matter. TANGEDCO must ensure that such occurrences do not occur in future. Of course, there can never be any impregnable shield against bird hits or rodent interference. But TANGEDCO can undertake a comprehensive safety audit. Bushes underneath the electric poles and transmission lines can be cleared. They can announce cash prizes for young scientists to come out with ideas as to how the feeder can trip automatically, once line is snapped. I am told that in Japan, the safety standards are truly impeccable. What was the originally a department of the Government became a statutory board and has now metamorphosed into a Corporation. While the form has changed, the situation on ground remains the same. The time has come to administer shock to the system. We look forward to the day when TANGEDCO will be a profitable enterprise and maintaining the highest safety standards." (Para 16)

The Writ Petition stands allowed.


M. Maheswari


View/Download the Order: G.Sendhattikalaipandian v. Inspector of Police, Virudhunagar District and Anr.

Sendhattikalaipandian v Inspector of Pol
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