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Manoharlal Gupta and ors. Vs. the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectElectricity;Civil
CourtMadhya Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberFirst Appeal No. 39 of 1971
Judge
Reported inAIR1976MP38
ActsIndian Electricity Rules, (1956) - Rule 91; Fatal Accidents Act, 1855 - Sections 1A
AppellantManoharlal Gupta and ors.
RespondentThe Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board
Appellant AdvocateM.L. Chobey and ;G.D. Kesawani, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateS.K. Seth, Adv.
DispositionAppeal allowed
Cases ReferredChhatarpur v. Pramila Rao
Excerpt:
- - the trial court dismissed the suit on the ground that the plaintiffs failed to prove negligence on the part of the defendant......5th edition, p. 531). if the defendant produces no material and offers no evidence to negative negligence, negligence will be presumed. this result will also follow on the principle of res ipsa loquitur. live broken electric wires carrying, high tension energy are generally not found in a public place, street or road and, therefore, if such a thing happens a prima facie inference can be drawn that there has been some carelessness on the part of the defendant in transmitting electric energy or in properly maintaining the transmission lines. this inference is further supported by rule 91 of the indian electricity rules, 1956. this rule provides that every over head line which is not covered with insulating material and which is erected over any part of a street or other public place or.....
Judgment:

Singh, J.

1. This is an appeal by the plaintiffs against the dismissal of theirsuit for recovery of damages under the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855.

2. The facts are that the deceased Dharamwati Bai was the wife of Mano-harlal Gupta, plaintiff No. 1 aged 32 years, and mother of plaintiffs 2 and 3, Ramesh Kumar aged 10 years and Brijmohan aged 3 years. The family lived in Ram Nagar Ward, Raipur. On 2nd October 1968 at about 6.30 p.m. Dharamwati Bai went to a nearby tap to fetch water in a pitcher. While she was returning to her house her foot came in contact with a live electric wire and she got electrocuted and died. It appears that a naked copper wire used for conducting high voltage electric energy had snapped between two poles and the deceased came in contact with one of the ends of this wire and died. The plaintiffs instituted the suit giving rise to this appeal for recovery of Rs. 25.000 as damages on the ground that the defendant, the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board, was negligent in not taking proper precautions for the maintenance of the elec ric line and for the safety of the passers-by. The defendant in its written statement denied the allegation of negligence. The trial Court dismissed the suit on the ground that the plaintiffs failed to prove negligence on the part of the defendant.

3. It is not disputed before us that the accident happened because the copper wire conducting high tension electric energy had snapped and the deceased came in contact with the live wire which touched the ground, Rama Rao (D.W. 1), who is an employee of the defendant, went on the spot after receiving information of the accident In examination-in-chief he stated that according to his enquiry he found that the wire had been cut or damaged by string used for flying kite. In paragraph 5 of his cross-examination he, however, admitted that there was, in fact, no enquiry as to the cause of the accident and that he did not make any report excepting what is contained in Ex. D-1. Ex. D-1 does not make any reference to any enquiry or as to the reason how the wire had snapped and the accident happened.

4. The defendant has a statutory authority under the Electricity Act, 1910, read with the Electricity Supply Act, 1948 to transmit electric energy. The defendant, therefore, cannot be made liable for nuisance for the escape of electrical energy on the principle accepted in the case of Rylands v. Fletcher, (1866) LR 1 Ex 265. The defendant, however, is still liable for negligence. It is negligence to omit to use all reasonable known means to keep the electricity harmless; (see Clerk & Lindsell on Torts, 13th Edition, paragraph 1536), The burden of proving that there was no negligence is on the de-fendant and there is no obligiation on he plaintiff to prove negligence. Further, the standard of care required is a high one owing to the dangerous nature of electricity; (see Charlesworth on Negligence, 5th Edition, p. 531). If the defendant produces no material and offers no evidence to negative negligence, negligence will be presumed. This result will also follow on the principle of res ipsa loquitur. Live broken electric wires carrying, high tension energy are generally not found in a public place, street or road and, therefore, if such a thing happens a prima facie inference can be drawn that there has been some carelessness on the part of the defendant in transmitting electric energy or in properly maintaining the transmission lines. This inference is further supported by Rule 91 of the Indian Electricity Rules, 1956. This rule provides that every over head line which is not covered with insulating material and which is erected over any part of a street or other public place or any factory or mine or on any consumer's premises shall be protected with a device approved by the Inspector for rendering the line electrically harmless in ease it breaks. If the precaution under this rule is aken the line in case it breaks would become dead and harmless. The fact that the line after it broke did not become harmless shows that necessary precaution was not taken. As the defendant has not produced any evidence whatsoever to place the facts showing that all necessary precautions were taken and there was no negligence on its part, it must be held that the accident happened because of the negligence of the defendant.

5. On the question of liability for damages, it appears that the deceased did all the household work and looked after her infant sons. The plaintiffs claimed that the deceased in addition to this was also earning two to three rupees per day. This assertion is, however, not brought out from the evidence. The defendant in its written statement admitted that the plaintiffs have been deprived of the services of the deceased which she was rendering in doing household work and in looking after the husband and children. It is also admitted that she was earning Rs. 10 to 15 as a casual labourer. It is, however, contended that the plaintiffs are not entitled to claim damages for the loss of services of the deceased. In our opinion, the loss to which Section 1A of the Fatal Accidents Act refers id not limited to cash payments which the deceased may be expected to make for the support of the plaintiff, but it also includes loss of service In Berry v. Humm & Co., (1915) 1 KB 627 it has been held that the gratuitous services rendered by awife in the home are equivalent to pecuniary benefit for which damages can be claimed under the Lord Campbell's Act. Same principle must be followed in awarding damages under Section 1A of the Fatal Accidents Act. We are, therefore, of opinion that the plaintiffs are entitled to be compensated for the loss of services of the deceased which she was rendering to them.

6. The principles on which damages are assessed have been elaborately discussed in two Division Bench cases of this Court viz. Kamla Devi v. Kishan-chand, AIR 1970 Madh Pra 168 and Chau-rasia & Co., Chhatarpur v. Pramila Rao, AIR 1975 Madh Pra 31. These cases have taken note of all relevant Indian and English authorities including the recent decision of the House of Lords in Taylor v. O'Connor, 1971 AC 115. The principles deduced are that the assessment of damages an ordinary cases resolves into estimating the proper annual loss or dependency, the multiplicand and selecting the number of years of purchase, the multiplier, The object is to estimate what amount should be awarded so that its income supplemented by drawings on capital may yield the amount of annual dependency during the remaining period of dependency or the estimated remainder of the working of the deceased, whichever may be shorter. The multiplier selected is not equal to the number of years of dependency or to the remainder of the working life of the deceased; it is much less, for it takes into account that instead of yearly payments the Court makes an award of a lump sum payment and that future contingencies may cut short the dependency. Growing inflation has led to the caution of emphasising that the sum to be awarded should be assumed to be invested at low interest rate i,e. 4 to 5%. (Munkman, Damages for Personal Injuries and Death, 5th Edition, p. 157).

7. Although there is no direct evidence as to the age of the deceased, it can be safely presumed that she was of the same age as the plaintiff No. 1, her husband. The age of the plaintiff No. 1 at the time of accident was 32 years and the deceased must have been of nearly the same age. ,She would have thus continued to render services which the family has lost for a period of thirty years. The annual pecuniary value of these services, in our opinion, should be fixed at Rs. 500. Applying sixteen as the multiplier the damages work out to Rs. 8000. The present value of annuity of Rs. 500 for thirty years on the basis of interest rate at 5% also comes nearly to the same amount (see Archer's Loan Repayment and Compound Interest Tables, 10th Edition, page 366). The plaintiffs are, therefore, entitledto get a decree for Rs. 8000 from the defendant.

8. The appeal is allowed The plaintiffs suit is decreed for a sum of Rs. 8000 with interest at 5% from the date of decree of the trial Court till realisation. The plaintiffs will get proportionate costs of both the Courts and the defendant will bear its costs throughout. As the plaintiffs were allowed to sue and appeal in forma pauperis, the total amount of court-fees which would have been paid by the plaintiffs in suit and appeal had they not been granted permission to sue and appeal as pauper comes to Rs. 4,000 (Rs. 2000 in suit and Rs. 2000 in appeal). We order that 2/3rd of this amount shall be recoverable by the State Government from the plaintiffs and will be first charge on the decretal amount. The remaining 1/3rd of the amount of court-fees shall be recovered by the State Government from the defendant-respondent.


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