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Public Prosecutor Vs. Pitchaiah Moopanar Alias Pitchaiah Pillai - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Appeal No. 492 of 1966
Judge
Reported inAIR1970Mad198; 1970CriLJ705
ActsIndian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 290, 304-A, 337 and 338
AppellantPublic Prosecutor
RespondentPitchaiah Moopanar Alias Pitchaiah Pillai
Appellant AdvocateAsst. Public Prosecutor
Respondent AdvocateV. Rajagopalachari for V.V. Raghavan, Advs.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredRangawalla v. Maharashtra State
Excerpt:
.....- sections 290, 304a , 337 and 338 of indian penal code, 1860 - respondent was manager of school - school building collapsed which resulted in death of 35 children and woman and causing grievous injuries to many others - petitioner contended that respondent in charge of school building used bad materials without proper technical advice - respondent convicted on charges of negligence - session judge held that respondent not competent to determine quality of material used in building - appeal - respondent cannot be made liable for persons who constructed building and were supposed to be skilled - prosecution failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that building collapsed due to negligent act of respondent - appeal dismissed. - - 205 would become the owner of the building, the..........w. 208 paramanandam, the carpenter. p. w. 208 stated that a few months before the collapse of the school building the respondent sent for him to inspect the beams of the building. he found one beam of the ground floor and one beam of the first floor bent,x x x x x9. it is not the case of the prosecution that the respondent himself constructed the building. it is not disputed that he sought the assistance o the masons and the masons constructed the building. if the masons had not done the work properly and if they had been negligent in not mixing the lime mortar in proper proportions, the respondent could not be made liable for the negligence of those persons who actually constructed the building, who are supposed to be skilled. the respondent is a layman. he, therefore, cannot be held.....
Judgment:

Krishnaswamy Reddy, J.

1. This appeal has been preferred by the Public Prosecutor against the order of acquittal of the respondent by the Sessions Judge, Madurai, in C. A. No, 103 of 1985 by his judgment dated 18-2-1966, setting aside the conviction and sentence imposed by the Special Additional First Class Magistrate, Madurai, in C. C. No. 1 of 1964 under Sections 304-A, 337, 338 and 290, I, P. G.

2. The prosecution case is briefly this: The respondent Pitchiah Moopanar was the Manager and correspondent of the Saraswathi Higher Elementary School, Maninaga-ram Second Street, Madurai. At about 12 noon on 4-4-1964, a portion of the building collapsed while classes were being held in the school resulting in the death of 35 girl students and a middle aged woman. Further, 16 students sustained grievous injuries and 142 students sustained simple injuries. A cow and two calves died, and one cow was injured. The Collector of Madurai directed P. W. 215 Sri. Jayapalan, Executive Engineer, to inspect the building and submit a report as to the cause for the collapse of the ouilding. An enquiry was also held by the Revenue Divisional Officer, Madurai. Certain broken pieces of brick masonry construction were examined by P. W. 214 Sri. Muthukumaran, Research Officer at the Research Laboratory of the Soil Mechanics and Research Division of the Public Works Department and he gave his opinion. After receiving the report of P. W. 215, based upon the report of P. W. 214, the Inspector of Police, B. North Circle, Madurai, fifed a charge-sheet against the respondent under Sections 304-A, 336, 337, 338, 288 and 290 read with 109 I.P.C.

3. It is the case of the prosecution that the respondent who was the Manager of the said school was responsible for the roper upkeep and maintenance of the building in which the school was being conducted and that he had not exercised that amount of reasonable care expected of him in constructing and maintaining the building. The respondent had taken on lease the vacant portion around a Samathy on a monthly rent of Rs. 7 from P. W. 205 Karappan Chettiar to whom the site belonged and was conducting the school in tiled shed, Subsequently, he took permission from P, W. 205 for constructing a double storeyed building on the site and after the building was constructed, an agreement was entered into between the respondent and P. W. 205 that the respondent was to pay Rs. 250 per month as rent, that this amount was to be deducted from the value of the building which was fixed at Rs. 32,000 and that after the entire amount is wiped out by adjustment of rent, P. W. 205 would become the owner of the building,

The prosecution suggested that the res-pendent, with a view to make profit out of running of the school and since the building itself would not belong to him after some time, got the building constructed with bad materials and without proper technical advice and assistance and in violation of certain orders passed by the Municipality and thus was rash and negligent in putting up the building in a hurried manner without devoting any care expected of a prudent man. It was also suggested that even after the construction of the building, he was not attending to the repairs of the building then and there even when he had come to know that the building required immediate repairs.

4. The prosecution let in evidence to show that the respondent submitted a plan for the construction of building, prepared by P. W. 203 Meenakshisundaram an unlicensed Surveyor and after the plan was approved by the Municipality, he made deviations from the approved plan and constructed the building and that in spite of notice to remove the deviations, he disobeyed the orders of the Municipality and completed the construction hurriedly and that as a result, he was prosecuted and sentenced to pay fine. The prosecution has further tendered evidence that in respect of the construction of the building, lime mortar used was prepared by the respondent himself, using almost double the quantity of sand that would be mixed with lime and that he had not taken any technical advice whatever but constructed the building with the aid of Cooly masons.

Evidence was also tendered that the pillars, both in the ground floor and in the first floor were heavily overloaded that the excess load on the masonry pillars had resulted in cracks to the building, that in spite of such cracks, no attempt was made by the respondent to take proper technical advice even at that time and that he was callously indifferent to the safety to the building as well as the persons who used it. It is also the case of the prosecution that besides the cracks on the walls of the building, in some places, the beams had sagged on account of over-loading and that casuarina posts had been given as props to support the bent beams and that even then the respondent had not taken proper steps to ensure the safety of the building.

5. The respondent contended that he had taken proper technical advice from one Nataraja Pillai, a Retired Assistant Town Planning Officer of Madurai Municipality and after getting his advice, he entrusted the work of construction to the mason. P. W. 206 Ramaswamy Naidu deposed that he was not a skilled person, that he was not responsible for mixing of mortar using more quantity of sand, that he was not supervising the construction as he did not know the technique of construction and that the said Nataraja Pillai was supervising the construction. He further added that he was effecting repairs whenever he was told about the necessary repairs to be done, that he did not construct the building with profit motive, that the immediate cause of the fall was really the action of a mason who tampered with a pillar which required repairs and that he was neither rash nor negligent in the construction of the building or its upkeep. The respondent examined nine witnesses to substantiate his case.

6. The learned Magistrate, after hearing the evidence tendered by the prosecution found that the respondent constructed the building at a cheap cost with a profit motive and without taking proper technical advice and that that itself would be a rash and negligent act and, therefore, convicted the respondent

7. On appeal, the learned Sessions Judge acquitted the respondent by his well-reasoned judgment after having discussed all the points raised by both sides. He ultimately found that the respondent was not a skilled person that he had to depend upon the mason for the construction of the work and that the respondent could not have known as to what kind o mortar and what quantity of mortar should be used as it was not within his knowledge. The learned Judge accepted the version of the respondent that the work has done by the mason Ramasami Naidu (P. W. 206) and that the respondent could not be held liable for the rash and negligent act. The learned Sessions Judge also found that the respondent would not have constructed the building in a hurried manner by using bad materials as he had put his own money spending a sum of Rs. 32,000 for the purpose of occupying it at least for ten years, so that the amount spent by him could be wiped out by adjustment of rent for ten years.

8. There cannot be any doubt that the building collapsed as a result of which, unfortunately 35 school children died and several others were injured. The main question is whether the collapse of the building was due to the rash or negligent act of the respondent. The learned Public Prosecutor reiterated the same points urged on behalf of the prosecution before the appellate Court, but stressed before me that the act of the respondent in not having attended to immediate repairs by taking technical advice after having come to know that it required such repairs should be held to be a rash and negligent act on his part. He relied upon the evidence of P, W. 208 Paramanandam, the carpenter. P. W. 208 stated that a few months before the collapse of the school building the respondent sent for him to inspect the beams of the building. He found one beam of the ground floor and one beam of the first floor bent,

X X X X x

9. It is not the case of the prosecution that the respondent himself constructed the building. It is not disputed that he sought the assistance o the masons and the masons constructed the building. If the masons had not done the work properly and if they had been negligent in not mixing the lime mortar in proper proportions, the respondent could not be made liable for the negligence of those persons who actually constructed the building, who are supposed to be skilled. The respondent is a layman. He, therefore, cannot be held liable for the negligence of the persons who actually constructed the building which negligence is the cause causans for the collapse of the building.

10. In Mohd, Rangawalla v. Maharashtra State, : [1965]2SCR622 it is held that death must be direct result of the rash or negligent act of accused and the act must be efficient cause without intervention of another's negligence, and it must be the cause causans, and it is not enough that it may have been the cause sine qua non.

11. In the result, I find, taking an all round view of the case, that the prosecution has not established beyond reasonable doubt that the school building collapsed causing the death of several persons and Injuries to several others by the rash and negligent act of the respondent. In any event, I do not see any compelling reason to reverse the order of acquittal, by the learned Sessions Judge.

12. It is of course unfortunate that several school children died as a result of the collapse. If the Municipal authorities had taken care to inspect the building periodically being a public institution, this unfortunate incident could have been probably avoided. It is gratifying to note that immediately after this incident, the State has brought a legislation to control and regulate the construction, upkeep and maintenance of the public buildings. It is at least expected in future that the authorities concerned would be vigilant and Jake that much of the care expected of them to inspect the buildings, wherein public institutions are housed, and, if they find such buildings are unsafe, to take immediate appropriate action as they deem fit.

13. The appeal is dismissed.


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