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Supdt. and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs, Govt. of West Bengal Vs. Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Ltd. and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectElectricity;Civil
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Case NumberGovt. Appeal No. 2 of 1953
Judge
Reported inAIR1955Cal164,1955CriLJ494
ActsElectricity Rules, 1937 - Rules 38 and 49; ;Electricity Act, 1910 - Section 50
AppellantSupdt. and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs, Govt. of West Bengal
RespondentCalcutta Electric Supply Corporation Ltd. and anr.
Appellant AdvocateS. Banerjee, Standing Counsel and ;Amaresh Chandra Roy, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateAjit Kumar Dutta and ;Prasanta Kumar Ghose, Advs.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Excerpt:
- .....an inspector on the 24th. as a result of this inspection it was found that the resistance of the earth wire from the service bracket to the earth was 8.3 ohms. it was further found that the insulation at the end of the wire entering the service bracket had been damaged and that the copper core was blistered by electrical earth. as a result of this the earth wire and the service bracket pipe were charged with electricity so that when the boy came in contact with the earth wire he got electrocuted. the fuse fixed near the distribution end of the service line which was of 22 s. w. g. standard copper wire was found intact and the inference of the inspector from this was that because the resistance of theearth wire had been raised to 8.3 ohms more electricity flowed into the earth wire and.....
Judgment:

Guha Ray J.

1. This is an appeal on behalf of the State from an order of acquittal of the accused in a prosecution under Section 50, Electricity Act. Following the electrocution of a boy of about 5 years of age on 23-5-1951 by contact with an electric wire attached to a wall of premises No. 174, Victoria Road, North Baranagore, there was an inspection of the installation by an Inspector on the 24th. As a result of this inspection it was found that the resistance of the earth wire from the service bracket to the earth was 8.3 ohms. It was further found that the insulation at the end of the wire entering the service bracket had been damaged and that the copper core was blistered by electrical earth. As a result of this the earth wire and the service bracket pipe were charged with electricity so that when the boy came in contact with the earth wire he got electrocuted. The fuse fixed near the distribution end of the service line which was of 22 S. W. G. standard copper wire was found intact and the inference of the Inspector from this was that because the resistance of theearth wire had been raised to 8.3 ohms more electricity flowed into the earth wire and the fuse was not melted as it should have if the resistance was 4.5 ohms. This is all that the prosecution proved.

2. On behalf of the defence apart from the statement by the accused under Section 342, Criminal P. C. two written statements were filed and as a part of one of these written statements an extract from a register showing an inspection on behalf of the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Ltd. on 11-4-1951 was filed. The defence of the accused thus was that they had not infringed any of the Rules and they had carried out inspection of the installation on 11-4-1951 and found nothing defective.

3. The learned trial Court found that although the installation was found to be defective on the date the inspector inspected if it could not be said that these defects were in any way due to carelessness or negligence on the part of the accused, first, because there was evidence of tampering with the earth wire and secondly, because there was a certain amount, of accumulation of water on the ground at the site of the accident which might have helped the earth wire being electrically charged.

4. On behalf of the State it is argued that the mere existence of the defects found by the Inspector on inspection together with the extract from the register produced on behalf of the defence would go to indicate a certain amount of negligence on the part of the accused and from that the Court would be entitled to conclude that there was an infringement of the relevant rules, viz., Rules 38, 49, 54 and 67. Rule 38 is in these terms:

'Responsibility of licensees for their works on consumer's premises -- Licensees shall ensure that all electric supply-lines and apparatus belonging to them, or under their control which are on a consumers' premises, are maintained in a safe condition electrically and mechanically and shall take due precautions to avoid danger arising on such premises from such supply-lines or apparatus.'

Rule 49 clearly provides amongst other things, that

'all Electric supply-lines and apparatus shall be sufficient in power and size and of sufficient mechanical strength for the work they may be required to do, and, so far as is practicable, shall be so constructed, installed, protected, worked and maintained as to prevent danger.'

Rule 54 provides that

'all metal casings or metallic coverings containing or protecting any electric supply-line or apparatus shall be connected with earth by the owner, and shall be so joined and connected across all junction-boxes and other openings as to make good mechanical and electrical connection throughout their whole length.'

Rule 67 lays down that

'the owner of every aerial line supported, by metal supports shall ensure that these supports are permanently and efficiently earthed.'

That Rules 54 and 67 were infringed there is nothing whatever to show, for the metallic coverings had been earthed and no evidence was led to show that the metal supports of the aerial line had not been earthed. This leaves only two other rules, namely, Rules 38 and 49. The first imposes an the licensee an unqualified obligation to maintain its supply lines and apparatus in an electrically and mechanically safe condition and the second imposes an obligation within the limits of practicability. But even this unqualified obligation of the licensee under Rule 38 does not and cannot mean its constant attention to its supply lines and apparatus at every installation, for that will be evidently asking for the impossible. But it does mean that the licensee must take reasonable precautions against these things becoming electrically and mechanically unsafe and that certainly connotes an effective examination at reasonable intervals.

5. It is obvious from the evidence of the Inspector and from the admitted facts that the insulation of the wire at the point where it entered a bend of the bracket pipe had been destroyed and further that the resistance of the earth wire had been raised to 8.3 ohms in place of the normal resistance. What the causes of these defects were the Inspector made no attempt whatsoever to find out and unless adequate materials are placed before the Court to show what really were the causes of these defects and whether they could develop only as the result of prolonged lack of care and attention or all of a sudden on account of sudden causes, it is impossible to fasten the responsibility for these defects on the negligence or carelessness of the accused.

If the accident is properly investigated, facts may come to light that the installation is not inspected at all at reasonable intervals or that even if it is inspected, the inspection is anything but thorough, and that the earthing was defective. On such facts an inference of negligence can reasonably be based. But in this case there is a complete absence of materials on which to found such an inference. Referring to the extract filed by the defence along with one of the written statements, the learned Standing Counsel argued that this would not show a thorough inspection because it does hot show what tests were applied. In the absence of any evidence to indicate that the inspection was not thorough, mere lack of details in the note kept by the licensee would not indicate lack of proper care or attention in the inspection, particularly when the rules do not require the licensee to note down the details of each inspection.

6. On behalf of the State it is argued that under Rule 5 the Inspector was not entitled to make a thorough investigation of the facts because Rule 5 merely entitles him to inspect and examine the apparatus, etc. But Section 33, Electricity Act, provides that in the event of an accident there should be a report to such authorities as the State Government may, by general or special order, direct and Sub-section (2) lays down that 'the State Government may, if it thinks fit, require any Electrical Inspector, or any other competent person appointed by it in this behalf, to inquire and report--

(a) as to the cause of any accident affecting the safety of the public which may have been occasioned by or in connection with the generation, transmission, supply or use of energy, or (b) as to the manner in, and extent to, which the provisions of this Act or of any license or rules thereunder, so far as those provisions affect the safety of any person, have been complied with.'

7. The learned Standing Counsel appearing on behalf of the State was not in a position to tell us whether the Provincial Government actually issued any general or special order under Section 33(2). Whether such an order was issued or riot, the fact remains that there was no proper investigation into the causes of the defects which the Inspector found on 24-5-1951 and no materials were actually placed before the Court to entitle it to conclude that as a matter of fact these defects developed on account of the negligence or carelessness of the accused or their failure to carry out their duties under the rules. It is undoubtedly true that if the accused were sued by the relations of the deceased boy for damages the onus would be on the accused of proving that they had carried out their statutory duties, and that it was not really their fault that the earth wire had become electrically charged and caused the death of the boy. But when the accused were charged with having infringed certain rules and thereby made liable to punishment, it was the duty of the prosecution to prove that the licensees failed to discharge their obligations under the Act or the Rules thereunder, so as to be punishable for an infringement of the rules. But as this has not been done in this case this appeal cannot possibly succeed.

8. The result, therefore, is that the appeal is dismissed.

9. In conclusion we should like to add that if there is no general or special order of the State Government under Section 33(2), Electricity Act there should certainly be one requiring the Electric Inspector to investigate the causes of accidents so that the responsibility for these accidents can be fastened on the licensee if in fact the licensee is responsible therefor. This is certainly necessary in the public interest.

K.C. Chunder J.

10. I agree.


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