A bench of Delhi High Court comprising the Acting Chief Justice, Gita Mittal and Justice, C. Hari Shankar has directed to pay the compensation amount along with the interest to the mother of an 11-year-old child, who died after falling in an uncovered manhole during his school picnic at the Millenium Park, South East Delhi.
The court directed the Public Works Department (PWD) to pay a compensation amount of Rs. 10 Lakh within a period of 4 weeks along with an additional interest of amount Rs. 2.47 Lakhs to the Registrar General of the Court. Further instructions regarding the payout to the mother of the child were issued for the Registrar General.
The court also took into consideration the affidavit filed by the PWD, stating that it is responsible for the construction of rainwater harvesting storage tanks and found the PWD escaping from its
responsibility by saying that the area did not require day-to-day care. PWD took the responsibility of its officers who failed to perform their duties of maintaining the tanks and covering the manholes effectively and the Court held the PWD guilty of the death of the child.
The court observed, “The only possible conclusion from the admitted factual position is that the PWD had failed in its duty of exercising even ordinary care and diligence in maintaining a scrutiny over the manholes and keeping the surrounding area in a reasonably safe condition. Further, the Court also stated that The blame for the ill-fated incident, in which a young 11-year-old boy, who had gone for a happy outing as a school picnic lost his life, therefore clearly lies with the PWD which failed to exercise due care”.
The court also called out the culture of “irresponsibility, indiscipline, inefficiency and apathy” and blamed the senior officials of the department for not taking supervision and regular supervision
and inspection on the performance of the juniors officers. In addition to this, the Court also stated that the senior most officer in this chain of authority is also equally negligent and to be held for
illegal acts of commission and omission by public authorities.
The Court was of the opinion that the school teacher, who accompanied the children cannot be held liable for the death of the child explaining the fact, “No teacher or person could have reasonably foreseen or expected that the authorities would leave an open manhole or that, by letting the child go to the vehicle to obtain some article from there."
The Court issued some directions to all the Public authorities and agencies owing land to ensure :
- All the open manholes, pits, tanks, or any other excavation sites shall be regularly inspected and maintained.
- Schedule and Protocols of inspection and maintenance shall be notified by all departments.
- These sites shall be inaccessible to the public.
- There should be clearly visible marked signboards, marking the existence of these sites.
- Responsibility for compliance shall be fixed on the officers, not below the rank of Executive Engineers.
Hence, directing the Department to pay the compensation amount with an additional amount of interest, PWD was held guilty for the death of the child.
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