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The Delhi High Court has awarded Rs 75 lakh as compensation to a person who met with an accident due to chained barricades placed by Delhi Police.
The accident victim is presently in vegetative state.
The order was passed by a Single judge Bench of justice Navin Chawla.
At the time of the accident, the Petitioner, Dheeraj Kumar, was about 21 years of age. One early morning in December 2015, the father of the Petitioner was informed that the Petitioner had suffered a road accident.
The Petitioner, who was on a bike, had toppled because the Police barricades were chained together so as to cordon off a road/street completely.
After undergoing multiple surgeries and treatment, the Petitioner was discharged from the hospital, in a state of unconsciousness. As per the Discharge Summary Record, he was in a state of ‘altered sensorium, eye opening to pain, not opening to commands'. Since then, the condition of the Petitioner has not changed.
The Petitioner thus moved a writ petition seeking compensation towards the refund of medical expenses, loss of income/dependency, loss of prospects, continuing future needs as also for the pain and suffering suffered due to the accident.
Meanwhile, after the incident, the Delhi Police registered an FIR against the Petitioner under Sections 279 and 337 IPC for rash and negligent driving.
In response to the Petition, Delhi Police asserted that the accident was due to contributory negligence of the Petitioner.
It was argued that the accident took place because the Petitioner was speeding and was unable to brake in time to avoid colliding with the barricades. It was further asserted that the Petitioner seemed to have tried to slip through the gap in between the barriers and owing to the speed at which the vehicle was travelling, he was unable to spot the chain linking the barricades.
Delhi Police also stated these barricades were placed in a well-illuminated area and were visible from a considerable distance.
It was further asserted that as no helmet or any protective gear of any sort was found at the site of the accident, thus the Petitioner was in violation of the provisions of Section 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
To dispute the assertions, the Petitioner placed on record photographs of the site to show that the barricades were placed at a spot which was not well illuminated and therefore, could not be visible from afar. It was further asserted that the Petitioner was wearing a helmet/headgear at the time of the accident.
After hearing the parties, the observed that although the barricades are placed for valid reasons of security, it did cast a duty on the Authority to ensure that they did not cause accidents due to their non-maintenance.
After analysing a series of caselaws on the 'duty of care' and 'principles of Strict Liability', the Court stated,
The Court recorded that the barricades in question were not manned or illuminated and the area where the barricade had been placed was also not properly illuminated.
Clearly, the chains tying these barricades together could under no circumstances be visible to a motorist from far, the Court remarked.
The Court referred to the Delhi Police's Standing Order for the ‘Procurement, Maintenance, Repairs and Operational Usage of Delhi Police Mobile Barricades’ and noted that it was mandatory for all the barricades to be painted with fluorescent paint and that they should not be left unmanned.
It was added that as per the Standing Order, the alignment of the barricades should be done in such a way to ensure that the traffic halts for checking, but at the same time, is able to negotiate through them.
Therefore, chaining of such barricades was not permissible under the Standing Order, the Court opined.
As far as the claim that the Petitioner was not wearing any helmet was concerned, the Court remarked that merely because no helmet was shown to have been recovered from the site, it could not lead to a conclusion that the Petitioner was not wearing one or was driving at a high speed or rashly.
Ultimately, the Court concluded that the Petitioner was entitled to damages for the negligence and failure of Delhi Police to discharge its duty that is provided in the Standing Order.
Keeping in view all the facts and circumstances of the case and the law relating to award of compensation, a total compensation of Rs 75 lacs was found to be just and payable to the Petitioners by Delhi Police.
As per the Court's direction, the amount has to be deposited by Delhi Police with the Registrar General of the High Court within a period of four weeks, failing which it shall pay interest of 9% per annum for the period of delay.
The Petitioner was represented by Advocates Pankaj Vivek, Bidyarani, Harshit Chopra.
Centre was represented by Advocates Rajendra Sahu, Karan Seth.
Advocates Gautam Narayan, Shivani Vij, Dacchita Shahi represented Delhi Government.
Read the Order: