Delhi High Court grants ₹20 lakh compensation to 'barely alive' disabled man, orders opening of shop for him to live with dignity, self-worth

The Court held that the case was squarely covered by the principle of res ipsa loquitur, whereby no detailed evidence, let alone a trial, was required to establish ex-facie negligence on the part of BRPL and Bryn.
Delhi High Court, disabled man
Delhi High Court, disabled man

Though Bharat is living, he is barely alive, the Delhi High Court said on Wednesday as it awarded a 28-year-old disabled man ₹20 lakh compensation after he suffered a fall in 2014 while performing his job as an electrician.

The 78-page judgment authored by Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani held a construction company and BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL) jointly and severally liable for his injuries.

The Court further directed that a shop be opened in the victim’s name in his native village in Uttar Pradesh out of the ₹20 lakh compensation he receives.

“...store would be run by the petitioner (Bharat's father) or by any other responsible member of Bharat’s immediate family, for and in Bharat’s name, with the stipulation that Bharat will also be engaged in running the store to the extent his health and physical state permits. It is made clear that all earnings from the store will be used and applied for Bharat’s medical and living expenses and for his welfare and well-being,” it added.

On April 25, 2014, Bharat, who was 21, had climbed an electricity pole to fix the power fluctuation at a farm house in Bijwasan, New Delhi, when the pole snapped and fell, bringing him down.

Today Bharat is unable to perform even the most basic, personal, daily chores himself and is all but 100% dependent on others; and as a result, though Bharat is living, he is barely alive.
Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani

Besides Bharat's “dismal” physical state, the Court highlighted that he had become a “psychological wreck” as he had broken down on several occasions during his interaction with the Court. His medical records indicated 100% permanent disability with complete inability to move his lower limbs.

Bharat suffered a fall in the course of performing the task assigned to him by Bryn, which has resulted in him being rendered 100% disabled. Today Bharat is unable to perform even the most basic, personal, daily chores himself and is all but 100% dependent on others; and as a result, though Bharat is living, he is barely alive,” the judgment read.

Therefore, the case in the Court’s opinion was squarely covered by the principle of res ipsa loquitur, whereby no detailed evidence, let alone a trial, was required to establish ex-facie negligence on the part of BRPL and Bryn.

To substantiate it reasoning, the Court referred to Shyam Sundar & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan where the Supreme Court had explained the maxim res ipsa loquitur (that which speaks for itself). As a result, it was underlined that the principle would apply even if Bryn and/or BRPL had not been negligent in taking reasonable precautions to avoid it.

Without getting into the argument as whose fault it was, the Court referred to the principle of “strict liability” to hold both Bryn and BRPL jointly and severally liable to compensate Bharat for putting him in his current state.

To reiterate, whether or not Bharat was provided any safety gear is in any case irrelevant, since that would not absolve Bryn and/or BRPL of their obligation to compensate Bharat, as that obligation is based on the 'strict liability’ principle and therefore arises de-hors any negligence on the part of either of the respondents,” it noted.

The Court further held,

Upon a conspectus of the statutory and precedential landscape as discussed above, this court is well and fully empowered in exercise of its extraordinary powers under Article 226 of the Constitution to award in favour of Bharat and against Bryn and/or BRPL ‘just and fair compensation’; and to issue other directions to provide monetary and non-monetary relief, with all its limitations and restrictions, to enable Bharat to survive the rest of his natural life with a semblance of dignity and self-worth."

While it awarded ₹20 lakh compensation to be paid equally by BRPL and Bryn, it also ordered non-monetary reliefs in Bharat’s favour. Among these are:

  1. Disability pension

  2. Lifelong free bus and railway passes

  3. Free physiotherapy and occupational therapy, till as long as it is considered necessary in the professional opinion of the concerned doctors.

  4. All other forms of relief, assistance, help and aid in accordance with his entitlements, under government schemes, rules and notifications, as may be applicable to him from time-to-time.

Bharat, the Court was informed, struggled in his day-to-day living as he was unable to perform any of his daily chores on his own and required physical support from the time he woke up till the time he went to bed. He had been unable to stand or walk or even sit in a chair without support and assistance as a result of the fall. He needed constant supervision even while sitting, as he was not stable with a risk of him falling over.

BRPL had opposed the petition questioning its maintainability and argued that the victim was not working under it. Bryn, on the other hand, contended that the accident took place at the BRPL’s premises and during the course of Bharat’s work for and at the instance of BRPL. Therefore, Bryn was not liable for Bharat’s injuries, it was argued.

Advocates Prabhsahay Kaur (amicus curiae) and Saraswati Thakur appeared for Bharat's father. Additional Standing Counsel for GNCTD, Advocate Satyakam appeared for the State. Senior Counsel Ravi Gupta, along with standing counsel for BRPL Sunil Fernandes and Advocates Anju Thomas, Shubham Sharma and Sachin Jain represented BRPL. Advocate AK Sharma appeared for Bryn, while Advocate Saurabh Sharma appeared for Indian Spinal Injuries Centre and Advocates Sayli Petiwale and Anil Mittal represented the State of Uttar Pradesh.

[Read Judgment]

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Kehar Singh v. State.pdf
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