In a stern message to power distribution firms, Delhi High Court has ruled that they would have to compensate the kin of victims in electrocution cases if it was established that there were “lapses” on their part in maintaining the prescribed safety measures. Expressing concern over electrocution incidents despite claims by the discoms and power regulators that they were complying with all safety measures, a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal passed a slew of directions and said they “cannot shy away” from their duty.
Watch what else is making news:
The bench said it would be appropriate if the discoms and regulators, like Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC), work together so that such incidents do not recur. “A perusal of the counter affidavits of the respondents (Ministry of Power, CEA, DERC and discoms) show that each of them is claiming that they are complying with and implementing all the safety measures. However, despite the same, electrical accidents have been occurring.
“We are of the view that the respondents cannot shy away from their duty and shift the burden on each other, rather it would be appropriate for them to work together to ensure that such incidents do not occur in future,” the bench said.
Passing a number of directions in the matter, the high court asked discoms “to take urgent cognisance of cases of electrocution and pay compensation in accordance with law to the dependents of the deceased in case lapses are established in maintaining the prescribed safety measures”.
The order came when the court disposed of two separate petitions, one by NGO Common Cause and another by petitioner Lauv Kumar, seeking directions to the discoms, power regulators and the Power Ministry to formulate proper statutory framework and regulations to deal with the claims for violation of fundamental rights arising out of electrocution incidents.
The petitions have also sought direction to ensure better safety and protection of residents of Delhi from electrocution deaths and impose strict compliance norms on the licensees. The bench further said that “the Electricity Regulatory Commission being a regulatory body must oversee strict implementation and compliance of the safety measures by the Discoms for all the residents against electrocution deaths and other electricity related injuries”.
It said regulatory commission has to ensure that officers of discoms shall comply with the directions issued by the commission from time to time and “any violation of these instructions or directions would attract penal action against the erring department/officer under the Electricity Act 2003”. The court directed the electricity regulatory commission and discoms to take appropriate measures to prevent such accidents through use of insulation, guarding, grounding, electrical protective devices and safe work practices.
“The other land owning agencies shall give the respondents proper assistance in order to prevent any untoward incident due to electrocution in future,” it said. The bench also noted in its order that there are statutory legislations and guidelines to ensure safety measures for the public and the power distribution firms, being the suppliers of electricity, are bound to maintain the supply system in a high quality condition.
“In case of any mishap due to electrical system, it is the distribution companies on whom the burden lies to prove that it was not their fault and the act cannot be termed as an act of negligence,” it said. The bench also said that being a key regulator of power sector, DERC has to comply with requisite safety measures and standards to ensure that there is “no element of carelessness or negligence” on the part of distribution companies in maintaining the electricity supply.
During the hearing on the pleas, the discoms had told the bench that they were continuously supervising and inspecting the installations, carrying out an annual maintenance check up and were adhering to the safety standards as mandated under the Central Electricity Authority (Measures relating to Safety and Electric Supply) Regulations, 2010.
The petitioners had alleged that respondents had failed to observe strict compliance of public safety legislations such as the Electricity Act 2003, the rules and regulations which had lead to loss of life due to electrocution.