Observing that the Barshi Municipal Council in Solapur must own up its responsibility, the Bombay High Court last week directed it to pay Rs 2 lakh as compensation to the mother of a 50-year-old vegetable seller, who died in a wall collapse in 2015.
Granting an interim relief, the court also suggested that the petitioner could file appropriate civil proceedings seeking further compensation for the deceased’s mother since she was dependent on her daughter, who died in the mishap.
The petition was moved by Anil Kambale, brother of the deceased Mangal Kambale, seeking compensation for him and his mother from Barshi Municipal Council, holding it responsible for Mangal’s death.
A division bench comprising Justice Akil Kureshi and S J Kathawalla observed, “The Council cannot escape its liability to maintain its own constructed building so that the lives of the citizens in the nearby area are not jeopardized. The Council, therefore, must own up the responsibility to pay compensation for the death of unfortunate victim.”
According to the petition, Mangal, a vegetable vendor, was a source of financial support for her family, and in particular to her mother. On May 16, 2015, when Mangal was selling vegetables, a wall of a toilet constructed by the Council collapsed on her causing fatal injuries.
Anil alleged that the accident occurred on account of the Council’s negligence in maintaining its property. His lawyer, Manoj Shirsat, informed the court about a letter from the Council to Barshi City police station on October 15, 2015, conveying that the construction was extremely old and that the file in relation to the same was not traceable.
On August 8, when the matter was listed for the Council to file their reply to the petition, the court was told that the reply was not ready. This was the fourth time that the Council had not filed their reply. The court refused to give further time to it and stated: “Though sufficient opportunities were thus granted, no reply has been filed so far.”
The division court said that there was no earthly reason for the building to simply collapse unless it had been old and dilapidated.
“It is not even the case of the Respondents (Council) that there was heavy rain, earthquake or some natural cause, which led to collapse of the wall. In plain terms, therefore, the construction was not properly maintained,” the bench said.