Widow awarded compensation for farmer’s electrocution

New Delhi, April 14 (IANS) A widow whose farmer husband was electrocuted due to an ill-maintained electricity transformer in Haryana has been awarded compensation of over Rs.8 lakh, apart from interest running into lakhs of rupees, by the top consumer court.

The Dakshini Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam, a power utility in the state, was held guilty of negligence and deficiency in service by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

The Nigam was directed to pay widow Parmila Devi Rs.818,000, which included costs of Rs.10,000, with interest of 12 percent per annum, from six months after the date of death of her husband Ranbir Singh March 27, 2000 till actual payment.

“The death of Ranbir Singh occurred because of his accidentally touching a stay (live) wire which was not properly insulated, for which the nigam are clearly responsible since they are required to ensure that such installations are properly and securely maintained so that there are no safety hazards to consumers/public,” said commission President Ashok Bhan and Members Vineeta Rai and S.M. Kanitkar in a recent order.

The commission endorsed the state consumer commission’s finding that the victim died while touching a transformer which was not insulated due to the Nigam’s negligence in Khandewala village in Gurgaon district.

“The transformer may not be in working condition but it does not mean that no current was flowing in it. No documentary evidence has been led that insulation of the stay wires was done,” said the top consumer court.

The Nigam has the option of challenging the decision in the Supreme Court.

While rejecting the power utility’s appeal against a state commission order in favour of the widow, the national commission slammed Nigam officials for trying to distort facts to save their own skin.

“The state commission, which is a first court of fact, in this case had also concluded that the version of the appellants that they had removed the outgoing jumper of the transformer so that no one could operate the switch is not correct because if the jumper had been removed, then there was no question of flowing of current even if the deceased had tried to mishandle the gang operating switch,” the national commission said.

The commission president also rejected the contention of the power utility that the victim’s family was not entitled to compensation as he got an electric shock when he tried to tap power supply for a tubewell by fiddling with the transformer near a farm which he did not own.

“It hardly matters that the tubewell was in the name of Maha Singh, brother of Ranbir Singh, and they were seven brothers. They were joint and had joint agricultural land, so, Ranbir Singh as a beneficiary of the tubewell was also a consumer,” the commission said.

The panel also pointed to a state government inquiry into the victim’s death which gave a finding on the basis of the statements of witnesses that Ranbir Singh was electrocuted when he accidentally came into contact with the stay wire which was not insulated.

Ranbir Singh’s widow in her complaint said she first filed a representation before the Nigam stating that since she lost her husband due to negligence on part of the power utility of not insulating the wire, she be compensated Rs.20 lakh.

Since no response was received on her representation, she filed a complaint before the State Consumer Commission on grounds of negligence and deficiency in service, the complaint said.

(Rahul Chhabra can be contacted at [email protected])

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