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Court on its own motion v. State of Himachal Pradesh and Ors. - (02 Jan 2016)

Rs. 20 lakh compensation for kin of Beas river deceased



The Himachal Pradesh High Court increased severally the interim compensation awarded to parents of students who drowned in Beas river in 2014. The incident had resulted from a hydroelectric power plant releasing a large amount of water from its reservoir, which caused a surge in the level of the river and washed away 24 students and a tour conductor on an educational tour. The Court affirmed its own jurisdiction to hear the matter under Article 226 of the Constitution, reiterating parallels between the grant of adequate compensation in ‘public law’, negligence and fundamental rights. It opined further that duty to monitor functioning of the project rested with the State. As such, not having taken steps or issued adequate guidelines and instructions, it had not taken due care in its conduct, making it culpable in the incident.

Insights from developments in motor vehicle case law were borrowed, which the Court utilized to assess compensation; it applied a similar formulaic multiplier to quantify compensation. Included in the calculation were heads for “loss of income/dependency…loss of love and affection…estate and funeral expenses.” Compensation was assessed at Rs. 22.80 lakhs. The amount was revised to Rs. 20 lakhs with interest as a lump sum determination.

Relevant : Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Delhi versus Uphaar Tragedy Victims Association and others MANU/SC/1255/2011 M.S. Grewal and anr. vs. Deep Chand Sood and ors. MANU/SC/0506/2001 Rajkot Municipal Corporation versus Manjulben Jayantilal Nakum and others MANU/SC/1413/1997 M.C. Mehta and another versus Union of India and others, reported in MANU/SC/0092/1986


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