KI News

HC dismisses petition seeking compensation for death caused by a roadside poplar tree

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Says trees planted by govt along roadsides not in non-natural use of land, or any hazardous activity to attract principle of strict liability and compensation

Srinagar: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh has ruled that trees manned by the government on the roadsides are not in non-natural use of land, and any hazardous activity to attract the principle of strict liability and compensation.

The ruling resulted in a writ petition filed by one Khazir Mohammad Ganai of Babteng Pattan seeking compensation of Rs 30 lakhs besides interest from the Public Works Department (PWD). Ganaie’s 18-year-old daughter had succumbed to the injuries after coming under a falling poplar tree on the road in 2012.

Justice Sindhu Sharma while dismissing the petition said “The trees, which were growing on the sides of the roads are not in non-natural use of the land or a hazardous activity to attract the principle of strict liability. The windstorm was an act of nature and negligence is not attributable to the respondent authorities.”

The petitioner persisted in his claim from the respondents on the ground of negligence and carelessness as per rule of Strict Liability.

The Strict Liability Rule, according to the court, envisages that many activities which are hazardous and may constitute a constant danger to person and property of others may be allowed to be carried on but subject to the safety measures.

Strict Liability, it said, is based on this principle; the rule of law is that a person, who for his own purposes brings on his lands and collects and keeps there anything likely to do mischief, if it escapes, must keep it at his peril, and, if he does not do so, is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape.

It held that “the strict liability would only be applicable if there is non-natural use of the land. The exception of these principles is concerned where there is an act of God or by nature”.

The respondent PWD informed the court “a strong windstorm took place at a speed of 120 kms per hour, and a number of trees fell throughout the valley and unfortunately the daughter of petitioner while crossing the road was hit by one poplar tree”.

The death, according to PWD, occurred due to windstorm which is a natural calamity and not due to their negligence.

They claimed that they had put the dry/semi-dry trees along national highways to open auction and most of such trees were cut down.

The court observed that the trees were on the roadside and did not fall within the dangerous activity or non-natural use of land, and as such, the liability of the respondents in this regard was very limited.

It said “the issue whether there was windstorm on the fateful day which resulted in falling of the tree on the petitioners’ daughter and the fact whether the respondents were negligent in maintaining these trees and had not removed the dead and half-broken tree, are all questions of fact which cannot be considered by this court in these proceedings”.

These disputed questions of facts cannot be considered in these proceedings, the court said, and concluded that the petition for compensation is not maintainable. It can only be proved by leading evidence in civil proceedings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *