SC reiterates need for an appropriate legislation to deal with claims in public law for violation of fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens

New Delhi : If you meet with an accident causing grievous injuries or even death due to potholes on road or missing railings on a bridge, the Supreme Court says the government, local and statutory authorities responsible will have pay the damages ‘in tort.’

 Since India still lacks a law of tort to take the authorities to court for compensation for failing in their statutory authorities, a Bench of Justices V Gopala Gowda and A K Goel reiterated the need for a comprehensive legislation dealing with tortuous liability of the State and its instrumentalities.

 It dismissed an appeal of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation, insurance company and a contractor against the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission’s ruling, holding them liable to pay compensation for the death of 22 persons who drowned in the Sursagar Lake in the heart of Vadodara while on a joy boat trip on Janmashtami in 1993 “on account of negligence in plying the boat.”

Taking the decision identical to its strictures against Delhi Municipal Corporation for negligence resulting in the Uphaar Cinema fire tragedy, the Court said the archaic principle of State immunity based on assumption of it being efficient, sincere and dignified was giving way to protection of liberty, equality and rule of law.

Noting rapid changes all over the world to uphold the rights of citizens against the wrongs committed by statutory authorities and local bodies, the Court regretted that despite the concern shown by this Court (in Uphaar case in March), it is unfortunate that no legislation has been enacted to deal with such situations.  Reiterating the need for an appropriate legislation to deal with claims in public law for violation of fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens at the hands of the State and its officials, the Court urged the Law Commission “to look into the matter and take such steps as may be found necessary.”

It dismissed the appeals by the Vadodara municipal corporation, the Oriental Insurance Company and contractor Ripple Aqua Sports whose boat capsized for overloading with 38 passengers against its capacity of 22.

It confirmed the award of compensation by the state consumer commission as affirmed by the National dispute Redressal Commission.

  The national body had upheld in November 2006 the order of the Gujarat consumer commission for a total compensation of Rs 30.18 lakh with 10 per cent interest for delayed payment.

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