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Tamil Nadu Judge Treats Email as Writ Petition to Hear Case of Death Due to Negligence

Representative Image

Representative Image

Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court delivered the order after he saw a 'middle-aged villager' with a petition in his hand, standing before him during court proceedings on October 29.

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Poornima Murali

In a rare move skipping the customary procedure, a Tamil Nadu-judge treated an e-mail as a writ petition to adjudicate a case of death by electrocution due to negligence of power utility and ensured a higher compensation to the family.

Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court delivered the order after he saw a “middle-aged villager” with a petition in his hand, standing before him during court proceedings on October 29.

It came to be known that G Sandhattikalaipandian, a gardener's son had died by electrocution when he was passing a “customary pathway,” as opposed to a route rarely taken, to cross the area. A live overhanging wire wass lying among the bushes and led to his son’s death by electrocution.

A police case was registered against unnamed officials of the power utility. However, after inaction in the matter, the father had sent a mail to the Registrar of the court, and appeared before the judge for justice.

“I did not have the heart to tell him that he should consult a lawyer and file a proper writ petition before the High Court or a suit for compensation before the civil court,” justice Swaminathan states in his judgment.

The judge directed the Registrar to treat the e-mail as a formal petition, and asked the Counsels of the power utility and the state to appear by 1 pm on the same day. The power utility argued against holding its officials responsible for what was an “act of God.”

According to officials, in the Alangulam village of Virudhunagar district, squirrels and other rodents climb electric poles and cut the wires. The wire snapped after a meddling squirrel enabled current to pass through the wire, snapping it and making it a fatal hazard to the passersby.

“I reserved orders and posted the matter for pronouncing judgement on November 2. In order to satisfy my conscience, I made a spot inspection. I am satisfied that the occurrence had taken place on account of rodent interference. The Sub-Inspector of Police as well as the Executive Engineer showed me photographs of the squirrel that lay dead near the ill-fated electric pole…,” the order states.

The judge delivered the order with a computation usually executed for arriving at damages for motor accident cases. The order also stated that an additional Rs 8.86 lakh needed to be paid, the judge also directed that Saravanan’s sibling be given the post of Junior Assistant in the power company.


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