Fact-finding into the electrocution of Muizz Ahmad Shariff, a young boy in Gurappanapalya, Bengaluru
News reports appearing in the print and visual media, highlighted the incident about the electrocution of a 5 year old boy in Gurappanapalya, Bengaluru. Moved by the horrific nature of the incident, organisations concerned by the same, decided to conduct a fact-finding to ascertain the full details of the incident and the underlying reasons for it. Shri Thomas (SICHREM), Shri Kaleemulla [Swaraj Abhiyan], Advocate Ayesha [Movement for Justice], Shri Asif Ayaz [Lifeline and Movement for Justice] and Advocate Clifton D’ Rozario [Manthan Law and CPI(ML)(Liberation)] formed this fact-finding team and conducted the fact-finding on 24/07/2017.
|Date of incident:||16.09.2017
|Name of victim:||Muizz Ahmad Shariff (aged 5 years 7 months) s/o Shri Maqsood Ahmad Shariff and Smt. Arafath Sulthana studying in LKG in Canon Christ Public School in BTM Layout.
|Address of victim:
|Door No. 17, 1st Floor, 2nd Main Road, Behind Shobha Magnolia Apartments, Gurappanapalya, B.G. Road, Bengaluru – 560029.|
On 16.09.2017 at about 2.00 p.m. Muizz Ahmad Shariff was electrocuted by the 11 KV HT Line above the neighbours roof. Muizz Ahmad Shariff was playing with his tennis ball behind his house, which is on the first floor, when the ball slipped and fell on the roof of the house behind his home. About 8’ above the house behind dangles a 11 MV HT wire, which runs across the entire locality above houses. As Muizz Ahmad Shariff ran across the roof, which was wet, to fetch the tennis ball, he was electrocuted and fell down burning. This caused the nearby transformer to burst with a loud noise and all the wiring in the house below was burnt. Hearing this loud noise Shri Maqsood Ahmad Shariff rushed to the hind portion of his house and saw smoke bellowing from the house behind. When the smoke cleared up he saw his son lying face down on the roof with his small body on fire. He rushed to his son and saw that his clothes were on fire and when he turned his son he saw that his son’s face too was on fire. Somehow he tried to put it out with his hands. His son was immobile so he administered resuscitation on his son by pressing his chest. Within few seconds his son regained consciousness.
Muizz Ahmad Shariff was then rushed to Sri Sai Ram Hospital in BTM Layout where he was administered first aid. However, since the hospital lacked an Isolation Ward he was referred to Rainbow Children Hospital in Marathahalli. Muizz Ahmad Shariff is on a ventilator in the Isolation ward of the hospital. He was undergone two operations to date and another surgery is scheduled soon. The first surgery was for the removal of burnt skin and flesh, to prevent infections for which he was fully bandaged from head to toe. The 2nd surgery was to treat the 3rd degree burn areas specifically and for bandaging. The 3rd scheduled surgery is to continue with the same treatment and only after healing is the surgery for grafting, and plastic surgery, to be done.
At present the boy is responding to treatment but the costs of the treatment are very high and the family is falling into deep debt due to the same. Until the time of the fact-finding, about 4.5 lakhs have been spent by the family for which they have borrowed from friends and family. The bill has to be cleared every 24 hours for treatment to continue. In the case of surgeries, the estimate is provided by the hospital before hand and only on its payment is the surgery carried out.
On a complaint by father Shri Maqsood Ahmad Shariff, an FIR has been registered in the Suddaguntepalya police station being Cr. No. 190/2017 (dt. 17.09.2017) for offence punishable under section 338 of the Indian Penal Code against the neighbour Shri Abul Rofe, #31, 1st Cross, 1st Main, New Gurappanapalya, Bangalore City Karnataka. The accused is the house owner of the building where the incident happened. On meeting the Inspector Girish at the Suddagundapalya Police station, the Team was informed that this is a new police station, which started in last February and this is the second case of the same character. The family also informed that the BESCOM (HT Division) has also conducted an enquiry, which was confirmed by the Police.
Observations and conclusions:
At the very outset we must put on record our deep anguish about a young 5 year old boy being scarred for life and his future prospects, personal and work, being irreversibly affected by the 80% burns that he has suffered. His parents have already spent almost 5 lakhs for his treatment by borrowing from friends and family, and will incur many lakhs more expenditure for his future treatment. Furthermore, it is going to take a very long time for this child to recover from these burns, which will also impact on his education in no uncertain terms. Added to it is the burn scars that this child will have to live with and the taunts that will be thrown at him by some. Deep rooted mental and psychological issues will result from this incident, which this child will have to grapple with even as a teenager and in adult life.
Without any doubt we squarely lay the blame on the KPTCL, BESCOM and the Energy Department of the State Government for not taking any preventive action to either reroute away from, or take underground, the 11 kV HT, which dangles perilously low and close to residential buildings in this densely populated residential locality. We are given to understand that there have been several such electrocution deaths in just this residential area over the past few years, yet no remedial steps have been taken to protect the lives of its residents.
We have learnt that as per the Karnataka Electricity Distribution Code, 2015 [Table 4 at page 56], the minimum vertical clearance from buildings mandated for 11 KV lines is 4.5 mts vertically and 1.8 mts horizontally. Further the minimum horizontal clearance between the live wires and the structures mandated for 11 KV lines is 2.0 mts. Clause 4.17.18 mandates that the minimum clearances from any conductor of an overhead line from ground and buildings shall be maintained as per the Central Electricity Authority (Measures Relating to Safety and Electric Supply) Regulations, 2010. We have further learnt that the Building Bye-Laws, 2003 of the BBMP have also addressed this issue at Clause 7.4 wherein it is mandated that no building shall be erected below an electrical line as well as within the specified horizontal distance from the electrical line. The distance of buildings from high voltage lines upto and including 11 kV is 3.7 mts vertical clearance and 1.2 mts horizontal clearance. There appears to be variation between the Karnataka Electricity Distribution Code, 2015 and the BBMP Building Bye-Laws, 2003, which is perplexing and needs to be rectified inasmuch as the Building Bye-laws have to be amended to be in line with the Code.
Despite these Regulations we have found that there are buildings below the 11 kV line throughout this area and Bangalore indeed. Hundreds and hundreds of houses belong to this category. It is time that the concerned departments immediately prepare a plan to either reroute this HT lines or take them underground. The family informed that live in terrible fear since the HT wire dangles low and is at touching distance at the corner of their house. Discussions with them and local residents have revealed that there have been atleast 6 – 7 deaths due to electrocution in this locality in the past year or two. The Team has found that the 11 kV HT line runs all across this densely populated area, and at certain points is at touching distance from buildings or dangles perilously low within touching distance of roofs. It was also informed that in most localities the KPTCL/BESCOM had either taken the HT wires underground or re-routed it away from residential localities.
Deaths and injuries due to electrocution, unfortunately and tragically, occurs throughout the country. In various instances victims or their families have approached the Courts for compensation. Earlier this year, on 02.02.2017, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has passed an order directing compensation of Rs. 90,00,000/- (Rupees Ninety Lakhs) to a 7 year-old boy who was electrocuted by a high tension live wire (11 KV) in Himachal Pradesh. There too the child suffered grievous burn and other injuries and was hospitalised for about 2 months. Initially the case was before the Himachal Pradesh High Court which passed its judgment held that a combined reading of the Electricity Act and the Rules framed thereunder and the Indian Electricity Rules, 1956 provides safety measures required to be observed for supply of electricity and that electricity is a dangerous commodity and it is the statutory duty of the departments responsible for the supply and maintenance to abide by all the protective measures. The Court categorically held that the unfortunate fate of the child was a result of the sheer act of negligence on the part of the Department, who have failed to take necessary safety measures in maintaining high tension live wires, have failed to conduct periodical inspections as visualized under the Act and Rules and have failed to protect the life and property of the general public. It further held that there is a flagrant violation of the Act and Rules by the department by not providing any safeguards, checks and balances to prevent escape of energy which caused electrocution and that the hanging of HT line at a low level was a potential danger and threat to public at large, hence there is also a criminal negligence on the part of the functionaries of the Department. It concluded that a person injured by the negligent act of others is definitely entitled to general damages for non-pecuniary loss such as pain, suffering and loss of amenities and also pecuniary loss, both past and future. Incidentally the Court also held that the victim is entitled to reimbursement of medical expenses as well as compensation/damages for the embarrassment for the disability and disfigurement, for the loss of ability to use his limbs, including the loss of pride and pleasure and loss of marriage prospects. Allowing the petition filed on behalf of the victim-child, the High Court directed payment of compensation of Rs. 1,25,00,000/- (Rupees one crore twenty five lacs ) to be deposited in a Fixed Deposit in the name of the victim-child under joint guardianship of his mother at Nationalized Bank and the interest accrued will be transferred in a separate Savings Account to be opened in the same Branch in the name of the victim-child, to be operated jointly by the parents, payable to the victim-child on regular monthly basis and further the Manager, Nationalized Bank where the compensation amount shall be deposited, would release a sum of Rs. 10,000/- per month to the victim-child, through his guardian, to meet his educational expenses, nutritious food and cost of attendant. It was further directed to take all remedial measures to raise the height of the HT Line to make it safe and render the inhabitants electrically harmless and to make it beyond the reach of children and local residents of the inhabited localities.
As pointed above the Supreme Court has upheld the judgment of the High Court and confirmed that the incident has occurred due to negligence of the State and its authorities and hence the State was vicariously liable to compensate the victim-child for the losses sustained. The Supreme Court has upheld that compensation be arrived at taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case such as victim-child’s family background, age (8 years), nature of permanent disability suffered, his performance in studies, the determination of monthly/yearly income likely to be earned, expenses incurred and all the relevant factors, which are usually taken into account in awarding compensation to the victim, and directed that a total lump sum compensation of Rs.90,00,000/- (Rs. Ninety lacs) together with interest payable at the rate of 6% p.a.
The Energy Department/KPTCL/BESCOM should reimburse all the expenses borne by the family and cover all expenses that are being incurred in the treatment of the child.
- State Government must give compensation of Rs. 90 Lakhs (Rupees Ninety Lakhs only) to be in the name of Muizz Ahmad Shariff and to be utilised for his benefit including his education, etc.
- Jurisdictional police must also include the offence sections from the Electricity Act, 2003 and also include the concerned officials of the KPTCL/BESCOM as accused in the said case.
- BESCOM should immediately prepare a time-bound plan to reroute the 11kV HT line or take it underground.
Mathew Thomas R Kaleemullah
[SICHREM] [Swaraj Abhiyan]
Advocate Ayesha Asif Ayaz
[Movement for Justice] [Lifeline and Movement for Justice]
Advocate Clifton D’ Rozario
[Manthan Law and CPI(ML)(Liberation)]