PERSONS TO WHOM WE MET
1. Mr.R.D. Garg, Head Teacher, Govt. Primary School, village Makhan Majra, U.T.
2. Mr.Bikram, father of the deceased child, resident of Jhuggi No.4, vill.Makhan Majra, U.T. Chandigarh
3. Constable present at Govt. Primary School, Makhan Majra, U.T. Chandigarh
Village Makhan Majra is on the Chandigarh-Ambala Road, Opposite Airport turning in the Union Territory of Chandigarh with a population of around 10,000 people. There is only one Primary School where children from families living below poverty line study. The Government Primary School in the village is having a strength of 135 students in six classes, five teachers besides the Head teacher. The school building is surrounded by a low height boundary wall which is easily accessible by the school students. There is one water cooler fenced with iron grill in the school and another water tank in the school premises. Most of the students drink water from the water cooler. There are two toilets, but no sweeper or chowkidar to guard the school. This school is being run under the Director Public Instructions (Primary Schools), U.T. Chandigarh. The students belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribes are given scholarship worth Rs.300 per month and 3 kg wheat per month. Since the water cooler gives cold water during summer season, most of the school students and residents of the area come and fetch cold water from the school water cooler. There being no Chowkidar, the school gate is never locked from outside.
On September 1, 2002 at about 10.30 a.m. Dharminder, 8 years old, student of 2nd class in the school, living nearby came to the school and went towards the water cooler to fill his water bottle. As soon as he touched the iron fencing around the water cooler, he got severe electric shock and fell down un-conscious. A lady passing nearby saw him and informed his parents immediately. Since it was a rainy day, the parents thought that due to rain, the child had suffered electric shock. They immediately took him to Govt. Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, Chandigarh, but he was declared “brought dead” by the doctor.
BACKGROUND OF THE VICTIM AND HIS FAMILY
Dharminder, son of Bikram, aged 8 years is the eldest son of his parents. He left behind his two young sisters and two brothers, besides his mother and father. He belongs to Scheduled Caste. His father, Bikram is permanently disabled person. His left feet was cut in his childhood. He hails from Bihar and is living below poverty line. He runs a kabari shop in village Daria, U.T. Chandigarh. Due to the tragedy in his family, he has suffered irreparable loss due to untimely and sudden death of his elder son.
On receipt of information about the incident, a police party came from the Police Post Daria and a formal Daily Diary Report No.10, dated 1.9.2002 was registered and after recording proceedings under Section 174 Cr.P.C. the case has been closed.
After inspecting the place of occurrence and meeting with different persons related with the investigation, our organization has come to the following findings:-
1. The incident in which an innocent life of a 8 year old child has been lost is not an accident, but due to criminal negligence of the school authorities and the education department of the Chandigarh Administration.
2. There is no Chowkidar in the school and the school gate remains open even after school hours. As per the head teacher of the school, inspite of repeated written requests made by him, to the District Education Officer, U.T. Chandigarh for filing the vacancy of sweeper and chowkidar in the school, nothing has been done so far.
3. There is no “DANGER” declaration on the water cooler or its iron fencing. The electric switch of the water cooler is installed at a place which can be accessed by even the children. The electric switch of the water cooler is neither earthed nor regularly switched off or checked to prevent the electric current to come on the body of the cooler.
4. The victim got electrocuted and died in the school premises where he was a student, therefore, he was used to fetch cold water from the water cooler since he was living below poverty line.
5. Since most of the students studying in the school belong to scheduled caste or scheduled tribe, it has resulted in breach of Sections 3 and 4 of the S.C./S.T (Prevention of atrocities) Act,1989;
6. Since the act of the school authorities has resulted in the unnatural death of the deceased, therefore, a criminal case under Section 299 and 304-A of Indian Penal Code should be registered against the school authorities and they should be tried and punished for the said offences.
1. The next of kin of the deceased should be given ex-gratia compensation to the tune of minimum Rs.1 lac by the Education Department of Chandigarh Administration;
2. A high level committee of officials from education department and non-governmental organization connected with education field should be constituted who should periodically visit all the Primary and other schools in the city and ensure that a “DANGER” warning is displayed on all the electric appliances like water cooler or electricity switches or plugs and they are so installed that it may not be easily accessible to the students and all the electric wirings are done with earthing in the electric appliances.
Our organization expresses its heart felt condolences to the bereaved family and assure them of every help. Our organization has offered them free legal aid to file a petition in the Hon’ble High Court of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh to seek an interim compensation for the irreparable loss as well as for certain directions to prevent the reoccurrence of such accidents.
ACTION TAKEN BY LHRI
Our organisation sent the copies of the above report to the Education Secretary, Chandigarh and other concerned authorities. Free legal aid has also been provided to the parents of the deceased child and a Public Interest Litigation has been filed by our organisation alongwith the father of the deceased in the Punjab & Haryana High Court and notice of motion has been issued in the case.
HIGH COURT AWARDS RS.1,00,000 TO VICTIMS FATHER
January 22, 2003
Allowing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Lawyers For Human Rights International, the High Court today directed the Chandigarh Administration to pay an ex-gratia compensation of Rupees One lac to the father of an eight year old child who had died due to electrocution in the government primary school in village Makhanmajra, U.T. Chandigarh.
Lawyers For Human Rights International,through its Chandigarh Unit President,Tejinder Singh Sudan alongwith Vikram, father of Dharminder, an eight years old student of government primary school, Makhanmajra,U.T.Chandigarh, had alleged that the eldest son of Vikram who was studying in class II died on September 1, 2002 due to electrocution when he touched the water cooler installed in the school premises. A team of the rights organisation held investigations and found that the death of the child was due to the criminal negligence of the school authorities. They provided free legal aid to the father of the victim and filed a Public Interest Litigation on his behalf and sought directions to the Union Territory of Chandigarh, States of Punjab and Haryana to set up committees to ensure that all the safeguards against electric shock in the school premises are maintained, besides seeking the ex-gratia compensation of Rs.1 lac for the father of the deceased child.
In reply, the administration while admitted that the child died due to electrocution in the school premises, denied their liability to pay compensation. The counsel for the administration submitted that there was no chowkidar in the school premises and it was Sunday, therefore, the child had tresspassed into the school building without permission and it being a rainy day, the water cooler became defective and the child got electrocuted resulting in his death.
The counsel for the Petitioners, Arunjeev Singh Walia stated that had the school authorities acted diligently and switched off the water cooler before closing the school and keeping the switch board beyond the reach of children, the valuable life of the deceased could have been saved. After hearing the counsels, the division bench comprising Chief Justice B.K.Roy and Mr.Justice V.K.Bali held that the right to have a meaningful life has been guaranteed under the Constitution of India and the right to life is the most sacred among the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. By the act of the respondents, a valuable human life has been lost which has caused irreparable loss to his family. Keeping in view the admission of the counsel for the administration that the child died in the school premises due to electrocution from a water cooler installed in the school premises, the court ordered the administration to pay a sum of Rs.1 lac to the father of the deceased within a period of three months. Besides this, the court observed that it is expected that the states of Punjab and Haryana would take necessary steps to safeguard the students from electric shocks from electrical appliances in the government schools.
September 3, 2002