The Haryana Human Rights Commission has recommended ₹5 lakh compensation each to the next of the kin of a woman and a man, who died after falling into an open sewer in Faridabad five years ago.
In a 10-page order, Justice S.K. Mittal said that “roads are meant for use by the public and if a user is harmed, the State shall be directly responsible for the consequences of such a mishap.” The order further said that the mishap was evidently on account of the negligent maintenance by the civic authority which was duty-bound to ensure that the manholes in its jurisdiction were not left open.
Turning down the corporation’s plea that the deceased herself was negligent as she fell into the sewer busy talking over phone, Mr. Mittal said, “An open manhole is indeed a death trap.”
Mahesh, a resident of Chhajjan Nagar Colony, and his wife had gone to buy vegetables from a nearby market, when the man received a call on his mobile phone. He handed over the phone to his wife and got busy with buying the vegetables. The 28-year-old woman fell into a 25 feet deep open sewer while attending to the call.
Laxman Prasad (30), a man, went down the sewer holding a rope to pull her out. But the rope snapped, and he too fell into the sewer. The two were later pulled out by fire brigade officials but declared dead on arrival at a hospital.
Taking a suo motu cognisance of the incident following a newspaper report, the commission sought a report from the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad. But the matter had to be adjourned several times on the request of the civic body and the commission finally recommended the compensation on September 2 with an observation that “there was an inordinate delay on behalf of the Municipal Commissioner in putting the response before the commission” on the matter.
The commission said that the essential facts of the case were not disputed and “the principal of Res Ipsa Loquitur ought to be followed and compensation awarded without waiting for response from the commissioner as the case has been lingering for five years and dates after dates are being sought without any plausible reason”.
The commission relied on the post-mortem report of the woman and the admission by the authorities that the deaths were caused due to the two falling into the open sewer.