Delhi High Court: Woman hit by court signboard awarded Rs 19 lakh

A woman who became mentally disabled after a signboard at the Rohini district court fell on her head has been awarded a compensation of Rs 19 lakh by the Delhi High Court, which brushed aside claims of the defendants that the incident was an “act of God”.

 The victim, Harinder Kaur, was in the court premises pursuing a dispute against her estranged husband when the ‘District Court Rohini’ board fell on her from the rooftop, where it was loosely tied.

 Justice Vipin Sanghi, in an order released earlier this week, asked the Rohini district court, PWD and MCD to compensate Kaur for their negligence that left her with permanent, 70% mental disability.

 The Delhi high court also rapped the court administration and other civic agencies for ignoring municipal bylaws in putting up the board. “Facts speak for themselves and tell their own story of negligence, so as to establish a prima facie case against the respondents… The respondents have shifted liability from one to another,” Justice Sanghi noted, holding the authorities responsible for the injury.

 Kaur’s 65-year-old mother had approached Delhi High Court  for compensation through advocate Pankaj Batra, who first argued that the placement of the signboard violated laws. He also placed on record RTI replies that revealed that PWD had failed to take mandatory permission from the MCD commissioner before putting up the board. The petition said the board was installed above a passage in the complex and it fell on Kaur as she was walking into the complex.

 Citing Kaur’s medical reports, Batra alleged that the injuries had resulted in her being unable to sleep and left her totally disoriented with no possibility of being employed.

 After initially passing the blame amongst each other, the Rohini court administration, the PWD and the MCD attributed Kaur’s injury to an “act of God” in view of the inclement weather on the day of the incident. They argued that the board fell due to strong winds and rains, and not because of negligence on their part.

 But HC brushed aside the explanation saying squalls, duststorms and rain were a regular feature in Delhi. “Negligence is writ large on the part of the respondents. They can’t in the garb of inclement weather shirk from their responsibility of complying with provisions of law and taking reasonable precautions so as to keep away all persons from harm,” the court added.