The Delhi High Court today awarded compensation of over Rs 12 lakh to the mother of an 11-year-old student who fell in an open manhole near the Millennium Park here during a picnic in 2015.
A bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said the failure of public authorities to carry out their duties and negligence in taking care of the young boy led to his death.
The high court said that it was “astonishing” that a missing cover of the manhole on a water tank was “difficult to notice” and “if inspections, upkeep were diligently undertaken and the sites were regularly checked, even by the engineers concerned, it certainly would not have escaped attention”.
“The Public Works Department shall deposit a sum of Rs 10,00,000 along with interest at 9 per annum (7,500 per month) from the date of death (December 2015) within one month as compensation to Saroj Rani, mother of the deceased… As such an amount of Rs 12,47,500 would be payable till August 31, 2018,” the bench said, adding that the amount shall be deposited with the Registrar General of this court within four weeks from today.
The high court directed the Secretary, District State Legal Services Authority (South-East District) to ensure that a saving bank account of the mother is opened at the bank nearest to her place of residence, as well as that her Aadhaar and PAN Card details are sent to the Registrar General of this court.
The high court also asked all public authorities and land-owning agencies, including the Delhi Chief Secretary, civic bodies and Commissioner of Police to ensure that sites of all manholes, pits, holes, tanks or any other opening in the ground of any kinds shall be regularly inspected and maintained.
“Schedule and protocols of inspections and maintenance shall be drawn up and notified by all departments. These sites shall be cordoned off to render them inaccessible to the public.
“The existence of these sites shall be clearly and visibly marked by the display of signboards/signages. If they are required to be covered, the authorities shall ensure that the covers are in place. Responsibility for compliance shall be fixed of the senior officers, not below the rank of executive engineers concerned or equivalent thereto,” the bench said.
The high court had initiated the matter after taking note of the incident in which the schoolboy had fallen into an open water harvesting pit at the Millennium Park and died on December 21, 2015, during a school picnic. He had drowned before help could reach him.