Damages, Liability, Air pollution, Torts, Polluter Pays, Property, Causation, Contract, Precaution, Licences
The present writ petition has been filed by petitioner-Association in public interest under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for issuance of an appropriate writ, direction or order inter alia directing respondents to pay victims of Jaipur Golden fire tragedy suitable amount of compensation for loss of lives and injuries suffered .Petitioner-Association has also prayed for identification and prosecution of erring officials who were responsible for Jaipur Goldenfire tragedy as well as for implementation of recommendations of earlier committees to prevent future tragedies in Delhi like the Jaipur Golden fire tragedy. Having heard the parties and having perused the papers, the Court is of the view that the admitted position is that respondent no. 5 was using the premises at Roshnara Road as a godown without any prior mandatory statutory permission. In fact, in the present case, the undisputed position was that there had been violation of Section 417 ofthe DMC Act. The godown was running illegally in a residential area and stored with consignment of pesticides which contained aluminium phosphate and zinc phosphate. The victims said the fire brigade personnel poured water to extinguish the fire, which reacted with the chemicals and resulted in emission of highly poisonous gas. The people from neighbourhood had inhaled the gas and suffered breathlessness, pain in chest, vomitting, diarrhoea and stomach ache. As far as the maintainability of present writ petition againstrespondent no. 5 is concerned, it is submitted that Article 226 of Constitution makes no distinction between a public function and a private function. Moreover, in the Court opinion, the present writ petition is maintainable as undoubtedly respondent-MCD has been remiss and negligent in discharging its statutory obligations and in ensuring that a citizens fundamental right to health and pollution free environment was not infringed. Proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, enable the courts, to reach out to injustice, and make appropriate orders, including directions to pay damages or compensation. From the undisputed facts, it is apparent that respondent no. 5 was engaged in an inherently dangerous or hazardous activity as it had stored chemical pesticides and consequently, its duty of care was absolute. In any event, storage of chemical pesticides was certainly an inherently dangerous and/or hazardous activity. Thus in this case the principle of strict liability applies, and the defendant has to pay damages for injury caused to the plaintiff, even though the defendant may not have been at any fault. Strict liability focuses on the nature of the defendants' activity rather than, as in negligence, the way in which it is carried on. There are many activities which are so hazardous that they may constitute a danger to the person or property of another. The principle of strict liability states that the undertakers of these activities have to compensate for the damage caused by them irrespective of any fault on their part. In the present case, MCD was remiss and negligent in discharging its statutory obligations and in ensuring that a citizens fundamental right to health and pollution free environment was not infringed. The Delhi High Court directed the private transporter and MCD to pay compensation to the victims of a fire in a godown which claimed three lives and affected several others due to poisonous gas that emitted out of the inferno on Roshanara Road in 2004. Holding both responsible, the court fixed 58 percent of the total compensation amount on the owner of the Jaipur Golden transport company godown and 15 per cent on MCD for allowing the illegal godown in a residential area, the Court directed payment of the money within three months.