Order to BBMP to pay for damage by falling tree stayed

SC stays Karnataka HC order to BBMP to pay compensation for a falling tree injuring a man

The BBMP, which challenged validity of the HC order, contended that the accident had occurred as a consequence of force majeure

Supreme Court of India. Credit: PTI File Photo

In an interesting case where the BBMP was told to compensate a man for injuries sustained on a tree falling on an autorickshaw he was in, the Supreme Court stayed the Karnataka High Court's order as the municipal body contended it cannot be held liable for an act of God.

Maintaining that it cannot be fastened with tortious liability, the municipal body contended that the accident had occurred as a consequence of 'force majeure' events beyond its control as there was a storm and heavy rains on the fateful date. 

After hearing advocate Sanjay Nuli for Commissioner, BBMP, a bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna issued notice to claimnant K K Umesh Kumar and others.

"In the meantime, there shall be stay of the operation of the judgment and order passed by the High Court on September 10, 2020 only so far as the petitioner (BBMP) is concerned," the bench ordered.

The BBMP challenged validity of the High Court order, directing it to pay 25% of total Rs 17.10 lakh compensation.

It also claimed there was contributory negligence on the part of the man as despite being aware of a heavy storm and rainfall, he had chosen to ignore it and had continued by an auto rickshaw which had further been parked under an old tree. 

"The petitioner cannot be made liable for incidents that had admittedly occurred during a heavy storm. If such a petition is allowed then it will set a wrong precedent wherein several claimants shall claim compensation from the incidents which are completely out of its control," the BBMP said.

Due to falling off the tree on auto rickshaw at Chinnaswamy Stadium Road on June 23, 2009, one person died and another one, who was working as IMV Inspector at RTO sustained injuries. The Motor Accident Claims Tribunal had dismissed a petition for compensation, saying the incident had occurred as a consequence of natural calamities.

The High Court, however, held the accident occurred due to the contributory negligence of the driver of the auto, BBMP and the Horticulture department.

"It is the duty of the BBMP and the Horticulture department to look after the maintenance of the trees in the city, that too they should take care of the old trees when it was raining heavily and the branches of the trees were hanging dangerously," the HC said.