SC decides period of limitation under Fatal Accidents Act, 1855

SC decides period of limitation under Fatal Accidents Act, 1855

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The Supreme Court of India comprising a bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and R. Banumathi has decided and clarified the period of limitation in filing a suit or claim under the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855 as two years from the date of the accident. This order was passed on 14 September 2017 in the case of Damini v. Managing Director, Jodhpur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited.

In the instant case, the deceased person was travelling from Ahmedabad to Rajasthan on a bus. When the bus reached a dharamshala, the deceased climbed the rooftop of the bus to bring down the luggage. When the deceased was on the rooftop, a naked electricity wire touched his hand. Due to the electrocution, the deceased fell down from the roof of the bus. Thereafter, he was rushed to the hospital where he was declared dead by the doctors. The cause of death was the contact with the live electricity wire. The appellants who are the widow and the son of the deceased filed a case after the limitation period of 2 years from the death of the person, as has been provided under Article 82 of the Limitation Act. On this ground, the District Judge and the High Court dismissed their case on the ground of limitation.

The appellants claimed that the said case should be treated as a Civil Suit for which the limitation period is of three years and placed their reliance on residuary Article 113 of the Limitation Act.

The Supreme Court of India observed that,

“8. We are afraid the contentions raised by the appellants cannot be appreciated. Part VII of the Schedule to the Limitation Act, 1963 which provides for period of limitation deals with suits relating to tort. Article 82 is under Part VII. The same reads as follows:

“PART VII- SUITS RELATING TO TORT

Description of suit

Period of limitation

Time from which period begins to run

By executors, administrators or representatives under the Indian Fatal Accidents Act,1855.

Two years

The date of the death of the person killed.”

“10. As rightly contended by Shri Punjeet Jain, learned Counsel appearing for the respondents, once a specific period of limitation is referrable to any of the entries in the Schedule to the Limitation Act, 1963, then the residuary Article 113 cannot be invoked. In the instant case, for a suit for damages under the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855 Article 82 provides for a specific period of limitation, viz., two years from the date of death of the person.”

The Supreme Court further exercising its wide powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India granted compensation and observed,

“13. However on a query as to whether there is a scheme under the first respondent for providing compensation to the victims, the learned standing Counsel has informed us that there is a scheme under the Rules now applicable wherein the legal heirs of the deceased person are entitled to a one-time compensation of Rs.5 lakhs. The accident is of the year 2008. Therefore, we are of the view that it is a fit case to invoke our jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India and grant Rs. 7 lakhs as compensation. The first respondent shall pay this amount to the first appellant within two months from today otherwise the appellants will be entitled to interest of 12 per cent per annum from the date of the accident and the officers responsible for the delay shall be personally liable for the same.”

The Supreme Court made it clear that the aforesaid order is passed under the peculiar facts of the case and hence, it is not to be treated as a precedent.

The judgment can be read here by clicking here.

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