Case Law Details

Case Name : Kum. Akshatha Vs Secretary B.N.M. Education Institution and Anr. (Supreme Court of India)
Appeal Number : Civil Appeal No. 2514 of 2021
Date of Judgement/Order : 14/07/2021
Related Assessment Year :

Kum. Akshatha Vs Secretary B.N.M. Education Institution and Anr. (Supreme Court of India)

School Tours & School picnics are very common in schools and the students are always desirous for going in school Tours/Picnics as the students find these excursions informative, educative, and thrilling. However, there are some untoward incidents wherein the touring students suffer injury due to act of God or due to negligence of the tour management company or the teachers heading the students tour. Not only on tours the students suffer injuries but such incidents happen even on school campus. An important question  that arises is to what extent is the school or it’s management responsible as far as pecuniary compensation is concerned.

In a recent case the Apex Court, in the case of Kum. Akshatha vs. The Secretary B.N.M. Education Institutions & Anr. in Civil Appeal No. 2514 OF 2021 decided on 14-07-2021, awarded Rs 89 lakh as compensation to a Bangalore girl student who got bed ridden of meningo encephalitis (brain fever) as a result of instructors’ negligence on a school tour in North India in 2006, when the girl was 14 years of age & studying in class IX.

The State Consumer Commission had ordered the school administration to pay the girl student Rs 89 lakh towards compensation. However, on appeal the National Consumer Commission decreased the compensation payable by the school  to Rs 50 lakh against which the instant appeal was heard by the Apex Court.

The Court was appalled by the fact that the appellant was not given timely medical care and attention although she was diagnosed having viral fever known as Meningo Encephalitis. Because  of gross negligence of the accompanying teachers, she became terminally ill and  had to be airlifted in an air ambulance to Bangalore. The illness  affected her memory and speech with no prospects for recovery and she stands deprived of a normal life and marriage prospects despite being of marriageable age.

There was a concurrent finding of the  State Commission & the National Commission that there was gross negligence by the school as the teachers accompanying the complainant were negligent in performance of their duty.

The National Commission affirming the findings of the State Commission reduced  compensation to Rs.50 lacs without any cogent reason.

The Apex Court was not convinced of the reduction of compensation, on the facts of the case, as the same was done without application of mind and judicial discretion and held thus:

“There is no doubt that an appellate authority has the jurisdiction to reduce the compensation. The jurisdiction draws its source from the power of judicial discretion to be exercised in the given facts of a case. The power to exercise judicial discretion is indeed wide but is inherently limited by the requirement of a judicious exercise of the discretionary jurisdiction. The order must reflect due application of mind to the facts of the case, followed by a brief discussion why the appellate authority was of the opinion that exercise of judicial discretion was called for including the discussion why it opined the compensation to be excessive requiring reduction.

Judicial discretion is not arbitrary to be exercised sans reason to the prejudice of another. There is no discussion by the National Commission or any reasons spelt out for the formation of this opinion by it to reduce the compensation. The National Commission did not opine that the compensation awarded under any particular head was excessive, yet it simply opined to reduce the compensation. In absence of any such material, discussion or reasoning, the reduction of the compensation patently becomes arbitrary and therefore, unsustainable.

We do not find merit in the contention of the respondents that in the execution proceedings, no objection has been raised by the appellant to the reduction of compensation as ordered by the National Commission.”

The Apex Court allowed the appeal & restored the compensation awarded by the State Commission.

The said case would act as a Precedent in case of negligence by the school on campus or during school excursions. The school & it’s functionalities should be vigilant and their negligence in this regard would be intolerable. The present matter should be viewed with reference to year 2006 and the  compensation awardable in present times would be a large multiple thereof.

FULL TEXT OF THE SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT/ORDER

Leave granted.

The complainant is in appeal aggrieved by the order of the National Consumer Redressal Commission (hereinafter referred to as the ‘National Commission’) reducing the compensation awarded to her from Rs.88,73,798/- to 50 lakhs in an appeal preferred by the respondents.

We have heard learned counsel for the parties at length. The complainant was a child aged 14 years at the relevant point of time studying in class 9 in an educational institution in Bangalore. In December, 2006, she went on an educational tour with other students to several places in North India, accompanied by teachers of the school. She was taken ill during the tour by viral fever, diagnosed as Meningo Encephalitis. The doctors opined that had she been given timely medical aid and attention, she could easily have been cured. Ultimately she had to be airlifted in an air ambulance to Bangalore. Consequentially the complainant has become bed ridden inter alia affecting her memory and speech with no prospects for recovery. She stands deprived of a normal life and marriage prospects despite being of marriageable age.

The State Commission and the National Commission have arrived at concurrent findings of gross negligence by the respondents opining that the teachers accompanying the complainant and the other children, were negligent in performance of their duty.

We have been taken through the judgements of the State Commission and the National Commission. The National Commission, on its own reasoning and examination of facts and evidence affirmed the findings of the State Commission. The National Commission found no merit in the appeal warranting its interference. However, the National Commission opined that a compensation of Rs.50 lacs would
suffice.

There is no doubt that an appellate authority has the jurisdiction to reduce the compensation.

The jurisdiction draws its source from the power of judicial discretion to be exercised in the given facts of a case. The power to exercise judicial discretion is indeed wide but is inherently limited by the requirement of a judicious exercise of the discretionary jurisdiction. The order must reflect due application of mind to the facts of the case, followed by a brief discussion why the appellate authority was of the opinion that exercise of judicial discretion was called for including the discussion why it opined the compensation to be excessive requiring reduction. Judicial discretion is not arbitrary to be exercised sans reason to the prejudice of another. There is no discussion by the National Commission or any reasons spelt out for the formation of this opinion by it to reduce the compensation. The National Commission did not opine that the compensation awarded under any particular head was excessive, yet it simply opined to reduce the compensation. In absence of any such material, discussion or reasoning, the reduction of the compensation patently becomes arbitrary and therefore, unsustainable.

We do not find merit in the contention of the respondents that in the execution proceedings, no objection has been raised by the appellant to the reduction of compensation as ordered by the National Commission.

In the result, the appeal is allowed. The compensation, as awarded by the State Commission is restored.

Pending application (s), if any, shall stand (s) disposed of.

Download Judgment/Order

Author Bio

More Under Corporate Law

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search Posts by Date

September 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930