28 Sep 2010

Municipal Corporation to compensate for dog bite: High Court


Holding that it was the responsibility of the Municipal Corporation to keep the town clear of stray dogs and since this was not done in view of the fact that a school boy suffered from dog-bite, the High Court of Himachal Pradesh in a recently reported decision [Court on its own motion v. State of Himachal Pradesh, AIR 2010 NOC 866] directed the Municipal Corporation to pay compensation to the boy. Observing that the law to this regard was well settled and that compensation was payable for failure to carry out the statutory duty, the High Court also went on to pass directions to be observed by the Muncipal Corporation in this regard. 

The High Court noted inter alia as under;
Mr. Shrawan Dogra has argued that the thrust of the Municipal Corporation is to sterilize the dogs to control their population and steps have been taken to provide temporary Shelters to the dogs. The steps being taken by the Municipal Corporation, Shimla are laudable. However, the fact of the matter is that the Municipal Corporation, Shimla has to play very important role as per the provisions of the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001. It is the primary duty of the Municipal Corporation, Shimla to constitute a Committee as per Rule 4 and the functions of the committee are stipulated, as noticed above, in Rule 5. It is an obligation of the Municipal Corporation to establish sufficient number of Dogs’ Pounds, including Kennels/ Shelters to be managed by Animal Welfare Organizations and also to provide requisite number of dogs’ Vans with ramps for the capture and transportation of street dogs, one driver and two trained dog captures are to be provided for each dog Van and an Ambulance-Cum-Clinical Van is to be provided as Mobile Center for sterilization and immunization. It is also the duty cast upon the Municipal Corporation as per Sub-rule (2) of Rule 6 to sterilize and immunize street dogs with the participation of Animal Welfare Originations/Private individuals and the local authority. The method of capturing/sterilization has been provided under Rule 7. Till date, the Municipal Corporation, Shimla has not established sufficient number of Dogs’ Pounds, including Kennels/Shelters. The Corporation cannot take plea that it does not have the funds. The funds are to be raised by the Municipal Corporation, Shimla as per the Municipal Corporation Act, 1994. Even as per the Animal Birth Control Programme (For Stray Dogs), the Municipal Corporation is required to provide land buildings for ABC centre, dog catching vans, free water and electricity at the buildings, an ambulance-cum-clinical van and incinerators. The NGOs are also required to reimburse the expenses of sterilization/immunization by the Municipal Corporation at a rate fixed by the Monitoring Committee.
In view of the rule position discussed hereinabove, it is the duty cast upon the Municipal Corporation, Shimla to ensure that Shimla town is kept free from stray dogs. We do not approve half-heartedly attempts made by the Municipal Corporation, Shimla to control the menace of stray dogs. The stray dogs roam in streets of Shimla town in packs. There is consistent threat to large section of society. They tend to destroy the ambience of town. The tourists come to Shimla not to be harassed by the stray dogs. The menace of the dogs has also not been controlled by the Municipal Corporation, Shimla even on prestigious roads like, Mall Road, Ridge etc. The dogs besides being nuisance are also eye sore since some of them are afflicted with skin disease.
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A school going boy was bitten by stray dogs. He was bitten at 12.30 noon. The boy received injuries on head, stomach, back and legs. He was saved by local people from the clutches of dogs as per news item. Thereafter he was taken to Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital, Shimla. He had to be admitted in a hospital and was provided necessary medical aid. He also remained under trauma and agony after bitten by stray dogs. In case the respondent-corporation had taken necessary precautions, this incident could be avoided. Mr. Rajeev Jiwan has also brought to the notice of the Court a similar incident whereby another student was bitten by a stray dog. It is in these circumstances, we hold the Municipal Corporation, Shimla responsible for not taking preventive measure to check the menace caused by stray dogs. The functions enshrined under the Law are required to be discharged by all the statutory authorities
We had directed the Municipal Corporation, Shimla to deposit a sum of Rs. 1 lac after a boy was beaten by stray dogs. Mr. Shrawan Dogra has argued that the boy has not approached this Court and consequently, no compensation can be awarded to him. This question is no more res integra in view of the law laid down by their Lordships of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Chairman, Railway Board and others versus Chandrima Das (Mrs) and others, (2000) 2 SCC 564. Their Lordships have held as under:
“11. Having regard to what has been stated above, the contention that Smt. Hanuffa Khatoon should have approached the Civil Court for damages and the matter should not have been considered in a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution, cannot be accepted. Where public functionaries are involved and the matter relates to the violation of Fundamental Rights or the enforcement of public duties, the remedy would still be available under the Public Law notwithstanding that a suit could be filed for damages under Private Law.”
Consequently, we held that the boy is entitled to compensation of Rs. 1 lac on account of negligence on the part of Municipal Corporation, Shimla to control menace of stray dogs. The boy required prolonged treatment and was traumatized and agonized after being bitten by stray dogs. 
Accordingly, in view of the observations made hereinabove, the present petition is disposed of by issuing the following mandatory directions:
1. We direct respondent No.2- Municipal Corporation, Shimla to ensure that the Shimla town is made free from stray dogs within a further period of six months.
2. The Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Shimla shall be personally liable to implement direction No. 1. Appropriate proceedings will be initiated against him, if he fails to implement direction No. 1 in letter and spirit.
3. Respondent No. 2 is directed to provide dogs’ Pounds/Shelters/Kennels within a period of six months from today. Respondent No.2 is further directed to ensure that all the stray dogs in Shimla town are sterilized as per the procedure.
4. Respondent No. 1 is directed to provide necessary funds as indicated hereinabove, for the purpose of establishment of dogs’ Pounds/Shelters/Kennels within a period of one month from today.
5. A sum of Rs. 1 lac deposited in the Registry of this Court is directed to be released in favour of Master Arnav Mazta son of sh. Yashwant Mazta resident of Padam Niwas, Dhingu Bawdi, Sanjauli, Shimla within a period of three weeks from today. This amount shall be kept in fix deposit till the boy attains the age of majority.
The High Court had taken suo motu notice of the incident based upon a newspaper report and the reason for such action was described in the following terms;
The association of dog with the man is well known fact. Stray dogs tend to live in groups in aparticular locality. They are familiar with their surroundings and they know how to find out the food in a particular locality. Of late, the behaviour of stray dogs has become very aggressive. There are instances of frequent dogs biting. The young children and women are primarily attacked/bitten by the stray dogs. The price of vaccination after dog bite is time consuming and expensive. The Court can take judicial notice of the fact that some of the persons cannot afford the treatment.

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