The case analysis is written by Preeti Bafna, a second-year student of Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University. In this case, the author briefly explained the case of T.C. Balakrishnan v. T.R. Subramanian.
In this case, an explosive made out of a coconut shell filled with an explosive substance, instead of rising in the sky & exploding there, ran at a tangent, fell amidst the crowed & explodes – causing serious injuries to the respondent •question before HC – whether appellants, who engaged independent contractors to attend to the exhibition of fireworks, would be liable? •because the explosive is an extra hazardous object – the appellants were held liable and rule of Rylands v Fletcher was applied.
AIR 1968 Ker 151
Date Of Judgement
12 June, 1967
High Court of Kerala
A minnal gundu is an explosive made out of a coconut shell by filling it with an explosive substance. The coconut shell itself is placed in a bamboo tube with gun powder beneath; and the tube is kept upright tied to an iron peg driven into the ground. When the gun powder in the tube is ignited through a small hole on the side of the tube, the coconut shell is ejected vertically several feet into the sky where it explodes producing a flash or lightning-like light and a loud report. Two processions of elephants bearing the deity or Poorams organised by two Devaswoms, the Paramekkavu and the Thiruvambadi Devaswoms, meet at the southern gopuram of the Vadakkunnatha Temple in the evening at about 5 or 5.30 in the Thekkumkad Maidan around the temple; and just as the elephant of the Paramekkavu Devaswom bearing the deity emerges through the southern gopuram before this important event, a few hundreds of olappadakkams interspersed with about 20 or 25 minnal gundus are fired. (Olappadakams are a type of fire works made with gun powder wrapped in small parcels of palm leaves.) The accident is said to have happened when this was done.
Synopsis: Rule of Law
The rule of law is, that the person who for his own purposes brings on his lands and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it in at his peril, and if he does not do so, is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape. He can excuse himself by showing that the escape was owing to the plaintiffs’ default; or perhaps that the escape was the consequence of vis major, or the act of god.
Issues Before the Court
This topic is one of the first issues based on civil rights.
- Whether the appellants who had hired an independent contractor to attend to the exhibition of fireworks, would be liable.
Ratio of the Case
The finding of both the lower courts is that the minnal gundu instead of rising into the sky and exploding there, ran at a tangent, fell amidst the crowd and exploded causing serious injuries to the first respondent. The further finding is that the accident was caused by the negligence of the 20th defendant in not properly securing the bamboo tube containing the coconut shell to the iron peg and was also due to his negligence in not choosing strong tubes because the tube in question burst. On the basis of these findings which cannot be questioned, the accident could have happened in one of two ways: either the coconut shell containing the explosive substance was not ejected sufficiently high into the sky due to the bursting of the bamboo tube so that it fell among the crowd before it burst: or it ran at a tangent due to the tilting of the tube and exploded in the midst of the crowd. In either event, the negligence was of the 20th defendant, the independent contractor. It may not probably be necessary to consider, in view of the finding that the 20th defendant was negligent, whether the principle of res ipsa loquitur applies to this case. Even if the negligence of the 20th defendant is not established, the principle that the thing itself speaks must apply to this case, because minnal gundus are normally to fly sufficiently high into the sky perpendicularly before they explode and not to fly at a tangent, fall amidst of the crowd and burst. Since the gundu in question fell in the midst of the crowd and burst, there must have been negligence on the part of the 20th defendant, who was responsible for making and firing it. This presumption of law is rebuttable, but there is admittedly no evidence to rebut it. Therefore, even on this principle, the finding of the power courts that the 20th defendant was negligent can be sustained.
it is urged that since the other defendants who were members of the Devaswom Committee and the Devaswom were held not liable the appellants who were members of the Pooram Committee should also have been exonerated. If the Devaswom was conducting the Pooram and if it can be said that the 20th defendant was engaged by the Devaswom, then the Devaswom should also have been made liable along with the members of the Devaswom Committee, who represented the Devaswom. However, the trial court felt that the Poo-ram was being conducted by the Celebration Committee, who it was that engaged the independent contractor. In this view, it refused to grant a decree against the members of the Devaswom Committee: still, it passed a decree against the Devaswom. The lower appellate court exonerated the Devaswom only on the ground that since there was no appeal by the first respondent against the members of the Devaswom Committee, the Devaswom itself could not be made liable. In fact, the Devaswom, the members of the Devaswom Committee, the members of the Celebration Committee including the appellants and the 20th defendant were all joint tortfeasors and each of them was jointly and severally liable in damages. Therefore, the omission to grant a decree against some of the joint tortfeasors is no reason for exonerating the others.
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