He also said that the amount of Rs 5 lakh is insufficient.
Mumbai: The collapse of the foot overbridge (FOB) outside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) Thursday which killed six persons and injured 31 others has raised the question whether the law of torts would be more helpful to citizens.
Former state advocate general Shreehari Aney said, “It’s an aspect of civil law and it is possible for a citizen to take action against the state or an authority for a calamity. Here, it has been developed as a separate branch of law as they have in England but a civil suit in which you claim damages will proceed according to ‘tort law’ in this matter, so it will be a suit for damages. It can be filed mainly by affected people or someone whose right is affected.”
He added, “A claim in tort would have to be by an affected person or someone who has suffered a legal injury. Very often, the tort action is replaced either by insurance or specific claim action (like the railways claims tribunal), which are governed by specific statu-tes. When that is available, you have to go under that statute. When there is no specific law which provides a remedy, a tort action and civil suit is filed.”
Senior lawyer Sujay Kantawalla said the law of torts is basically filed seeking damages and does not provide any action against errant officers. “In this case, the police has filed a FIR under section 304 (A) w-hich is an eyewash and provides punishment only for two years. The police should have imposed section 304 (2), which is non-bailable and provides 10 years of imprisonment,” he said.
Advocate Nitin Satpute said, “People can claim damages under tort law if some untoward incident happens.”
He also said that the amount of Rs 5 lakh is insufficient and in his PIL on the Elphinstone Road railway station stampede, he has demanded Rs 15 lakh for the kin the deceased.
Advocate Menaka Guruswamy, lawyer, Supreme Court and Columbia Law School Distinguished Faculty, Toronto, said tortious liability would enable recognition of negligence by the state and also damages for such conduct on its part. “This is very different from the ex-gratia payments that are routinely announced by the state, as if it is making a small donation for every life, which enables the state to avoid its own culpability,” she said.