The Delhi High Court has directed to release more than 18 Lakh rupees as compensation to the legal representatives of a man who had died due to the head injuries he sustained after a bank's signboard fell on him.

The bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher and Justice Tara Vitasta Ganju rejected the defence of act of God taken by the bank as the Court observed that the hazard presented by a signboard coming off the façade of the building was a foreseeable event given the fact that Delhi experiences high-velocity winds.

In this case, the deceased petitioner had suffered a severe head injury as the Bank's sign board fell on his head.

The Single Judge had issued directions for constituting a Medical Board to evaluate the bills tendered by the deceased writ petitioner concerning his medical treatment.

The Bank said that it was an act of God i.e., a vis major event and hence, it could not be held liable for the injuries caused to the deceased petitioner due to its signboard falling on his head.

To the accusation levelled against the Bank that it did not seek permission from the municipal corporation before putting up the signboard, the bank asserted that the signboard was not an advertisement and, hence, did not require the permission of the concerned officer [ i.e., the Commissioner].

Senior Counsel Neeraj Jain appeared for the bank and Advocate Santosh Krishanan appeared for the writ petitioner.

The division bench held that the Bank was guilty of the tort of negligence.

The Court observed that "…there is no defence taken that the Bank itself carried out a periodical inspection of the signboard put up on the façade of the building."

The Court also observed that high-velocity winds in the month of May each year are a foreseeable event given the geographical location of Delhi, therefore the Court rejected the defence of act of God taken by the bank.

"The Bank ought to have foreseen that the signboard, which was fixed to the façade of the building, could cause harm to a passer-by if it came off due to a natural cause such as high-velocity winds. The Bank, to obviate the occurrence of such eventuality, was obliged to monitor the maintenance of the signboard to ensure, inter alia, that it was securely fastened to the façade of the building. Having failed to do so, the Bank has rightly been held to have committed a tort of negligence.", the Court held.

Therefore the Court dismissed the appeal preferred by the bank.

The Court also directed to release the sum of Rs.18,09,244 deposited by the bank along with accrued interest, to the legal representatives of the deceased petitioner.

Cause Title- M/S Bank of Baroda & Anr. v. Mahesh Gupta & Ors.

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