The Karnataka High Court while quashing criminal proceedings against the Architect-Petitioner has held that an architect cannot be held responsible under Section 304A IPC (causing death by negligence) for causing death of a construction worker on-site.

In this context, Justice M. Nagaprasanna observed –

"It would be too far to stretch Section 304A of the IPC to contend that a person who had designed the house is responsible for death of a worker while undertaking construction under a contractor."

In this case, the Petitioner who was an Architect Engineer by profession had entered into an agreement with the owner of a house for designing purpose. The Petitioner had only drawn up the design and had also visited the site in several occasions to see whether the construction was coming up as per the design. Thereafter, an employee who was working under the contractor died due to electrocution while taking construction on the site.

A crime was registered against the Petitioner who was arrayed as Accused No. 2 and the owner of the house as Accused No. 3. After the investigation, the Police filed the chargesheet only against the Petitioner and dropping the owner for offence under Sections 304A read with Section 34 IPC.

Aggrieved, the Petitioner approached the High Court.

The Court while referring to Section 304A observed –

"Section 304A of the IPC has two components in it. The result of death should be out of rash or negligent act by the accused. Section 304A of the IPC mandates that whoever causes death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide be punished. Therefore, the act should be either rash or negligent."

Further, the Court also held that it cannot be said that the design of the house by the Petitioner the was an act of rash and negligence that had caused the death of the worker.

The single-judge Bench placed reliance on the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Ambalal D. Bhatt v. State of Gujarat in which the Court held that the cause of death should be a direct consequence of the act of the accused and that it should be an act either rash or negligent and proximate to the cause of such death.

In this context, the Court opined –

"By no stretch of imagination the petitioner can be hauled into the proceedings for offences punishable under Section 304A of the IPC in the light of the fact that he was in any way neither responsible for construction nor was he present at the place of construction nor even had any proximity to the act which was either rash or negligent."

Further, the Court placed reliance on State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lan which held the parameters of exercise of jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC, and held, "The facts of the case at hand clearly indicate that no offence under Section 304A of the IPC could be laid against the petitioner and, therefore, there is need to exercise jurisdiction of this Court under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. to terminate such proceedings against the petitioner."

Accordingly, the Court allowed the petition and quashed the criminal proceedings against the Petitioner.

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