Dipak Misra, J.
1. As in both these writ petitions the factual matrix relates to singular accident and the order impugned is the same and the points of law involved being in same spectrum, they were heard analogously and are disposed of by this common order. For the sake of clarity and convenience the facts of W.P. No. 2165 of 2001 are adumbrated herein.
2. Invoking the extraordinary jurisdiction of this court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India, the petitioners, Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board, Jabalpur (in short 'the Board') and its functionaries, have prayed for issue of a writ of certiorari for quashment of the order dated 30.10.2000, Annexure P-5, passed by the Collector, Mandla, respondent No. 1 herein, and revenue recovery certificate, Annexure P-6, passed by the same authority and to grant such other reliefs as may be deemed fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.
3. The facts as have been unfolded are that the respondent No. 2, Janki Bai is the wife of late Prakash Barkade, and the respondent Nos. 3 and 4 are the children of the said deceased. The respondent Nos. 2 to 4 initiated a proceeding under Section 6(1) of the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') read with Section 6(1) and 2 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 before the respondent No. 1 for grant of compensation for a sum of Rs. 5,70,000 along with interim compensation of Rs. 50,000. It was put forth in the application that the father of late Prakash Barkade, Jai Singh Barkade, was working in the agricultural field at about 5.30 a.m. and at that juncture he came in contact with the telephone wire in which electric current was flowing. When he fell down his sons, namely, Kailash Barkade and Prakash Barkade, rushed immediately to rescue him and both the sons came in contact with the telephone wire and breathed their last. It is set forth in the writ petition that near the house of claimants there is a high tension line of the Board and above it there is telephone line and the same was broken on that day due to rust and came in contact with the electricity line as a result of which electric current started flowing in the telephone wire which resulted in the death of Prakash Barkade. In the application filed before the Collector it was stated that there was negligence on the part of the Board and hence, it is liable to pay compensation.
4. The Board filed an application raising preliminary objection that the Telephone Department is a necessary party and the provisions of Public Liability Insurance Act do not apply and the claim is not maintainable. It was also highlighted that similar type of claim was filed in the District Consumer Forum forming the subject-matter of Case No. 6 of 1998 and vide order dated 28.6.1998 the same had been dismissed. It was also put forth that civil suit claiming compensation had already been filed in the court of Civil Judge forming the subject-matter of Civil Suit No. 7 of 1999. The said application filed by the Board was turned down by the Collector and, thereafter, a detailed return was filed. It is pleaded vide order dated 30.10.2000 the respondent No. 1 rejected the contentions of the petitioners and passed an award of Rs. 25,000 under Section 3(1) of the Act. The said order of the Collector has been brought on record as Annexure P-5. After the award was passed an application for review of the order under Section 51 read with Section 32 of M.P. Land Revenue Code, 1959, was filed before the Collector, Mandla who rejected the application for review.
5. According to the writ petitioners the Collector has failed to appreciate the facts and law involved in the case. It is urged in the petition that the award has been passed in the mechanical manner and the authority concerned has failed to appreciate that the 'electricity' is not a hazardous substance and the same does not come within the definition of Section 2(d) of the Act and, therefore, the Collector has grossly erred in law by passing the award. A reference has been made to the notification dated 24.3.1992 of the Central Government in which 'electricity' is not mentioned as a hazardous substance. It is also averred that Section 3(2) of the Act deals with the liability to give relief on the principles of no fault, but Section 7 of the Act empowers the Collector to hold an inquiry into the claim while making the award, determining the amount of relief claimed by the claimant after giving notice to the owner. It is urged that the Board had performed its statutory duties properly but the broken wire of Telephone Department came into contact with electricity line of the Board and the current started flowing through it and because of said circumstance Prakash Barkade expired and, therefore, the Board is not liable to pay the compensation but it is the Telephone Department which was negligent in maintaining its wires is liable to pay compensation. It is further averred that the Collector failed to appreciate the aforesaid aspects and passed the award against the Board. It is also put forth that the provisions of the Act are not applicable inasmuch as 'electricity' is not hazardous substance and, therefore, it has not been insured though it is mandatory on the part of the owner to take public insurance policy in respect of hazardous substance. It is contended in the petition that the Collector is under obligation to verify the occurrence of the accident and record his satisfaction, but in the present case the order of the Collector exposes mechanical and laconic approach. It is also put forth that the Collector has failed to appreciate that the claimants had approached the District Consumer Forum advancing a claim arising out of selfsame accident but their claim was negatived.
6. A return has been filed by the respondent No. 1 contending, inter alia, that he has passed the award on the basis of decision rendered in the case of U.P. State Electricity Board v. District Magistrate, Dehradun 1998 ACJ 721 (Allahabad), wherein the High Court of Allahabad has ruled that 'electricity' is hazardous substance and claim application is maintainable under Public Liability Insurance Act. It has also been put forth that the definition of 'hazardous substance' as given under Section 2(e) of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 includes 'electricity' and, therefore, the order passed by him is justified.
7. I have heard Mr. Vivek Rusia, the learned Counsel for the petitioners, Mr. S.K. Yadav, learned Government Advocate for respondent No. 1, and Mr. L.M. Tripathi, learned Counsel for the claimants-respondents.
8. It is submitted by Mr. Vivek Rusia, learned Counsel for the petitioners, that the Collector has erred in law by putting the blame on the petitioners though the entire blame should have been put on the Telephone Department. It is urged by him that the facts have not been appreciated in proper perspective by the Collector inasmuch as the concerned police officer had conducted an investigation and registered a case against the authorities of M.P. Electricity Board and prepared the spot map indicating that the line laid down by the Telephone Department was passing over the high tension line of the Board and due to rust the line of Telephone Department had been broken and fell down in the agricultural field of the claimants. It is also urged by him that the question of Board's liability cannot arise under the provisions of the Act and the Collector, the respondent No. 1 committed a serious transgression in passing the award.
9. Mr. S.K. Yadav, learned Government Advocate for the State, as well as Mr. L.M. Tripathi, the learned Counsel for claimants-respondents submitted that the award passed by the Collector is absolutely defensible and the reasons given by the said authority are cogent and germane to the issue. Learned Counsel for the respondents have placed heavy reliance on the decision rendered in the case of U.P. State Electricity Board v. District Magistrate, Dehradun 1998 ACJ 721 (Allahabad).
10. The core question that arises for consideration is whether the respondent No. 1 is justified in passing the award in question, as has been done vide Annexure P-5. To appreciate the submission of Mr. Vivek Rusia, learned Counsel for the petitioners, I have carefully perused the award passed by the respondent No. 1. On a scrutiny of the same it transpires that Jai Singh Barkade has his house adjacent to his field and in spite of his requests the high tension line and telephone line laid by the Board and P&T Department respectively were not removed. The said Jai Singh Barkade in the morning of 17.6.1997 was engaged in the work of manuring his field and at that juncture the hanging wire fell on his hand and when he was in agony he shouted which attracted the attention of his two sons who got hold of father but in the process their life spark got extinguished. The Board resisted the claim of the legal heirs of late Prakash Barkade on many a ground including one that there was no proof that a complaint was made that telephone wire had fallen on the electric wire prior to the occurrence of the accident. The Collector on consideration of the aspects urged before him came to hold that whether any complaint was lodged before the Board prior to the incident or not was of no relevance as the respondents were entitled to the compensation on the ground of no fault liability. The Collector had opined that the accident had occurred because of flow of current of electric wire into the body of the deceased. He also expressed the view that the same comes in the category of hazardous substance and, therefore, the claimants were entitled to the compensation.
11. It is urged with vehemence by Mr. Rusia that the order of the Collector is absolutely unsupportable inasmuch as the Board had not been negligent but it was the negligence of Telephone Department. To substantiate the aforesaid stand he has taken me through the written statement/ objection filed by the Board and its functionaries before the Collector to highlight that Telephone Department was a necessary party as it was under the obligation of the Telephone Department to maintain its wires. Learned Counsel has submitted, that the Board has categorically disputed that information was given to the Board with regard to the field situation that telephone wire having been shattered was likely to fall on the electric wire. The learned Counsel has submitted that a positive stand was taken that 'electricity' does not come within the ambit and sweep of hazardous substance.
12. First, I shall deal whether the 'electricity' is a hazardous substance or not. The term 'hazardous substance' has been defined in Section 2(d) of the Act. It reads as under:
2 (d) 'hazardous substance' means any substance or preparation which is defined as hazardous substance under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and exceeding such quantity as may be specified, by notification, by the Central Government.
13. Section 2(e) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, defines 'hazardous substance' in the following manner:
'hazardous substance' means any substance or preparation which, by reasons of its chemical or physico-chemical properties of handling, is liable to cause harm to human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro organism, property or the environment.
On a reading of aforesaid two definitions it cannot be construed that the substance which is not notified by the Central Government cannot be regarded as a 'hazardous substance'. The terms used under Section 2(d) of the Act are of wide amplitude and of immense magnitude. They are not to be understood in a narrow, restricted or confined manner. On the contrary, it covers a large canvas. The dictionary clause does not lay down a postulate that unless a substance is notified it cannot be regarded as a hazardous substance. The definition in the Act refers to Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.I have reproduced the aforesaid definitions herein above. The said definition is in a broad spectrum. It cannot be encompassed in a small region. If both the definitions are read together it is quite pronounced that the electricity should come within the ambit and sweep of the definition, and certain substances may become hazardous if they are notified as required under the provisions. Thus, notification by the Central Government is not the sine qua non to make a substance hazardous.
14. In the case of U.P. State Electricity Board 1998 ACJ 721 (Allahabad), the learned single Judge after referring to the concept of social legislation and liberal construction held in para 42 as under:
(42) Hence in my opinion, 'hazardous substance' as defined in Section 2(d) of the 1991 Act is not to be confined to a substance specified in the notification issued by the Central Government, but it includes all substances which come under the definition of 'hazardous substance' under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, with this exception that if any such substance is also notified by the Central Government under Section 2(d) of the 1991 Act then it will be a 'hazardous substance' only if it exceeds the quantity specified in the said notification. Thus the notification issued by Central Government under Section 2(d) of the 1991 Act can only narrow down the scope of 'hazardous substance' as defined under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, but substances which are not specified in the said notification will nevertheless be regarded as 'hazardous substance' under the 1991 Act if they come within the definition of 'hazardous substances' under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
The learned single Judge in paras 33 and 34 also held as under:
(33) Many things which were not regarded as a substance when our knowledge of physics was not so advanced are today regarded as a substance. Today we are fortified by our deeper knowledge of nature due to scientific advancement, and hence we have to get rid of our old notions and adopt modern ones. In my opinion, electricity is clearly a substance since electrons, which constitute electricity, are material particles having specific physico-chemical properties as indicated above.
(34) Since electricity is both hazardous as well as a substance, in my opinion, it is clearly a 'hazardous substance' and I do not agree with the contention of learned Counsel for petitioners.
It is apposite to mention here that learned single Judge has referred to various theories and texts belonging to the realm of physics and has also referred to the quantum of mechanics as propounded by De Broglie, Heisenberg and Schrodinger and the meaning of the term 'substance' in various dictionaries and arrived at the aforesaid conclusion. I am in respectful agreement with the conclusion arrived at by the learned single Judge in paras 33 and 42 of the decision. I may only add here that there has been tremendous development in the world of physics and the terms which had traditional meaning are presently given different connotations. Two types of theories have gained significance in the modern world. One propounded by Norman Cousins, 'Belief creates biology' and second as Wallse would put it, 'Hypometa-bollic Wakefulness'. The purpose of these two concepts is to show that though apparently a particular thing may be falling in one category but it may be in another category and the modern physics has informed that in a human body a thought is a wave which is a chemical. In view of the aforesaid I experience no difficulty in treating electricity as a hazardous substance.
15. The next aspect that requires to be considered is whether the respondents were required to prove that due to the fault of the Board the deceased met with his end. Submission of Mr. Rusia is that it was the fault of Telephone Department as it has not taken care of its wires, as a result of which it fell on the wires of the Board, and eventually it resulted in the death of the deceased who came into contact with the telephone wire.
16. In this regard I may profitably refer to Section 3 of the Act which reads as under:
3. Liability to give relief in certain cases on principle of no fault.-(1) Where death or injury to any person (other than a workman) or damage to any property has resulted from an accident, the owner shall be liable to give such relief as is specified in the Schedule for such death, injury or damage.
(2) In any claim for relief under Sub-section (1) (hereinafter referred to in this Act as claim for relief), the claimant shall not be required to plead and establish that the death, injury or damage in respect of which the claim has been made was due to any wrongful act, neglect or default of any person.
Explanation.-For the purpose of this section,--
(i) 'workman' has the meaning assigned to it in the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923.
(ii) 'injury' includes permanent total or permanent partial disability or sickness resulting out of an accident.
On a scrutiny of the aforesaid provision it is plain as day that the owner is liable to pay compensation to any person whether death or injury occurs due to an accident. The term accident has been defined under Section 2(a) of the Act. The said definition states that an 'accident' means an accident or incident occurring while handling any hazardous substance. The term 'handling' has been defined under Section 2(c) of the Act. It reads as under:
'handling' in relation to any hazardous substance, means the manufacture, processing, treatment, package, storage, transportation by vehicle, use, collection, destruction, conversion, offering for sale, transfer or the like of such hazardous substance.
17. In view of the said provision there remains no trace of doubt that the claimant can get compensation even if the death had not occurred due to wrong or negligent act of any person. The concept of strict liability is associated with the dealing of hazardous activities. In this connection it is noteworthy to mention that Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 makes provision for compulsory insurance to meet the claims which arise on the foundation relating to liability due to fault as well as no fault. With the social development and development of various scientific and modern methods the concept of no fault liability has gained ground. In the case of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India 1987 ACJ 386 (SC), their Lordships approved the principle laid down by Fleming in his book on Torts and observed that permission to conduct such activity is in effect made conditional on its absorbing the costs of the accidents it causes, as an appropriate item of its overheads. In the case of Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India AIR 1996 SC 1446, the Supreme Court gave emphasis on the doctrine of strict liability. In this regard, I may also refer to the paras 52 and 53 of the decision rendered in the case of U.P. State Electricity Board 1998 ACJ 721 (Allahabad), wherein learned single Judge held as under:
(52) Thus in cases where the principle of strict liability applies, the defendant has to pay damages for injury caused to the plaintiff, even though the defendant may not have been at any fault.
(53) The basis of the doctrine of strict liability is twofold (1) the people who engage in particularly hazardous activities should bear the burden of the risk of damage that their activities generate, (2) it operates as a loss distribution mechanism, the person who does such hazardous activity (usually a corporation) being in the best position to spread the loss via insurance and higher prices for its products (vide Torts by Michael Jones, 4th Edn., p. 267).
18. In this regard I may profitably refer to the latest decision of Apex Court rendered in the case of M.P. Electricity Board v. Shall Kumari 2002 ACJ 526 (SC), wherein their Lordships after referring to number of decisions and to Winfield on Tort, 15th Edn., in paras 11,12 and 15 held as under:
(11) The rule of strict liability has been approved and followed in many subsequent decisions in England. A recent decision in recognition of the said doctrine is rendered by the House of Lords in Cambridge Water Co. Ltd. v. Eastern Counties Leather pic. (1994) 1 All ER 53 (HL). The said principle gained approval in India and decisions of the High Courts are a legion to that effect. A Constitution Bench of this court in Charan Lal Sahu v. Union of India (1990) 1 SCC 613 and a Division Bench in Gujarat State Road Trans. Corpn. v. Ramanbhai Prabhatbhai 1987 ACJ 561 (SC), had followed with approval the principle in Rylands v. Fletcher (1868) LR 3 HL 330. By referring to the above two decisions a two-Judge Bench of this court has reiterated the same principle in Kaushnuma Begum v. New India Assurance Co. Ltd. 2001 ACJ 428 (SC).
(12) In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India 1987 ACJ 386 (SC), this court has gone even beyond the rule of strict liability by holding that:
'where an enterprise is engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous activity and harm is caused on anyone on account of the accident in the operation of such activity, the enterprise is strictly and absolutely liable to compensate those who are affected by the accident; such liability is not subject to any of the exceptions to the principle of strict liability under the rule in Rylands v. Fletcher (1868) LR 3 HL 330.'
(15) In West Bengal State Electricity Board v. Sachin Banerjee 2002 ACJ 337 (SC), the Electricity Board adopted a defence that electric lines were illegally hooked for pilferage purposes. This court said that the Board cannot be held to be negligent on the said fact situation but the question of strict liability was not taken up in that case.
19. In view of the aforesaid exposition of law it has become plain as noon that the claimants were entitled to the benefit of damages under the concept of no fault liability. Quite apart from the above, if I allow myself to say so, the Board and its functionaries did not adduce any specific evidence to controvert the asseverations made by the claimants. It was not the case of the Board that the telephone line had fallen on the electric wire just before the accident occurred. The Board deals with electricity and it has the obligation to see that not. only its wires should be maintained but no such thing happens by which accident occurs. When the telephone wire had fallen on the electric wire it was incumbent on the part of the Board to remove the same in quite promptitude. The Board has not shown any kind of immediacy or promptness. Hence, I am of the considered view that the damages granted by the Collector on the principle of doctrine of no fault liability cannot be found fault with.
20. Consequently, both writ petitions, being devoid of merit, stand dismissed without any order as to costs.