Srinagar- In a landmark judgment that is likely to trigger a major debate in the country, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that in cases involving dog bites, financial assistance shall be at a minimum of Rs 10,000 per tooth mark and a minimum of Rs 20,000 per 0.2 cm of wound, holding state “primarily responsible” to pay compensation to the victims.
“The State shall be primarily responsible to pay compensation with a right to recover the same from the defaulting Agencies/ Instrumentalities of the State and/or the private person, if any,” the High Court said in its order on a petition seeking compensation in a dogbite case.
The Punjab and Haryana HC bench led by Justice Vinod S Bhardwaj, was hearing a bunch of 193 petitions relating to attacks by stray animals.
“The award shall be passed by the committees within a period of four months of the claims being filed before it along with the requisite documents… The state shall be primarily responsible for paying compensation, with a right to recover the same from the defaulting agencies or instrumentalities of the state or private persons, if any,” the court said.
The petitions dealt with the payment of compensation to victims or their family members for occurrences and accidents caused by a stray, wild animal suddenly appearing in front of a vehicle, resulting in injury or death. The occurrences took place in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh on state and national highways, municipal streets and roads, and streets and roads outside municipal bounds.
Besides dogbite cases, the court also asked Punjab, Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh to form a committee to decide compensation to be paid in cases of accidents caused or attacks by stray animals. These include animals such as cows, bulls, oxen, donkeys, dogs, nilgai, buffaloes, and wild, pet and deserted animals.
The court further said that notwithstanding that such a large number of cases are being reported and even instituted before the courts, the state has shown no inclination to address the issue.
“They have chosen to look the other way, as people suffer injuries every day and underplay the magnitude of the problem by underrecording the incidents. The denial of the existence of a problem does not redress the problem but only escalates the agony of the citizen,” Justice Vinod S Bhardwaj said.
“The said Committee shall be comprised of Deputy Commissioner of the concerned District as its Chairperson and shall have the following member (a) Superintendent of Police/Deputy Superintendent of Police (Traffic), (b) Sub Divisional Magistrate of the concerned area, (c) The District Transport Officer, (d) Representative of the Chief Medical Officer,” the judgment said.
The court further directed that copies of the judgement be submitted to the offices of the Principal Secretary (Home) and the Directors General of Police of Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh for immediate action and compliance.
The landmark ruling comes at a time when the country is witnessing a huge debate on stray dog menace.
According to reports, 307 persons died due to rabies in the country last year with New Delhi reporting a maximum cases — 48 — followed by West Bengal (38) and 29 deaths each in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
These figures were shared by Union minister of state for health and family welfare, SP Singh Baghel, during the monsoon session in Lok Sabha in July this year.
Before 2001, municipal authorities could euthanise stray dogs to keep public places safe. In 2001 came the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules. These rules created a separate category called “street dogs” and said they should be sterilised and immunised by “participation of animal welfare organizations, private individuals and the local authority”. Lack of adequate funds and manpower have frequently stalled such exercises, leading to a spike in stray population.
The 2001 rules were silent on euthanising stray dogs except those “incurably ill” or “mortally wounded”. They also said dogs caught for sterlisation and vaccination should be “released in the same area”.
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