Families of Bahawalpur tragedy victims should be suing for damages/compensation
OGRA in their report have declared that the responsibility of maintaining standards lay with Shell Pakistan since it was the licensee of OGRA.
The Constitution of a country is a kind of social contract, which binds people, society and a State. The terms of the contract foster feelings of interdependence of belonging to an entity and of adherence to law. An honest commitment to the goals set out in the Constitution ensures promotion of nationhood and stability of the system. In view of Article 4 read with Article 5(2) of the Constitution, it is the duty of each and every organ of the State and people of Pakistan to work within the framework of Constitution. Our Constitution contains Chapter I relating “Fundamental Rights” in which life of human being is given due importance. It requires everyone to work for the welfare of the people of Pakistan. It is high time to promote the law of tort so that the people must understand that we cannot live as a nation without performing our duties within the framework of law.
The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) has already held that Shell Pakistan Ltd responsible for the Ahmedpur Sharqia oil tanker explosion, death toll from which climbed to 214. OGRA has imposed a penalty of Rs10 million on Shell Pakistan and has additionally ordered it to pay Rs1m each to the families of the deceased and Rs500, 000 each to the injured victims of the incident. OGRA in their report has declared that the responsibility of maintaining standards lay with Shell Pakistan since it was the licensee of OGRA. Moreover, the tanker did not meet the technical standards required to carry 50,000 litres of petrol and it did not meet the regulations of OGRA and the Department of Explosives. Additionally, the tanker was carrying a fake fitness certificate, which is a clear violation of law in terms of Motor Vehicle Ordinance, 1965. Whereas the general rule is that driver of heavy vehicle on the busy roads must take extra care and must not act in a manner, which may be dangerous to life of others. The slightest carelessness of a driver of a heavy vehicle may badly disturb the traffic on the road and bring the serious consequence of a fatal accident.
Mere framing of law does not provide good results unless the law is strictly implemented by all the sections of the society in letter and spirit without fear, favour and favouritism. To achieve the goal of ensuring every citizen and organ of the State on a right path the nation, as a whole, has to honour the commitment in terms of the Constitution and law. One of the modes to achieve this goal is to file a suit for damages against the offenders by the aggrieved persons. It is the duty of the members of the Bar Associations and Bar Councils to educate the people and to file suits for damages against the offenders apart from the criminal proceedings. It is also the duty and obligation of media to provide to cultivate awareness of rights specially law of tort, which will ultimately bring and compel every authority and functionary to work within the framework of law.
Jurisprudence of compensation for motor accidents must develop in the direction of no-fault liability and the determination of the quantum must be liberal, not niggardly since the law values life and limb in free country in generous scales. Road accident is one of the top killers in our country. Time has come when the law officers (lawyers) themself take special care to see that innocent victims do not suffer and drivers and owners escape liability merely because of some doubt here or some obscurity. It has been noted that in fatal accident cases, Multinational Oil Companies managed to escape from their liability by adopting technical grounds. It is the time when Government must consider seriously no-fault liability by legislation. The party responsible for accident must deposit a particular amount in Court before permission to defend is granted to them so that widows, orphan can at least get their bread and butter from the said amount.
In the Case of Jalil Ahmad Khan v. Mst. Kulsoom reported in 1968 SCMR 448 and in Sri Manmatha Nath Kuri v. Moulvi Muhammad Mokhlesur Rehman reported in PLD 1969 SC 565 the Honourable Supreme Court held that, parents may recover for the loss of the probability that the deceased child would have contributed towards their maintenance and children may recover for the loss of education, comfort and position in society which they would have enjoyed if the father had lived and maintained the income which had died with him. The basis of the assessment is not the requirement of plaintiff but the money value of the assistance, which the deceased might probably have given had he continued to live.
It may be said that ordinarily the Company is not liable for the tortious acts of his servants or sub-contractors. This general rule is, however, subject to certain exceptions. The master would be liable for the wrongful acts of his servants at least in two cases. The first class of cases arc those where the tortious act itself is committed under the authority of the master. In such cases, there is no difficulty about fastening liability of the master. The master, having himself authorised to commit the tortious act, becomes in a way privy to the wrongful act itself. In such a case the servant will be treated as the agent of the master for committing the act, and the master would, therefore, be equally liable with the servant for the damages suffered by the party as a result of the tort committed by the servant.
It is a well settled law that a master (Company) is liable even for acts which he was not authorised provided that they are so connected with the acts which he has authorised that they may rightly be regarded as modes, although improper modes, of doing them. It is important to refer the case of Beard v. London General Omnibus Co. ((1900) 2 Q.B. 539) where the principle laid down was that the master (Company) would be liable for the tortious act of his servant (Employee) even if it was shown that the said act was the result of negligence of the servant acting within the scope of his employment. In a case reported in PLD 1951 Sindh 24, It was held that the master was liable for the negligence of his servant inasmuch as though the driver was guilty of a breach of duty to the master, the accident occurred within the scope of his employment as the driver owed a duty to users of the road and to his master. Furthermore, In Nusrat Jehan Begum v. Karachi Municipal Corporation and 2 others (PLD 1980 Kar. 146), it was held that if owner or his licensee or his employee leaves a vehicle with some mechanical defect in it on a public highway and if the vehicle starts moving by the intervention of a stranger causing injury to persons or property, the owner incurs tortious liability.