The Orissa High Court grants a compensation award of 10 lakh for the death of a 7-year-old girl in a school kitchen wall collapse.

In the case of, Madhav Soren v. State of Odisha and Others (judgement dated-11.08.2022), the Orissa High Court mandated that the father of a 7-year-old girl who perished when a kitchen side wall within the school grounds collapsed be compensated in the amount of Rs. 10 Lakhs.

Facts: The father of the 7-year-old girl, who filed the case, went to the High Court to seek restitution for the death of her daughter, who was crushed by the falling wall of the kitchen inside the Kolhabeda Ashram School’s grounds. In essence, his daughter was enrolled in Class 1 at Kolhabeda Ashram School in the Keonjhar district’s Ghasipura Block. She was a student at the aforementioned school and was staying in the hostel. On October 3, 2013, at around 6.45 am, the victim and a few other students were brushing their teeth next to a recently built kitchen shed when the side wall of the said kitchen shed collapsed. The victim was crushed beneath the falling wall while other students were able to flee. She was taken in an ambulance to the Community Health Center (CHC) in Keshadurapal, where the doctor pronounced her dead. The Court instructed all the Collectors of the Districts in Odisha to ensure strict adherence to the Supreme Court’s directives, citing similar incidents and its prior orders directing the state government to take adequate safety measures so that no child dies or suffers injuries in any incident (In Re: Measures for Prevention of Fatal Accidents of Small Children due to their falling into abandoned bore wells and tube wells v. Union of India).

Judgement: The Chief Justice S. Muralidhar bench noted that all of the safety precautions that the State was directed to put in place would have been strictly followed, and that the girl’s death was completely avoidable and unnecessary “…during the investigation, it has already been proven that the State authorities acted negligently when they built a kitchen on the school grounds using subpar materials. The small child’s death was completely avoidable and unnecessary. Without a doubt, the State has responsibility for death. The Court stated the death of the innocent school-aged child in the present case appeared to fit a pattern of other such incidents in the Schools in Odisha, and that the tragedy would not have happened if all safety precautions carefully implemented as directed by the State had been followed. Last but not least, the Court reaffirmed its ruling in Prabir Kumar Das v. State of Odisha, a 2013 (1) OLR 154, in which it was decided that the parents of the murdered children were entitled to compensation due to the State functionaries’ negligence and the State is obligated to provide compensation. The State was also instructed in that instance “to take due action against its functionaries, who are responsible for the said tragic incidence in accordance with legislation.” The State was additionally instructed to pay for all of the injured children’s medical costs.

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