Delhi High Court today held the National Zoological Park here liable to pay compensation to the kin of a youth who died after being mauled by a white tiger in 2014, saying the zoo had not taken adequate precautions to stop anyone from climbing into the enclosure despite knowing that the feline was a dangerous animal.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath awarded compensation of Rs six lakh, minus Rs one lakh already paid, to the kin of 22-year-old Maqsood, who had climbed into the tiger's enclosure on September 23, 2014 and was mauled to death by it.
The court said the zoo was in clear breach of statutory duties provided under the Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972, and other regulations.
"In our opinion, there were inadequate precautions taken by respondent 1 (zoo) to guard against any visitor climbing the stand-off barrier which is not very high. Further, there was enough time, which as per the zoo authority was five minutes, during which the zoo authority could have reacted to rescue and save the life of Maqsood after he fell in the moat.
"A collapsible rope ladder could have been dropped to help Maqsood climb up the moat wall. There was none available. A trained rescue if available could have taken other steps to rescue the victim.
"There is clear breach of statutory duties by respondent 1 as provided under the Wild Life (Protection) Act and other regulations enacted thereunder as stated above," the bench said in its verdict.
The court further said it was a fit case to hold the zoo liable under principles of absolute liability as it was aware that a tiger is a dangerous animal capable of causing injuries or death to a visitor.
"The zoo would be liable for any injury or death caused to a visitor by a tiger under principles of strict liability. Respondent 1 is, in these facts, liable to compensate the petitioner (Maqsood's wife) for the unfortunate death of Maqsood and monetary loss as a consequence thereof," it said.
Noting that the zoo would not normally be a profitable organisation and in light of the facts on record, the court awarded Rs six lakh as compensation, as opposed to Rs 50 lakh sought by the deceased's wife on the ground that he was the only earning member in the family.
The woman, in her plea, had claimed that the government was liable to pay compensation for their "act of negligence and safety and security lapses which resulted in the tragic death of 22-year-old Maqsood".