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College not responsible for death of student who jumped into sea voluntarily during beach cleaning activity: Madras High Court

Justice SM Subramaniam said that the student had jumped into the sea for a bath despite the college authorities having prohibited all participants from doing so.

He had voluntarily taken a risk and, therefore, the principle of volenti non fit injuria could be squarely applied to the case, the Court said.

“Since it was the voluntary act of two students for jumping into the sea, the principle of “Volenti Non Fit Injuria” squarely applies to the facts of this case. Therefore, none can be blamed for the voluntary act of the deceased student. The deceased student at the time of drowning was aged about 21 years and capable of taking independent decision. He had not followed the instructions given by the organisers. Out of 54 students, two students alone jumped into the sea without even informing the Organisers. While so, the organisers cannot be held responsible for the voluntary act of the deceased student,” the High Court ruled.

The Court, therefore, refused to grant a compensation of ₹25 lakh to the family of the student but instead granted a fixed compensation by adopting multiplier method and directed the respondent college to pay ₹5 lakh to the deceased’s kin.

The Court was hearing a petition filed by the deceased student’s family members. As per the plea, they belonged to a poor family. The deceased was a third year student in a private engineering college in Kancheepuram district in Tamil Nadu.

On September 27, 2014, the college organised a ‘coastal cleaning’ event, which it told the Court, was a voluntary event and was part of the National Service Scheme (NSS).

Fifty-four students participated in the event and though all participants had been prohibited from going into the sea by the college authorities, two students jumped into the sea for a bath after the cleaning activity was over.

One of them drowned and passed away.

The petitioner’s counsel told the Court that the College had failed to inform the district collectorate and the local police about the event, and that it did not have the requisite permission from the district authorities for the beach cleaning activity.

It was also submitted that there were no life guards or coast guard authorities to rescue the drowning students. On seeing that the two boys were drowning, another student, one of the participants had jumped after them and managed to save one of them, they told the Court.

By not informing the authorities of the event in advance, the college had been negligent and was, thus, liable to pay the compensation amount of ₹25 lakh, it was argued.

Source: Barandbench

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