Quashing of FIR against building contractor based on settlement by payment of compensation would defeat ends of justice

Delhi High Court:  Deciding a petition seeking quashing of the FIR premised on a settlement arrived at before the Deputy Labour Commissioner wherein compensation was paid by the petitioner contractor to the legal representatives of the deceased labourer who was buried under the debris of a basement during its excavation, the Court held that the nature of the accident  is prima facie suggestive of gross negligence and  it would defeat the ends of justice if the criminal proceedings were to be quashed. The Court was of the view that quashing of criminal proceedings in the present case would create and set an unhealthy precedent, and send wrong signals to the society at large.

Police investigation revealed that the excavation of the basement was being carried out in a dangerous manner without any safety measures resulting in several labourers being trapped and injured and one of them, Badri Prasad succumbed to his injuries. FIR was lodged under Sections 288/337/304-A of the Penal Code, 1860.

The petitioner contended that a sum of Rs 4,70,600 by way of compensation was paid to the LRs of the deceased labourer, who did not want any further action in the matter and had no objection if the FIR and the proceedings arising therefrom were quashed. Similar affidavits of the other respondent labourers were also filed stating that an amicable settlement of all disputes had been reached  without any pressure and coercion.

Dismissing the petition, the Bench of Vipin Sanghi, J. held that “… quashing the FIR in question at this stage would certainly send a very wrong signal not only to the petitioner, but the whole society at large and particularly to other builders, contractors and other agencies engaged in undertaking construction work, that even if they are grossly negligent in taking preventive measures so as to prevent predictable accidents – which may lead to serious injury and even loss of life, they could get away by paying some compensation to the heirs of the injured/ deceased. In fact, such like contractors/ builders/ agencies may find it more economical to risk the lives of their workforce, and in the eventuality of an accident occurring, to pay compensation, than to undertake all safety measures which, if taken, would prevent such accidents in the first place.”  [Bhajan Lal Sharma v. State (Govt. of  NCT of Delhi), 2016 SCC OnLine Del 4234, decided on August 1, 2016]

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