Punjab and Haryana High Court Sets ₹10k Compensation per Tooth Mark in Stray Animal Attacks

In a recent ruling, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has taken a decisive step to ensure fair compensation for victims of stray animal attacks in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh. The judgment, dated August 18, 2023, addresses 193 petitions seeking compensation for injuries or deaths resulting from encounters with stray or wild animals on public streets and national highways.

The court acknowledged the confusion among victims and their families regarding the proper authorities for seeking compensation. Noting the lack of awareness and insufficient financial assistance, the court established committees in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh to streamline the compensation application process. Guidelines were also issued to expedite the decision-making on compensation claims.

Of particular note is the court’s directive on compensation for stray dog bites. The judgment stipulates a minimum compensation of ₹10,000 per tooth mark of the dog. Additionally, in cases where flesh has been pulled off the skin, the compensation should be a minimum of ₹20,000 per “0.2 cm” of the wound. The court clarified that compensation amounts would be in accordance with the respective state policies, with Chandigarh following Punjab’s policy for being more beneficial.

Importantly, the court emphasized that seeking compensation through the committee would not prevent claimants from approaching a civil court if necessary.

Justice Vinod S Bhardwaj expressed concern about the broader issue of increasing fatalities and the growing number of stray animals on roads. The court criticized the government for neglecting the problem, highlighting the daily suffering of people due to injuries and the under-recording of incidents. The court stressed that the denial of the problem does not address it but exacerbates citizens’ agony.

The court reminded the government of its strict liability to compensate the public for failing to protect them from animal attacks. It pointed out that the government collects road tax/user fees and local bodies levy various taxes/fees/cess, indicating their responsibility to ensure public safety.

To expedite compensation for victims of animal attacks or vehicle collisions, the court outlined a procedure for timely action:

  1. Daily Diary Report (DDR): The Station House Officer (SHO) must record a DDR promptly upon receiving information about an accident due to a stray or wild animal.
  2. Verification and Statement Recording: The police officer should verify the claim, record witness statements, and prepare a site plan and summary.
  3. Forwarding Information: A copy of the report should be sent to the claimant, and the complete report should be provided within 30 days of receiving the information.

The court’s proactive measures aim to address the immediate needs of victims while highlighting the responsibility of authorities in safeguarding citizens from animal-related incidents. The ruling stands as a crucial step towards ensuring justice and relief for those affected by such unfortunate events.

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