ANIMAL LIABILITY IN INDIA; PART-4

1).   ANIMALS MANSUETAE NATURAE-:

Under this heading the animals in question are usually harmless by nature, but the liability arises when they sometimes manifest a vicious propensity which is not common to them, and the defendant had knowledge of the said propensity. For example, in the case of Dr. M. Mayi Gowda vs. state of Karnataka and ors1, the appellant a native of Bannur, T. Narasipur Taluk, Mysore district, a doctor by profession ran a clinic in Bannur, he visited the Dussera festival with his family organised by the respondents on 7/10/1992, the appellant bought tickets for an elephant ride with his family there. According to him they boarded on a cradle loosely tied on top of the elephant, after completing the ride the elephant stood on the dismounting platform for riders to step down, the appellant’s children were in the process of stepping down when the cradle tilted to the left side causing imbalance and subsequently the children fell down but had a narrow escape from being trampled by the elephant, but the appellant whose left thigh was pierced by the hook of the tilted HOWDA and it was at that moment when he was bent leftwards the elephant got hold of the appellant’s neck through his trunk

1 Dr. M. Mayi Gowda vs. State of Karnataka and Others, I (2003) C.P.J. 243 N.C., (N.C.D.R. 2002).

and threw him away, he landed on an electric poll breaking his ribs and resulting several grievous injuries on his body including his head, and also loss of eyesight in both the eyes. The appellant first went to the Karnataka consumer dispute redressal commission, claiming compensation as a consumer, the state commission rejected the complaint stating that the accident occurred due to the unusual behaviour of the elephant and the complainant was unable to prove negligence on part of the defendants. Aggrieved by this order the plaintiff appealed in the national consumer dispute redressal commission, which subsequently reversed the state commission’s order and granted compensation to him amounting to RS. 200000/- with 12% interest from the date of the complaint till payment.

In this judgement what was noteworthy was that the bench considered the elephant as a non-dangerous animal, in English law it is stated that the elephant is an animal dangerous by nature, but in India, elephants are more than often tamed/domesticated, the elephant as stated before also in this series, is used for many religious processions, marriages, and also for leisure purposes as it was in the above case, the main contention is that, the elephants are bred in captivity by mahouts in India and some even teenage mahouts are highly skilled in their job. In this case the elephant though was harmless by nature, but it turned vicious because as according to the mahouts and forest guards present there, some people from the crowd pricked the elephant with sharp sticks and burning cigarettes, which subsequently excited the elephant and it became vicious and out of control. The court ruled that the respondents knew the vicious nature of the elephant and it was their responsibility to control the animal as its keeper, and failing to do so resulted in grievous injuries to the appellant to the extent of loss of eyesight in both the eyes for which the respondents are liable.

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