Municipal Corporation of Delhi v Subhagwanti Case Summary 1966

Municipal Corporation of Delhi v Subhagwanti Case Summary 1966

In the Municipal Corporation of Delhi v Subhagwanti case, the MCD owed a responsibility of maintenance of a tower clock on a traffic square of the city, escaped from maintaining it properly because of which it fell and caused the death of many, including the plaintiff. Court held the corporation liable for not maintaining the clock tower.

Facts of MCD vs Subhagwanti case:

Subhagwanti died because of the collapse of the Clock Tower at Chandni Chowk, which belonged to Municipal Corp. of Delhi.

3 Legal heirs of Subhagwanti filed 3 different suits for damages in trial Court alleging MCD of being negligent.

The clock tower was never examined seriously to check for defects, making it unsafe. Trial Court decided in favor of Subhagwanti.

MCD appealed in High Court. High Court also held MCD liable for negligence and used res ipsa loquitur.

High Court relied on evidence by BS Puri, Retired Chief Engineer, and Mr. Chakravarty, Municipal Engineer. Both of them said the condition of the top floor was poor (exceeding its life span).

Mr. Puri was of opinion that if examination had been done on time, it could have prevented the fall. The mortar used also lost its cementing property.

This Appeal is by MCD in Supreme Court against the decision of HC and the Trial Court.

Legal Issue:

The fundamental question presented for determination in these appeals is whether the appellant was negligent in looking after and maintaining the Clock Tower and was liable to pay damages to the death of the persons resulting from its fall.

Ratio by Supreme Court:

  • SC rejected arguments of appellant (MCD). [Argument of appellant- HC wrongly used res ipsa loquitur. It was inevitable which could not have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care].
  • SC said, “we know that in a normal case of negligence, burden of proof lies on Plaintiff/aggrieved, but this is the case of res ipsa loquitur because circumstances of this accident were exclusively under control of MCD.

4. The accident would not have occurred if there was no negligence by MCD. The accident itself suffices to show the negligence by MCD.


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