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Swimming pool authorities cannot escape liability

india Updated: Jun 09, 2012 23:24 IST
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If you think this is the perfect time to teach your child how to swim, you are absolutely right. Even the most reluctant of learners will not be able to resist the cool water in this weather.

However, make sure that the swimming pool that you chose for the purpose is licenced, clean and safe in all respects.

I would particularly advice you to check on the following safety factors:

(a) Do the people managing the swimming pool record without fail the entry and exit of every swimmer?
(b) Do they ensure that the pool is not crowded?
(c) Are there adequate trained life guards and coaches?
(d) Are there first-aid facilities in case of an accident?
(e) Is there adequate arrangement for transporting a victim to hospital without delay?
(f) Is the pool properly lit?
(g) Is there a proper arrangement to ensure that learners do not stray deep into the pool?

Some of the cases pertaining to swimming pool deaths decided by the apex consumer court highlight how the absence of some of these safety features can lead to tragic accidents.

In the case of Kedar Dole, for example, the apex consumer court found Shikshan Prasarak Mandali, Pune — which offered coaching classes for swimming — guilty of negligence on several counts:

(a) No life-saving mechanism was available at the pool site to deal with accidents.
(b) There was no net or partition in the pool to prevent learners from entering the deep side of the pool.
(c) The coach left Kedar unattended at the pool and the life guards were also not attentive.
(d) Even after it was discovered that Kedar was missing, precious time was lost in looking for him in the bathroom and elsewhere instead of the pool.

Similarly, in the case of Sanjeev, son of SA Patil, who drowned in the swimming pool run by the Belgaum Aquatic Club in 1992, the safety measures in place at the pool were so poor that the boy’s absence was not even noticed. When the boy’s parents came searching for him, they were told that he had left long ago.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in this case held the Aquatic Club as well as the corporation of the city of Belgaum (whose pool was used by the club for conducting the classes) responsible for Sanjeev’s death.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not discouraging you from taking your child for swimming lessons. I am only drawing your attention to the necessary safety aspects that should be present at the pool so that your child is safe.

D Viswanathan: I wanted my six-year-old daughter to take a course in swimming, which was being offered by a club near our house. The application form requires me to sign a paper, saying that I take complete responsibility for any untoward incident involving my ward at the pool and that I will not hold the club liable whatsoever. Should I sign this form or not?

Answer: You can very well refuse to sign it. But even if you are forced to sign on the dotted line (because the club refused to admit your child without your signing it), rest assured that the club cannot escape responsibility for any negligence on its part by pointing to this one-sided, blatantly unfair term.

In Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad vs Shri Abdul Azeez, the National Consumer Commission made two important points:
(a) That the pool authorities cannot escape liability by printing an unilateral condition that “swimmers shall swim at their own risk”.
(b) Whether a person is a learner or a swimmer, fully trained, adequate number of life guards have to be provided for their safety.

pgirimaji@gmail.com