File photo of the Madras High Court.
File photo of the Madras High Court.

Attacked by elephant when she was 3, 23-year-old finally gets compensation

The court ordered the state to provide 25 lakh compensation and employment on compassionate grounds as the woman, now 23, had suffered permanent grievous injuries to her throat.
By Divya Chandrababu
PUBLISHED ON FEB 02, 2021 03:44 PM IST

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has ordered monetary compensation and compassionate employment for a woman injured by a temple elephant in 1999 when she was three years old.

The court ordered the state to provide 25 lakh compensation and employment on compassionate grounds as the woman, now 23, had suffered permanent grievous injuries to her throat.

“Life does not mean mere survival or living an immobile or animal existence,” observed Justice Krishnan Ramasamy.

Medical records state that her wind and food pipe were completely damaged and it was diagnosed as laryngopharyngeal traumatic injury which isn't curable. She has sought treatment in at least nine hospitals. An artificial tracheal tube was inserted in her throat for her to breathe and is dependent on a liquid-only diet for sustenance.

“It is the basic expectation of every human being to live a healthy and active life. If such expectation is breached due to the negligence of the state or its agencies, then it becomes an obligation of the state to do the needful,” the court said. It added that her right to life was impaired and she couldn’t speak, be with her friends or had to deal with ‘scattered marital prospects’ due to the incident.

Her father has taken care of her medical expenses with his meagre earnings as transport corporation employee. The court observed his financial support “isn’t possible forever”. With her BE qualification in Computer Science, the court directed that she is “competent to execute any computer related work at the office of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department or any temples” under the department.

The petitioner had visited Arulmigu Maariamman Temple in Trichy district in 1999 with her parents when a temple elephant went rogue and the crowd ran around in fear.

The state had disputed this version and submitted that the mother and daughter had fallen into a garbage carrier vehicle after a mahout had fallen down creating chaos which the court rejected citing evidence from newspaper reports from 1999 which carried the petitioner’s photo with injuries.

“If it is not so, there was no need for the mahout to visit the child at the hospital....the Mahout's conscience did not allow him to stay back in the temple without visiting the child,” the court order read.

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