NEW DELHI: A hotel having a swimming pool for its guests owes a duty of care, the Supreme Court has said while holding the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) guilty for "deficiency of service" for deploying a lifeguard as a bartender in a beach resort run by it.
A person died in the swimming pool of Hotel Samudra run by KTDC in the southern coastal town of Kovalam in March 2006.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta said that allowing or designating a lifeguard to perform the duties of a bartender is a clear deviation from the duty of care.
"A hotel, which provides a swimming pool for its guests owes a duty of care. The duty of care arises from the fact that unless the pool is properly maintained and supervised by trained personnel, it is likely to become a potential source of hazard and danger. Every guest who enters the pool may not have the same level of proficiency as a swimmer," the bench said in its recent verdict.
It said the hotel management can reasonably foresee the consequence which may arise if the pool and its facilities are not properly maintained.
The bench said the observance of safety requires good physical facilities but in addition, human supervision over the guests, who use the swimming pool, was also needed.
"Allowing or designating a lifeguard to perform the duties of a bartender is a clear deviation from the duty of care. Mixing drinks does not augur well in preserving the safety of swimmers. The appellant (KTDC) could have reasonably foreseen that there could be potential harm caused by the absence of a dedicated lifeguard," it said.
The bench said that the failure to satisfy the duty of care would amount to a "deficiency of service on the part of the hotel management".
Dealing with the safety norms, the bench said that National Institute of Water Sports in the Union Ministry of Tourism cast an obligation upon the person or entity which provides a swimming pool in a hotel to appoint a lifeguard.
"The lifeguard should not be given any other duties which would distract him/her from the work of a lifeguard," it said.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by the managing director of KTDC against an order of the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) holding him guilty for deficiency of service and awarding Rs 62.5 lakh to the family of the deceased.
"The reasoning of the NCDRC to the effect that a lifeguard on duty should not be distracted by virtue of being assigned other duties is eminently fair and proper," it said.
The bench said that the death of the guest was due to drowning as there was no evidence of the presence of alcohol in the body.
"Considering the delay in the response by the lifeguard who was preoccupied with bartending duties, the drowning was a direct consequence of negligence," it said.
The court said that the amount which has been awarded by the NCDRC shall carry interest at the rate of 9 per cent per month from the date of the institution of the consumer complaint till the date of payment.
It directed that full payment of the amount be made by KTDC to the complainant -- the wife of the deceased -- within four months.
On a family holiday, Satyendra Pratap Singh and his brother entered the swimming pool in between 6.30 and 7 PM.
All of a sudden, Singh became unconscious and sank into the pool.
A foreigner, who was in the vicinity in the pool, lifted him out of the water and he was taken to a hospital.
He died at 9.30 PM on the same day.
An FIR was lodged the next day and a case was filed before NCDRC which in 2015 held that there was a deficiency of service on the part of the management of the hotel, primarily for the reason that the lifeguard on duty had also been assigned the task of being a bartender.