Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Vineet Kothari, J., decided a writ petition filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution, wherein the Court quashed the penalty imposed by the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission upon the petitioner-Inspector of Police; holding such power to be ultra vires.

A penalty of Rupees Ten thousand was imposed on the petitioner on the ground of service deficiency in arresting two juveniles and producing them as adults before the competent court instead of the Juvenile Justice Board. Learned counsel for the petitioner argued that Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, permits the Human Rights Commission only to recommend the government or authority concerned to make payment of compensation to the victim or his family. However, vide the impugned order, the Commission imposed a penalty of Rupees Ten thousand and further directed it to be deducted from salary of the petitioner. The counsel prayed for quashing of the said order.

The High Court perused the record and considered the submissions made on behalf of the parties. The Court also perused Section 18 of the said Act and found favour with the contentions of learned counsel for the petitioner mentioned hereinabove. The Court was of the opinion that the impugned order passed by the Commission could not be construed to be in the nature of mere recommendations as envisaged in the section. On the contrary, it imposed penalty and directed its recovery from the petitioner, which power is not conferred to the Commission under Section 18 of the Act.

Consequently, the Court allowed the writ petition and quashed the impugned order. [Venkatesh v. State of Karnataka, WP No. 55766 of 2016 (GM-RES), order dated 13.2.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: In a recent order given by the Bench of Sanjay K. Agrawal J., it was held that the Human Rights Commission can only make a recommendation, and that it has no jurisdiction to pass an order directing payment of compensation.

The Commission in an earlier order had directed the petitioner to pay an amount of Rs 6,22,000 to the respondent as compensation towards illegal installation of six electricity polls and electricity line in an agricultural field. Even though Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 talks about the entitled compensation, Section 19(a) of the Act explicitly mentions that the Commission has no authority to grant compensation and can only recommend the same.

It was also observed by the Supreme Court in the matter of Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. v. Century Textiles and Industries Ltd.(2017) 5 SCC 143 that the power to award compensation is with the District Magistrate, which furthermore elucidated on the jurisdiction of HRC. Much reliance was given to recent Supreme Court judgments like Indian Handcrafts Emporium v. Union of India, (2003) 7 SCC 589; N.C. Dhoundial v. Union of India, (2004) 2 SCC 579 and Rajesh Das v. Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission, 2010 SCC OnLine Mad 4543:   2010 (5) CTC 589 which ultimately concluded that HRC is a recommendatory body and it has no jurisdiction to pass an order directing payment of compensation and hence the previous order was just a recommendation and not an order. [Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board v. Chhattisgarh Human Rights Commission, 2017 SCC OnLine Chh 1415, decided 7.11.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court:  Deciding the question as to whether orders of Human Rights Commission to make payment of compensation or damages are mere recommendations, the Bench of Dr Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, C.J. and Yashwant Varma, J. observed that  “Governed as we are by the rule of law and by the fundamental norms of the protection of life and liberty and human dignity under a constitutional order, it will not be open to the State Government to disregard the view of the Commission The State Government is at liberty to challenge the order of the Commission on merits since no appeal is provided by the Act. But it cannot in the absence of the order being set aside, modified or reviewed disregard the order at its own discretion.

The deceased was an undertrial prisoner lodged in the district jail in Muzaffarnagar and suffering from chronic lung disease. The treatment record indicated that he was provided treatment only from 15-5-2012 and he died on 21-5-2012. Though he had been admitted to jail on 9-9-2011, until 15-5-2012, neither medical check up was carried out to control or treat his lung disease nor was he sent to a competent medical facility until his condition had deteriorated. After an inquiry, finding a case of negligence on the part of jail officials in not providing adequate medical treatment, the Commission recommended the grant of compensation of Rs 2 lakhs to his next of kin. Subsequently, the Commission directed the State Government to report compliance of the same along with proof of payment, which order is under challenge here.

The petitioner’s contention was that the power of the Commission under Section 18(a)(i) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 was to “recommend” to the Government or authority concerned to make payment of compensation or damages to the complainant or victim or the members of his family and since the Commission’s power being recommendatory in nature, the directive to furnish proof of compliance was contrary to law and liable to be set aside.

The basic question is whether the use of the expression “recommend” in Section 18(a) can be treated by the State Government or by an authority as merely an opinion or a suggestion which can be ignored with impunity. The Court observed that “to place such a construction on the expression “recommend” would dilute the efficacy of the Commission and defeat the statutory object underlying the constitution of such a body. The Commission is entitled to do so where it finds either a violation of human rights or a negligence in the prevention of a violation of human rights.”

The Court held that  “While a challenge to the order of the Commission is available in exercise of the power of judicial review, the State Government subject to this right, is duty bound to comply with the order. Otherwise the purpose of enacting the legislation would be defeated. The provisions of the Act which have been made to enforce the constitutional protection of life and liberty by enabling the Commission to grant compensation for violations of human rights would be rendered nugatory. A construction which will produce that result cannot be adopted and must be rejected.”  [State of Uttar Pradesh  v. National Human Rights Commission, Writ Petition (C) No. 15570 of 2016, decided on  April 8, 2016]