Orders of the Human Rights Commissions
There are two major issues relating to orders passed by National Human Rights Commission which are faced by litigants:
1. Since there is no appeal against the orders of the Human Rights Commissions, what is the remedy?
2. Are the orders of the Human Rights Commissions simply advisory or binding.
An undertrial prisoner, Omendra (son of Brahm Dutt) died on 21 May 2012 while in the custody of the District Jail, Muzaffarnagar. The prisoner was lodged in the district jail on 9 September 2011. He was under treatment of the jail hospital from 15 May 2012. On 21 May 2012, his condition became serious and he was referred to the district hospital where he was declared “brought dead”.
During the course of enquiry under Section 17 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, on 2 September 2014, the National Human Rights Commission issued a show cause notice to the Chief Secretary of the UP State Government. In response to the notice, the Superintendent of the District Jail, Muzaffarnagar submitted a reply on 10 October 2014.
After examining the facts in detail, the Commission issued an order on 4 April 2015 holding that a clear case of violation of Human Rights was made out in the death of the deceased under-trial prisoner Omendra which deserved to be compensated. Keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the case, the Commission recommended to the Govt. of Uttar Pradesh through its Chief Secretary to pay a compensation of Rs.2,00,000/- (Rupees Two Lakhs only) to the next-of-kin of the deceased prisoner Omendra. The Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh, was directed to submit compliance report along with proof of payment within 8 weeks.
(The National Human Rights Commission has discussed the facts in detail in its order.)
Writ filed by the State Government
The State Government challenged the order dated 28 April 2015, communicating the decision to award compensation and submit compliance report by filing a Writ in the Allahabad High Court.
The State Government claimed that that the power of the Commission under Section 18 (a) (i) of the Act is to “recommend” to the concerned Government or authority to make payment of compensation or damages to the complainant or to the victim or the members of his family. Hence, it has submitted that the power of the Commission being recommendatory in nature, the directive to furnish proof of compliance is contrary to law and is liable to be set aside.
Decision of the Allahabad High Court
The Allahabad High Court has held that :
First, the enactment of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 is an intrinsic part of the enforcement of the fundamental right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution. Equally, by enacting the legislation, Parliament has evinced an intention to enact legislation in compliance with India’s obligations under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Secondly, the Commission is a high powered body which has been vested with exhaustive powers to order an investigation, conduct enquiries ,etc.
The Allahabad High Court has held that an authority or a government which is aggrieved by the order of the Commission is entitled to challenge the order. Since no appeal is provided by the Act against an order of the Commission, the power of judicial review is available when an order of the Commission is questioned.
The Allahabad High Court has held that having regard to the importance of the rule of law which is but a manifestation of the guarantee of fair treatment under Article 14 and of the basic principles of equality, it would not be possible to accept the construction that the State Government can ignore the recommendations of the Commission under Section 18 at its discretion or in its wisdom. That the Commission is not merely a body which is to render opinions which will have no sanctity or efficacy in enforcement, cannot be accepted. This is evident from the provisions of clause (b) of Section 18 under which the Commission is entitled to approach the Supreme Court or the High Court for such directions, orders or writs as the Court may deem fit and necessary.
The High Court has held 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 Commission has directed the State Government to report compliance. 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. 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 Allahabad High Court has held we find no substance in the petition. The writ petition is, accordingly, dismissed.
The aggrieved party can file a writ against the order of the National Human Rights Commission, but the Commission’s order are binding and can be ignored.
Allahabad High Court
Hon’ble Dr. Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud,Chief Justice Hon’ble Yashwant Varma,J. (Per : Dr D Y Chandrachud, CJ)
WRIT – C No. – 15570 of 2016 Order Date :- 8.4.2016
Petitioner :- State Of U.P. And 2 Others
Respondent :- N.H.R.C. And 3 Others
Counsel for Petitioner :- Piyush Shukla
Link to the full decision: