Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi/Bhubaneswar, Mar 13:
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today directed the Odisha government to pay Rs 1.5 lakh to the next of kin of each of the 40 persons who had died after consuming contaminated medicinal preparations containing alcohol in parts of Cuttack and Khurda districts in February, 2012.
The Commission rejected the state government’s decision not to pay any compensation overruling the recommendations of Justice AS Naidu Commission of Inquiry set up by it on August 29, 2012.
Reiterating its earlier directive on payment of relief of Rs 1.5 lakh to the next of kin of each deceased, as recommended by the Justice Naidu Commission, the NHRC rejected the stand of the state government and asked its chief secretary to send a compliance report along with proof of payment of monetary relief within six weeks, which is still awaited.
In its report, the Justice Naidu Commission had observed that “All the 41 persons, who lost their lives, belong to the lower echelosn of the society. They are daily labourers and perform strenuous work. Considering their ability, generally they prefer intoxicants which are cheaper and stronger. The duty of the state, if it does not support prohibition, is to assure such privilege. It appears that the state machinery has failed to do so and the untoward incident occurred due to negligence or lackadaisical attitude of the officers of the local administration. In view of the aforesaid position, the Commission feels it would be just and proper to award a compensation of Rs 1.5 lakhs to the widow and dependents of each deceased persons, who succumbed after consuming contaminated medicinal preparation.”
Taking the observations of the judicial commission further, NHRC member, Justice D Murugesan, observed that the enjoyment of the basic human rights is the entitlement of every citizen and their protection is the obligation of every civilized state.
The Commission further observed that since it failed to do so in this case and the negligence of its officers caused the unfortunate death of human beings, pecuniary compensation is an effective and suitable remedy for redressal of the established infringement of the fundamental right to life of a citizen by the public servants and the State is vicariously liable for their acts.
The Commission took cognizance of a complaint, received on March 3, 2012, accompanying a newspaper report on February 9, 2012 from a human rights activist of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and called reports from the concerned authorities on the March 30, 2012.
After several other reminders and notices, it was informed that the state government had appointed a Commission of Inquiry, headed by Justice AS Naidu, a retired Judge of the Odisha High Court, to ascertain the cause of the incident and recommend various steps to avoid recurrence of such incidents. The Commission submitted its report to the state government on August 1, 2014.
The Commission agreed with the observations of Justice Naidu Commission and issued a show cause notice to the state government on the September 8, 2014 as to why monetary relief of Rs 1.5 lakh to the next of kin of each deceased should not be paid.
However, the state government, in its reply to the Commission on December 8, 2014, informed that the Cabinet deliberated upon the issue at a meeting on the July 17, 2014 and decided that in consonance with the previous practice, the compensation should not be given in this case.