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‘Human Rights Commission Can Order Compensation’: Kerala HC

A division bench of the Kerala High Court reiterated that the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has jurisdiction to direct payment of compensation for violation of human rights.

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 20, (BPNS) 

A division bench of the Kerala High Court reiterated that the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has jurisdiction to direct payment of compensation for violation of human rights. The court while dismissing a writ petition filed by a local body said that it didn’t find any illegality or irregularity or lack of jurisdiction in SHRC’s order.  It was Kottayam Municipality that approached the high court against the SHRC’s direction to pay compensation to a street vendor for summarily evicting him and taking away the articles kept for sale.

“The power to summarily evict encroachments is discretionary and shall be exercised judicially and reasonably. The power of summary eviction shall be exercised by the Secretary (of Kottayam Municipality) in cases of urgency which brooks no delay. In other cases, the Secretary may, by notice, require removal of encroachment,” reads an excerpt from the judgment.

It further added, “In this case, the respondent (street vendor) alone was evicted though others were also doing street vending at the same place. The Municipality cannot follow pick and choose policy and there cannot be any discrimination in the matter of the eviction of street vendors.”

While observing that the action of the municipality has infringed
the fundamental right to equality guaranteed to the street vendor, the court also found that the power of removal of encroachers vested in the Secretary under the Municipality Act is not exercised judicially and reasonably.

“Violation of rights relating to life and equality guaranteed by the Constitution amounts to violation of human rights,” the division bench comprising chief justice S Manikumar and justice Murali Purushothaman. 

Citing another judgment of the Kerala High Court in 2015 that the SHRC may recommend to the concerned Government or authority to make payment of compensation or damages, the division bench held that the commission has jurisdiction to direct payment of compensation.

It was in 2015 that the street vendor selling clothes and garments got evicted. He then approached the SHRC contending that his source of livelihood has been affected and he is not in a position to repay the loans and he sustained a loss of Rs.2,34,000/- and has to be compensated by the
Municipality.

The SHRC conducted an inquiry and found that the action of the Municipality was discriminatory. It also found that eviction without notice is inhumane and is in violation of natural justice, human rights and the right to life. The commission then directed the municipality to pay an amount of Rs 50,000 as compensation and further directed to provide a facility for him to re-allocate, once a place is available.

However, the municipality is of the position that there is no violation of human rights and the commission lacks jurisdiction to entertain the complaint of the respondent. It also contended that the SHRC cannot order payment of compensation.

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