In a recent decision in State of U.P vs. NHRC, the Allahabad High Court has held that the State is duty bound to comply with the orders of Human Right Commissions, in the absence of it being set aside.
This significant observation was made by Division Bench headed by the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court Dr. Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud on a petition by the State Government challenging the direction to it by NHRC to submit a compliance report along with a proof of payment of the compensation to next-of-kin of the deceased prisoner Omendra. The Prisoner who was an under trial had died while in prison due to some chronic disease.
The Court observed that the use of the expression “recommend” in Section 18 (a) of Human Rights Act cannot be treated by the State Government or by an authority as merely an opinion or a suggestion which can be ignored with impunity, otherwise it would dilute the efficacy of the Commission and defeat the statutory object underlying the constitution of such a body.
“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. In our view, 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. 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. 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. 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., said the Bench
The court also observed 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. Upholding the direction by the Commission to the State Government to report compliance, the Court said “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 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.”
Read the order here.