SC Disapproves Of Punjab and Haryana HC’s Restrictive Interpretation Of ‘Recommendations By Human Right Commission’ [Read Order]

SC Disapproves Of Punjab and Haryana HC’s Restrictive Interpretation Of ‘Recommendations By Human Right Commission’ [Read Order]

‘A complaint may be made of violation of human rights by any person or a complaint that a public servant is being negligent in preventing such violation.’

The Supreme Court has disapproved the observation in a 2005 Punjab and Haryana High Court judgment that the Human Rights Commission is only empowered to make a recommendation to the government when any violation of human rights by a public servant is brought to its notice.

The bench of Justice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao observed that this interpretation of the high court of the powers of the commission is unduly restrictive and clearly not intended by the provision of the Act.

The bench was considering an appeal filed by Punjab State Human Rights Commission assailing some observations made by the high court in a judgment.

In its judgment delivered on 2nd April 2005, the high court, though upholding the commission’s order, had made this observation: “Under the provisions of the Act, the Commission has been merely constituted with a function to make recommendations to the appropriate Government, when any violation of human rights by a public servant, is brought to its notice, after due investigation of the matter. As the language of Section 18 itself suggest that the Commission has only power to make recommendations to the concerned Government or authority, for initiation of proceedings, or for initiation of such action as may be deemed fit. The word "recommendation" necessarily mean "to Suggest." Such a suggestion cannot be treated to be a decision capable of execution or enforcement."

The bench referred to definition of the term "human rights" in Section 2(d) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 and also Section 12 delineating functions of the commission.

It said: “This Section clearly empowers the Commission to enquire into any complaint made to it by a victim or a person on behalf of the victim of (i) violation of human rights or abetment thereof or (ii) negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant. It is clear on a plain reading of the provision that the phrase "by a public Servant" only qualifies negligence in the prevention of such violation. The intention of the law is that a complaint may be made of violation of human rights by any person or a complaint that a public servant is being negligent in preventing such violation. Indeed such a duty to prevent violation of human rights is contemplated as being cast on a public servant and the term "public servant" is intended to operate only with regard to clause (ii) as it occurs in the Section.”

It further added: “Section 12(a) of the Act contemplates that there may be a complaint of (i) violation of human rights or abetment thereof by any person; or(ii) negligence to prevent such violation of human rights by a public servant. The interpretation of the High Court of the powers of the Commission is unduly restrictive and clearly not intended by the provision of the Act.”

The high court had also held that there cannot be a parallel investigation by the state commission when the matter is pending before a civil or a criminal court. In this regard, the bench said: “We fail to see the occasion for the High Court to make such an observation since in fact no matter was pending before a Civil court or Criminal Court in the instant case.”

Read the Order Here