While considering a contempt plea preferred by victims of endosulfan alleging failure on the part of State of Kerala to disburse 5 lakhs compensation, the Supreme Court on Friday asked the State's Chief Secretary to hold monthly meetings to undertake the process of identification of the victims of endosulfan, ensuring disbursement of compensation of Rs 5 lakhs and taking steps to ensure provision of medical facilities.
While expressing displeasure on the part of the State to only disburse compensation to the 8 victims (who were petitioners before the Court) out of 3704 victims and that too at a belated stage, the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant also asked the State to pay them(the petitioners) costs quantified of Rs 50,000 each within a period of 3 weeks from the date of order.
Noting that the State Government had on January 15, 2022 had taken a decision to authorize the disbursal of an amount of 200 crore for providing compensation to the victims of endosulfan, the bench in their order said, "As of date 5 lakh have been disbursed to 8 people who have approached the Court. We fail to understand the rationale of the State Government to disburse compensation only to those who have the resources to approach the court. There are large numbers of victims to whom no compensation has been provided over 5 years. The victims are from marginalized sections of society and are in pitiable condition to whom compensation on urgent basis has to be provided."
During the course of hearing the bench perused the compliance report dated May 9, 2022 filed by the Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala as per which a meeting in connection with the need for disbursing compensation for complying with the order of January 10, 2017 was convened. Pursuant to the same, a team was constituted to visit homes of almost 3704 victims of endosulfan to whom compensation was to be provided. The report had further said that, of these victims 102 were found to be bed riddden, 326 to be mental challenged while 2966 fall in the residual category.
Expressing its anguish on the State not paying compensation irrespective of the Top Court's direction dated January, 2017, Justice DY Chandrachud the presiding judge of the bench orally said,
"State Government of Kerala can't do this. These 8 victims have moved the court and they have given them compensation but not the others. These are victims of endosulfan. Some of them have cancer, some are mentally disabled. Why do these poor people have to come to Delhi for justice? You must do it yourself. Our judgment is of jan 10, 2017, 5 years have gone by."
"All your activities have started after the contempt and if there wouldn't have been notice, you would have slept. That's not the role of a welfare state," Justice Kant said.
"They had exposure to radioactive substances and the number of victims are bound to increase over a period of time," Justice Chandrachud had further added.
The bench also noted that although the State Government was directed to consider the feasibility of providing assistance to deal with life long health issues having regard to the large number of persons involved, but it had not disclosed the steps taken to provide medical care to the victims.
Thus the Top Court also asked the State to file an affidavit of compliance indicating the progress which has been made from the date of order and date of listing.
Details Of The Petition
It was averred in the petition that respondent's conduct shows willful disobedience of the directions of the Top Court by not disbursing Rs 5 lakhs to the petitioners as well as other Endosulfan victims in the State and thereby showing disrespect of the directions of this Hon'ble Court dated 10.1.2017.
To substantiate their contention, reliance has been placed on the Top Court's order passed in July, 2019 where directions were issued to the Kerala Government to pay compensation of Rupees five lakhs each to four children, who are victims of Endosulfan.
"However, till date, even after the order passed by this Hon "ble Court in the above stated contempt petition, the order dated 10.01.2017 is compiled by the Government of Kerala. The petitioners and several other persons who are entitled to get Rs. 5 Lakhs as directed by this Hon'ble Court. However they are yet to receive the said amount. It is pertinent to note that it was only due to the aerial use of endosulfan that the physical and mental health of the petitioners are affected badly and they are severely ill. The petitioners had to spend a huge amount of money for the treatment. They are having huge amounts of debts incurred solely on account of the after effects of Endosulfan. The victims continue to live in dire straits," the plea states.
In the contempt petition was filed by Advocate PS Sudheer, the petitioners had sought initiation of contempt proceedings against the State for wilful disobedience of the Top Court's order dated January 10, 2017, issuance of directions to the State to disburse compensation of Rs 5 Lakhs and setting up medical facility at Kasargod District to provide treatment to the victims.
Case Title: Baiju KG & Ors v Dr Vishwas Mehta, IAS, Chief Secretary,Govt of Kerala