National Human Rights Commission
New Delhi, India
Case Details of File Number: 557/18/3/2012
Diary Number 26298
Name of the Complainant RAGHIB ALI, MEMBER GOVERNING BOARD
Address MANAVADHIKAR JAN NIGRANI SAMITI, SA 4/2 A, DAULATPUR,
VARANASI , UTTAR PRADESH
Name of the Victim DHANUMANTA DHARUA & OTHERS
Address RESIDENTS OF VARIOUS OF CUTTACK,
CUTTACK , ORISSA
Place of Incident CUTTACK
CUTTACK , ORISSA
Direction issued by the Commission These proceedings shall be read in continuation of the earlier proceedings of the Commission. The Commission received a newspaper clipping "Sambad" dated 9.2.2012 from Shri Raghib Ali, Member, Governing Board, Manavadhikar Jan Nigrani Samiti, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, wherein it was reported that during February,2012, 41 persons in total died in parts of Cuttack and Khurda District after consuming medicinal preparations containing alcohol suspected to be contaminated. The affected persons had consumed Epeecarm, Concentrated Cinnamon Water and Orange Tincture and Ginger Tincture etc. The suspected contaminated alcohol, which proved fatal, was consumed in the affected areas by some people. Vide proceedings dated 30.03.2012, the Commission called for a report from the concerned authorities. Pursuant to the directions of the Commission, the Commissioner-cum- Secretary to the Govt. of Odisha, Health & Family Welfare Department, submitted a report dated 29.08.2012 indicating that the State Govt. has appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice A.S. Naidu, a retired judge of High Court to establish the cause of incident and to recommend various steps to be taken in order to avoid recurrence of such incidents. The Principal Secretary, Govt. of Odisha, Department of Excise vide communication dated 01.08.2014 had forwarded a Report of Commission of Inquiry of Justice Shri A.S. Naidu in Vol. I and II along with action taken thereon, death of persons consuming contaminated medicinal preparation at Khurda and Cuttack. He also forwarded a copy of Memorandum on the Action Taken on the Report of the Naidu Commission of Inquiry. The Justice Naidu Commission on page No.465 in its report had observed as under: "All the 41 persons who lost their lives belong to the lower echelon of the society. They are daily labourers and perform strenuous work. They are habitual drinkers. Considering their ability, generally they prefer intoxicants which are cheaper and stronger. The duty of the State, if it does not support on prohibition, is to assure such privilege. It appears, 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.1.50 lakhs to the widow and dependants of each deceased person who succumbed after consuming contaminated medicinal preparation." The Justice Naidu Commission on page No.466 in its report had observed that "Baidhar Bhoi, who had also died after consuming contaminated liquor was one of the illicit vendors of liquor and was also selling the products manufactured by M/s. EIPL, which caused the menace. Therefore, the Commission does not feel that the legal heirs of Baidhar are entitled to any compensation. Thus, except Baidhar the widows and dependents of other 40 persons referred in the report are entitled to the compensation. " But in its Memorandum on the Action Taken Report, the Government of Odisha has decided that no compensation will be paid to the next of kin of those, died in liquor tragedy as well as who sustained infirmities. The Commission in its proceedings dated 08.09.2014 considered the report and agreed with the observations of the Justice Naidu Commission. Hence, it directed to: "Issue a show cause notice u/s 18 of the PHR Act, 1993 to the Government of Odisha to send a reply within eight weeks why a recommendation for payment of Rs.1,50,000/- to the next of kin of each deceased(40 Nos.) be not made. The Chief Secretary, Government of Odisha, be asked to send within eight weeks a report on action taken against the erring officials." Pursuant to that, the Special Secretary to Govt. of Odisha, Home Department, sent an endorsement of his letter dated 16.10.2014, addressed to the Principal Secretary to Govt. Department of Excise, requesting him to send the requisite reply to the above show-cause notice directly to the Commission under intimation to Home (C&HR) Department. Subsequently, the Principal Secretary to Govt. of Odisha, Excise Department, vide his letter dated 08.12.2014 informed that the issue regarding recommendation of the Naidu Commission for grant of compensation @ 1.50 lakh to the deceased was deferred and subsequently, the Cabinet vide its meeting dated 17.07.2014 deliberated and decided that in consonance with previous practice, the above recommended compensation should not be given. The same has already been mentioned at Point No.18 (P.25) in the ATR, a booklet of which has been forwarded with the letter. As per the report, the Cabinet had taken a decision on 17.07.2014 that no compensation will be paid to the next of kin of those died in the liquor tragedy as well as to those who sustained infirmities. However, a small amount of Rs.10,000/- each was given to the NOK of the 41 deceased persons and Rs.10,000/- each to 4 victims and Rs.5,000/- to another. The details regarding compensation given in liquor tragedies in the State and financial assistance given to the NOKs and the victims in the above incident are given in the enclosed Annexure A&B. The Commission has considered the reports. The victims are poor arduous coolie workers from lowest social strata. Generally they prefer cheaper and stronger intoxicants considering their ability to make good their escape from their strenuous hard labour. The duty of the State, if it does not support on prohibition, is to assure such privilege. It appears, 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. The enjoyment of the basic human rights is the entitlement of every citizen and their protection is the obligation of every civilized State. They are inherent in and essential to the structure of society. 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 redressell of the established infringement of the fundamental right to life of a citzen by the public servants and the State is vicariously liable for their acts. As per Section 18(a) (i) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the Commission can recommend to the concerned Government to make payment of compensation or damages to the victims or next of kins of family members of the deceased persons for violation of human rights as the Commission may consider necessary. In the facts and circumstances of the case, a case of violation of human rights is made out in the instant case. Hence, the Commission reiterates its earlier stand for payment of relief of Rs.1,50,000/- to the next of kin of each deceased(40 Nos.) as also recommended by the Justice Naidu Commission and rejects the claim of the State Govt. as stated in their report Hence, the Chief Secretary, Govt. of Odisha is asked to send a compliance report alongwith the proof of payment of monetary relief of Rs.1,50,000/- each to the widow and dependants of each deceased (40 persons), who succumbed after consuming contaminated medicinal preparation. Response within six weeks.
Action Taken Relief granted [Compensation, Disciplinary & Prosecution] (Dated 2/9/2015 )
Status on 3/7/2015 Compliance of the Commission's recommendation by the concerned authority is awaited.