full bench of the Madras High Court Friday ruled that the recommendation of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) under Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, is binding on the government or government authority.
It added that the recommendations of the SHRC were adjudicatory orders that were legally and immediately enforceable.
The bench held that the word ‘recommendation’ in the Act under Section 18 was to be considered a euphemism for the expression ‘order’.
“An embellished expression drafted into the Act more in tune with the word ‘Commission’ as it is understood in common parlance, but may not be intended to reduce the functional status of the Commission as a toothless tiger”, the bench held.
If such interpretation is not forthcoming, then the high powered Human Rights Commission established under the Act “would be denuded of its judicial character, notwithstanding the Commission being manned by a former Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court judges, Chief Justices of high courts, etc.”
It added “If the concerned government or authority fails to implement the recommendation of the Commission within the time stipulated under Section 18(e) of the Act, the Commission can approach the Constitutional Court under Section 18(b) of the Act for enforcement by seeking issuance of appropriate writ/order/direction”.
A full bench comprising Justice S.Vaidyanathan, Justice V.Parthiban and Justice M.Sundar was ruling on a reference made to it to answer the following questions:
(i) Whether the decision made by the State Human Rights Commission under Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, is only a recommendation and not an adjudicated order capable of immediate enforcement, or otherwise?
(ii) Whether the State has any discretion to avoid implementation of the decision made by the State Human Rights Commission and if so, under what circumstances?
(iii) Whether the State Human Rights Commission, while exercising powers under sub-clauses (ii) and (iii) of clause (a) of Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, could straight away issue orders for recovery of the compensation amount directed to be paid by the State to the victims of violation of human rights under sub-clause (i) of clause (a) of Section 18 of that enactment, from the Officers of the State who have been found to be responsible for causing such violation?
‘(iv) Whether initiation of appropriate disciplinary proceedings against the Officers of the State under the relevant service rules, if it is so empowered, is the only permissible mode for recovery of the compensation amount directed to be paid by the State to the victims of violation of human rights under sub-clause(i) of clause(a) of Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, from the Officers of the State who have been found to be responsible for causing such violation?’
(v) Whether Officers of the State who have been found to be responsible by the State Human Rights Commission for causing violation of human rights under Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, are entitled to impeach such orders passed by the Commission in proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution and if so, at what stage and to which extent?
The bench held that State had no discretion to avoid implementation of the recommendation and in case the State was aggrieved, it could only resort to the legal remedy of seeking a judicial review of the recommendations of the Commission.
It also declared the Commission could order the recovery of compensation from the State and payable to the victims of the violation of human rights under Sub Clause (a)(i) of Section 18 of the Act and the State, in turn, could recover the compensation paid, from the officers of the State who had been found to be responsible for causing the human rights violation.
The officer of the state government who has been found responsible by the Commission for causing a violation of human rights is entitled to challenge the order of the Commission by taking recourse to the remedy of judicial review provided under the Constitution of India, the bench said.
The court also recommended that Parliament amend the Protection of Human Rights Act to provide the wherewithal to the Commission for direct execution of their recommendations.
“By such initiation, the learned Parliament would be according befitting status to the Commission steered by the high constitutional dignitaries of the highest legal order”, the Court said.
By such amendment/s, the Protection of Human Rights Act, the Court said, would become complete in all fours, leaving no room for procrastination in offering remedial action promptly.
Read the Order