The NHRC has directed the Odisha government to provide Rs.60 lakh compensation to the next of kin of 40 people who died after consuming contaminated medicinal preparations containing alcohol in February 2012.
The deaths took place in Odisha’s Cuttack and Khurda districts.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Odisha chief secretary to send a compliance report along with proof of payment of monetary relief within six weeks, said a NHRC release on Friday.
Upholding the recommendations of the Justice Naidu Commission which was constituted by the state government after the tragedy, the NHRC has directed the government to pay Rs.1.5 lakh to the next of kin of each deceased.
The state government had rejected the recommendation of the Justice Naidu Commission to pay compensation to the next of kin of each deceased.
A total of 41 people had died due to consumption of contaminated medicinal preparations containing alcohol in the two districts.
However, the judicial commission did not recommend monetary relief for the dependents of one person, who also died due to consumption of contaminated medicinal preparations, as he was one of the illicit vendors.
Taking the observations of the judicial commission further, NHRC member Justice D. Murugesan observed that the enjoyment of basic human rights is the entitlement of every citizen and their protection is the obligation of every civilised state.
The NHRC further observed that 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 redressal of the established infringement of the fundamental right to life of a citizen by the public servants and the state is vicariously liable for their acts.
The Justice Naidu Commission, after enquiry, had observed that "all the 41 people, who lost their lives, belong to the lower echelon of the society. They are daily labourers and perform strenuous work … 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 that 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 dependents of each deceased person who succumbed after consuming contaminated medicinal preparation," said the Naidu Commission report.