The Kerala High Court has directed the State Government to consider the loans granted by respondent banks as debts qualified for waiver and to write off the loans availed for the treatment of the Endosulfan victim under the Debt Waiver Scheme for Endosulfan Victims.

"Neither the State nor this Court can pretend to be oblivious of the plight of the endosulfan victims and their families in Kasaragod," held the Court.

The Bench of Justice V.G. Arun held that these are cases in which the 'parens patriae' doctrine should be applied and observed that "The concept of parens patriae is that the State has the inherent power and authority to provide protection to persons non-sui-juris such as minors, insane and incompetent persons as well as persons rendered helpless due to calamities."

In this case, the victim was born in June 2005 with 80% mental retardation and multiple disabilities that rendered her immobile and was one of the thousands of victims of endosulfan use between 1978 to 2001. The victim's mother and grandfather struggled to provide medical aid and for her treatment had also availed loans of Rs. 3,69,000/- in total from banks (respondents 5 and 6).

Due to non-payment of the balance loan amount of Rs. 2,03,000/-, notices were issued and the petitioners approached the District Collector for writing off the same in terms of a 2014 Government order whereby a Debt Waiver Scheme for Endosulfan Victims was introduced to support such victims. The said loan was waived off but the petitioners, in 2017, were served with a communication wherein it was stated that only loans availed on or before June 30, 2011 would be considered for waiver and therefore, only Rs.88,400/- would be waived.

Therefore, the petitioners approached the High Court seeking directions to the State to consider waiving the entire loan amount.

Advocates K.P. Pradeep and T. Thasmi appeared on behalf of the petitioners and Government pleader Senior Advocate George Thomas and Senior Advocate M. Gopikrishnan Nambiar appeared for the respondents.

The question raised was- Whether, in a case where a person is a victim of calamity, the State and its officers could stick to technicalities like cut-off dates for refusing the benefits due to the family of a victim.

The Court observed that there was no challenge to the genuineness of the petitioner's claim and the objection raised by the respondents that the loan was availed by the grandfather of the victim and therefore, does not qualify for a waiver, was insignificant when compared to the suffering undergone by the victim and her family.

The Court further noted that in 2001 the National Institute of Occupational Health conducted a thorough environment epidemiological study and took cognizance of the health hazard posed to the local populace of Kasaragod due to the indiscriminate spraying of endosulfan pesticide and further observed that NHRC had recommended the State government to pay at least Rs.5 lakhs to the next of kin of those who died and those who were fully bed ridden/unable to move without help or mentally retarded and to increase the quantum of relief and rehabilitation to victims and their families.

Considering the hardship faced by the petitioners, the Court observed that neither the state nor the Court could be oblivious to the plight of the victims and their families and said that "Duty and responsibility being concomitant to power and authority, the State is bound to provide solace to the family of Ann Mariya by going the extra mile."

Accordingly, the writ petition was allowed with a direction to the State to waive off the entire loan amount.

Cause Title- Ressy Mol Babu v. State of Kerala

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