A Kerala High Court Bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Murali Purushothaman has clarified that the State Human Rights Commission has the jurisdiction to direct payment of compensation for human rights violations.

Relying on the case of State of Kerala and another v. Human Rights Commission and others, the High Court observed that "the Human Rights Commission has jurisdiction to direct payment of compensation to the 3rd respondent for violation of his human rights."

Counsel S Ranjit, among others, appeared for the Petitioners. Counsel MS Amal Dharsan, among others, appeared for the Respondents.

In this case, a street clothes vendor approached the Human Rights Commission, alleging that a sanitation worker from the Municipality asked him to remove a waste kit near his vending place. When told that he had not kept the waste kit there, the worker abused him, and later, when he left the vending place to buy medicine, about 15 employees of the Municipality came in a garbage collection vehicle and took away all the clothes kept by him for sale. He contended that his source of livelihood had been affected, and he could not repay the loans as he sustained a loss of Rs.2,34,000/- and had to be compensated by the Municipality.

Taking note of the entire facts and circumstances of the case, the loss of income, infringement of human rights and right to life and mental agony suffered by the 3rd respondent, the Human Rights Commission directed the Municipality to pay an amount of Rs.50,000/- as compensation to him and further directed to provide facility to him to re-allocate, once place is available.

This order of the Human Rights Commission was challenged before the High Court.

The High Court observed that "The right of the 3rd respondent to carry on vending on street guaranteed by the Constitution is subject to the restrictions imposed by the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994. However, we find that the power of removal of encroachers vested in the Secretary under the Municipality Act is not exercised judicially and reasonably. The 3rd respondent's right to livelihood has been deprived otherwise than in accordance with a just and fair procedure established by law. Consequently, it follows that the Municipality has infringed the fundamental rights of the 3rd respondent under Article 21 of the Constitution."

Further, the Court held that "the action of the Municipality and its officers in evicting the 3rd respondent has infringed his rights relating to life and equality guaranteed by the Constitution. Violation of rights relating to life and equality guaranteed by the Constitution amounts to violation of human rights."

The Court also observed that the Human Rights Commission had the jurisdiction to direct payment of compensation to the respondent for the violation of his human rights. Finding no illegality or irregularity or lack of jurisdiction in the order passed by the Human Rights Commission, the High Court dismissed the petition.

The petitioners were granted two months' to make the payment.

Cause Title: Kottayam Municipality & Anr. v. The Chairperson, Kerala State Human Rights Commission & Ors.

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