NHRC closes infants’ deaths case following payment of compensation to families of victims
Jammu, March 2
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has closed the case of monetary compensation to the innocent infant victims of spurious drugs in Ramnagar tehsil of Udhampur district of J&K following payment of compensation of Rs. Three lakh each to the parents of the deceased infant victims by the J&K government on the directions of the commission.
The commission vide its’ proceedings dated February 28, 2022 observed that since the monetary compensation to the parents of the infant victims of spurious drugs has been paid as demanded by the petitioner by the J&K government , the case has been closed.
Sukesh .C.Khajuria, an eminent social activist has approached the NHRC to highlight the plight of the poor families of the deceased infants and highhanded attitude of the drug authorities and the state government in hushing up the case without taking responsibility of the tragedy.
The case relates to the deaths of a dozen infants/children due to consumption of a particular spurious cough syrup i.e. Cold Best PC cough syrup manufactured by M/s Digital Vision,KalaAmb, district Sirmour, Himachal Pradesh in Ramnagar Tehsil of Udhampur District of Jammu & Kashmir during month of Dec 2019 – January 2020.
While taking up the matter on 07.09.2020 the Commission, after consideration of facts& circumstances of the case, found that there was a procedural lapse on the part of the Drug Department of the State of Jammu & Kashmir wherein the authority had duly failed to keep a regular vigil on the contamination and contents of medicines sold within its jurisdiction and thus held that the state is vicariously liable for said negligence. The commission considers this case to be fit case for award of compensation.In view of that, by exercising power u/s 18a(i) of PHR Act, 1993, the Commission directed the Chief Secretary, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir to show cause within four weeks as to why the Commission should not recommend payment of compensation of Rs. 3,00,000/- to the next of kin (NoK) of each deceased in the present case, who died due to the consumption of adulterated oral syrup/medicine and whose human rights have been infringed. The authority was further directed to also file report with regard to action taken against the delinquent officials, on account of whose negligence such incident had occurred, which could otherwise be averted due to their strict vigil.
The said recommendation was confirmed vide direction dated 18.01.2021 wherein the Chief Secretary, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir was asked to pay monetary compensation of Rs. 3,00,000/- to the NoK of each deceased in the present case, who died due to the consumption of adulterated oral syrup/medicine and whose human rights were infringed. It was further directed that the compliance report along with proof of payment be made available to the Commission within six weeks, positively.
Pursuant to that direction and reminder dated 06.05.2021, the Additional Secretary(Law), Health and Medical Education Department , UT of J & K , vide an email dated 07.06.2021 has submitted a compliance report by forwarding a letter dated 07.06.2021 of the Under Secretary of that Department wherein it is stated that vide a communication dated 01.06.2021, the State Drug Controller, Drugs and Food Control Organization, J & K, Jammu has been asked to make the payment of Rs. Three Lakhs to NoK of each deceased in terms of the order of the Commission. It is however observed that said letter dated 01.06.2021 which is addressed to the State Drug Controller, it is further clarified that said monetary compensation shall remain subject to the outcome of SLP pending before Supreme Court of India.
The Commission considered the matter on 19.07.2021 and observed that proof of payment of Rs. Three Lakhs to NoK of each deceased from later authority is still awaited. In the circumstances, the Commission directed the Chief Secretary, UT of Jammu & Kashmir to submit proof of payment of aforesaid amount of Rs. Three Lakhs to NoK of each deceased infant/child within four weeks positively failing which the Commission shall be constrained to invoke its power u/s 13 of the PHR Act,1993.
Pursuant to the above directions and subsequent reminders vide proceedings dated 21.09.2021 and 08.12.2021, the Under Secretary, Health & Medical Education Department, Government of Jammu & Kashmir, Civil Secretariat, Jammu has vide communication dated 06.01.2022 submitted the report which reveals that the payment of compensation of Rs.3,00,000/- lakhs each has been paid to the next of kin of the 12 deceased infants by way of digital transfer into their accounts and copy of proof of transfer of the amount has also been enclosed with the report.
In view of the compliance of the recommendations of the Commission regarding payment of compensation of Rs.3,00,000/- each to the next of kin of the deceased 12 infants by the State Government, no further intervention is called for. Hence the case is closed.
The Health and Medical Education Department of the Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir in it’s Govt. order No.:-711 – JK(HME) of 2021 issued on November 16 , 2021 said in compliance to order passed by NHRC in case No. 80/09/14/2020, a sanction was being accorded to the release of Rs.36 lakh for 12 deceased infant in Ramnagar area of District Udhampur, as a special and exceptional infant mortality case and its placement with the State drugs Controller, J&K , as compensation to Nok of each deceased ,subject to the outcome of SLP pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India , following approval by the Administrative Council Decision No. 90/14/2021 headed by Lt. Governor Sh. Manoj Sinha in it’s meeting held on October 07,2021.
The parents of the victims /next of kin (Nok) of the each deceased infants had completed all the formalities with the TehsildarRamnagar submitting all the required documents / information like (i) name of the account holder (ii) Name of Bank & Branch (iii) bank account number (iv) IFSC code (v) copy of Aadhar card and undertaking on an affidavit duly attested by the 1st class Magistrate stating that in the event of any Adverse judgement by the Apex Court in the matter of SLP titled Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir &ors. VS National Human Rights Commission &ors. (Pending adjudication) the compensation amount shall be returned back to the Govt. within a period of one month from the date of any such judgement which is delivered to the beneficiaries by the SDM concerned
Interestingly, the J&K government did everything to stonewall the NHRC directions. The NHRC orders were challenged in the J&K High Court which rejected the government plea and upheld the NHRC orders. The J&K government even went to the Supreme Court challenging the High court order.
But there was no goodwill gesture, ex-gratia or voluntary compensation form the J&K Govt. They fought a pitched battle with the Sr.Social Activist Sukeshc.Khajuria (petitioner) in NHRC and Hon’ble J&K High Court. Lastly, they also filed an SLP(c) NO 8345 OF 2021 against the Final judgment and order dated 02.03.2021 passed by the Hon’ble High Court of Jammu and Kashmir in Writ Petition No.388 of 2021 IN THE MATTER OF UNION TERRITORY OF JAMMU & KASHMIR AND ORS V. NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMISSION AND ORS, making every possible attempts to deny compensation to the victims. The Payment of Compensation of Rs.3,00,000 /- lakhs each has been paid to the NOK of the 12 deceased infants by way of digital transfer into their accounts after NHRC issue final reminder to the Chief Secretary , Govt. of UT of J&K as well as Additional Chief Secretary , department of health & medical education, UT of J&K, to submit the proof of payment within six weeks positively falling which this commission (NHRC) constrained to invoke its coercive powers u/s 13 of PHR Act 1993 calling for the personal appearance of the authority concerned before the commission
“Although, money cannot replace a human life but still can give some solace to the bereaved families who mostly are poor and I’m confident that Apex Court will also provide complete Justice to the victims under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.In all such deaths, punishment and compensation should be on the pattern of the tragedies of the Bhopal gas leak and Uphaar Cinema fire tragedy. We can’t fix the monetary composition at Rs. 25 – Rs. 30 lakh in Delhi & other state/UT’s and Rs three Lakh in Jammu and Kashmir”Khajuria said.