PEOPLES RIGHTS & SOCIAL RES. CENTRE Vs. UNION OF INDIA
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Peoples Rights And Social Res. Centre
UNION OF INDIA
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(1.) Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), having its Headquarter at New Delhi, is impleaded as party-respondent through its Director General.
(2.) This writ petition was filed in the year 2006, praying for a direction to the respondents to constitute a high level committee with the participation also of the NGOs to investigate the occurrence of the occupational disease namely, Silicosis and for evolving an action programme so as to alleviate the grievances of those workers who have died in between on account of the said disease.
(3.) It is seen that the National Human Rights Commission, pursuant to the directions of this Court dated 05.03.2009, had undertaken a detailed inquiry and had submitted a report on 12.11.2010. The relevant portion of the report reads as follows :-
"After hearing both the Chief Secretaries of the State and other senior functionaries, the Commission is of the view that the State of Gujarat did not act in the manner in which it was expected to discharge their constitutional obligation of protecting the lives of workers, who died due to Silicosis. It is important to note that the Supreme Court of India has given a wider meaning to life in which it was observed that a person is entitled to lead a dignified life free from any exploitation and in an environment, which is conducive to his health and well being. The Supreme Court of India has also held that Right to Health, Medical Aid to protect the health and vigour of a worker under Article 21 is a fundamental human rights to make the life of workman meaningful and purposeful with a dignity of a person.
It was stressed upon the representatives of both the Governments that while considering the human rights of poor people and recommending compensation to the next of the kins of the deceased labourers, the Commission will have to adopt a liberal interpretation. The strict principles of evidence as are applicable to criminal trials are not applicable in the case of human rights violations when the life of poor labourer is at stake and his health is in jeopardy. The State Enforcement Agencies should have taken appropriate measures to protect their human rights. On the basis of the above, it is established that the Tribals residing in Madhya Pradesh had gone to work in quartz/stone crushing factories situated in Godhra, Gujarat and after contracting the dreaded disease of Silicosis they returned back to their native plaes and later died.
It is also established that the State Enforcement Agencies of Gujarat have failed to adopt appropriate preventive measures, which could have saved the lives of the poor labourers. Thus the State of Gujarat has failed to protect the life of workers, who died of Silicosis and next of the kins of the 238 persons, who died of Silicosis while working in stone crushing units in the State of Gujarat are entitled for compensation from the State Government of Gujarat. The Commission recommends that a sum of Rs. 3,00,000/- (Rupees Three Lakhs only) each be given to the next of the kins of the 238 deceased (mentioned in the list submitted by District Collectors, Jhabua and Alirajpur) by the State Government of Gujarat.
Out of above mentioned amount, it is also recommended that a sum of Rs. 1,00,000/- (Rupees One Lakh only) be given to the next of the kins of the deceased in cash and rest of the amount of Rs. 2,00,000/- (Rupees Two Lakhs only) be kept in fixed deposit, which will be available to the next of the kins of the deceased in the shape of monthly interest. Chief Secretary, Government of Gujarat to submit Compliance Report alongwith proof of payment within eight weeks. The Commission also recommends that 304 persons, who are suffering from Silicosis and are staying in the State of Madhya Pradesh be given a rehabilitation package by the State Government of Madhya Pradesh. The details of package awarded to each of the victims of Silicosis be communicated to the Commission within eight weeks." ;
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