Supreme Court: In the issue relating to the use of a toxic pesticide called Endosulfan leading to a spread of mental and physical ailments among residents of Kasargod district in Kerala, the bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud* and Surya Kant, JJ has held that the inordinate delay by the State Government in compensating the persons affected by the use of Endosulfan not only reflects its failure to comply with the Court’s order but also further compounds the violation of the fundamental rights of such persons.
“The failure to redress the infringement of their fundamental rights becomes more egregious with each passing day.”
Supreme Court had, by its order dated 10 January 2017, directed the State Governments to compensate all the affected persons by distributing an amount of Rs 5 lakhs to each affected person within three months. It also directed the State Governments to consider the feasibility of providing medical facilities and treatment for life-long ailments arising from the effects of Endosulfan, considering the larger number of affected persons.
In the case at hand, a contempt petition was instituted by the residents of Kasargod district in Kerala as the State Government failed to compensate the affected residents. It was argued that the petitioners are yet to be compensated and the medical facilities have not been improved because of which the affected persons in Kasargod District are compelled to travel to Trivandrum, about 600 kms away for their treatment.
Out of the 3704 victims, 102 are bedridden, 326 are mentally disabled, 201 are physically disabled, 119 are afflicted with cancer while 2966 fall in the residual category.
The State Government has, on 15 January 2022, issued a GO to authorize the disbursal of an additional amount of Rs 200 crores for providing compensation to the victims of Endosulfan. However, as of date, an amount of Rs 5 lakhs has been disbursed only to eight persons who are the petitioners who have moved these contempt proceedings.
The Court observed that the Government of Kerala has done virtually nothing for five years. Besides the fact that the delay is appalling, the inaction is in breach of the orders of the court.
The Court also failed to understand the logic or the rationale of the State Government in disbursing compensation only to those who have the ability to move the Supreme Court.
Noticing that most of the victims are from the marginalized segments of society and many of the victims are in a serious condition to whom compensation on an urgent basis has to be provided, the Court said,
“The right to health is an integral part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. Without health, the faculties of living have little meaning.”
Stating that it would be justified in taking recourse to the coercive arm of law, the Court confined itself to providing immediate relief and rehabilitation to the victims who are suffering and issued the following directions:
- Since the payment of compensation has been made, though belatedly to eight petitioners who have moved these proceedings, costs quantified at Rs 50,000 each shall be paid over in addition to each of the eight persons within a period of three weeks from the date of the order;
- The Chief Secretary shall hold monthly meetings to ensure that the judgment of this Court dated 10 January 2017 is diligently implemented by undertaking the process of (a) identifying the victims of Endosulfan and drawing up a list of beneficiaries; (b) ensuring the disbursement of compensation of Rs 5 lakhs to each of the victims; and (c) taking steps for ensuring due medical facilities within reasonable distance from their places of residence in terms of the earlier directions of this Court
- An affidavit of compliance shall be filed before theCourt indicating the progress which has been made between the date of this order and the next date of listing
The Court will now hear the matter on July 18, 2022.
[Baiju KG v. Dr. VP Joy, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 624, decided on 13.05.2022]
*Judgment by: Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud
For Petitioner(s): Sr. Adv, P.N. Ravindran and Advocates P.S. Sudheer, Rishi Maheshwari, Shruti Jose and Bharat Sood
For Respondent(s): Advocates Nishe Rajen Shonker, Anu K. Joy and Alim Anva