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Karma Dorjee & Ors. V/S Union of India & Ors.

The acceptance by the Union government is a statement of what it calls a “zero tolerance” policy towards discrimination against Indian citizens hailing from the north-east. The court as a protector of human rights is within jurisdiction in ensuring that this assurance translates into reality

Case Name: Karma Dorjee & Ors. V/S Union of India & Ors.

Case Number: WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 103 OF2014

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench: Honorable Chief Justice of India Shri Justice T.S. Thakur; Shri Justice L Nageswar Rao; Shri Justice DY Chandrachud

Decided on:    14th December, 2016

Relevant Acts/ Sections: Article 32 Constitution of India, International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Assam accord and Bengal eastern regulation Act.

Brief Facts:-

  • In this case, the petitioner brings forward the point that the people of the North-eastern states are being discriminated by people, keeping in mind article 32 (2) of the Indian constitution.
  • The petitioner gives several instances like on 26 October 2009, a woman was burnt to death in the kitchen of her home by a stalker who was unwelcomed. On 17 April 2012, a young student from Manipur is alleged to have died after being assaulted, by a group of armed people, in her college hostel.
  • In Karnataka, the panic was created amongst a particular community after the circulation of threat messages. On 29 May 2013, a young Manipuri girl is alleged to have been murdered in two bedrooms rented apartment in the national capital region. Two young women from north eastern states were subject to racial taunts and molestation and subsequently, a young student in an area near Lajpat Nagar was brutally assaulted.
  • Thus, the petitioner urged that the honourable supreme court of India to take a suo moto cognizance of the matter and direct the government to take reasonable appropriate steps for the betterment of the people of north eastern states so that they could live fearlessly in all the parts of the country.

Issue Before the Court:

Whether the writ of Mandamus is sustainable in the view of Govt’s responsibility in the matter?

Ratio of the Court:

  • The petitioner at the very beginning of the petition mentions Article 15 from the Indian constitution and begs to draw a different but parallel picture (as to what respondent says) to the conditions being faced by the people of north eastern states in the different parts of the country.
  • International convention on the elimination of discrimination was adopted by the United Nations in the year 1965. On 4 January 1969, the convention came into force in India. The convention according to article 2 imposes an obligation on the states to take measures and stop all forms of discrimination that the people are facing.
  • India being a signatory to this convention is bound by the convention. Moreover, Article 15 of the Indian constitution makes an attempt to safeguard people from any sort of discrimination.
  • In order to deal with the concerns dealing with the north eastern people, the Union Government initiated a Committee on 5 February 2014. The Committee was chaired by a man named M P Bezbaruah, a member of the North-eastern Council.
  • After talking to various stake holders, the Committee submitted its report to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. The Committee categorised its recommendations into the following categories:
  • Facilities for legal assistance and providing speedy justice by setting up special courts.
  • Strengthening of law enforcement agencies and give them autonomy, charge and power.
  • Special police initiatives including proactive regional action and special patrolling at the odd hours of the day and special pick up and drop facility to women and girls.
  • Utilising the ability of sports and developing national universities that will facilitate and enable them to pursue sports as their career and will be able to get coaching at minimal costs.
  • Education of the people about the north eastern states by establishing schools at various levels like district and state levels.
  • Greater focus on the northeast on Broadcasting and providing correct and accurate information to the people of north eastern states in minimal time and establishing various government broadcasting centres.
  • Appointment of IAS level officers by each state government and provide Accommodation related issues including problems of rent.
  • The court observed that the acceptance by the Union government is a statement of what it calls a “zero tolerance” policy towards discrimination against Indian citizens hailing from the north-east. The court as a protector of human rights is within jurisdiction in ensuring that this assurance translates into reality.
  • The court observed that the Governments, both at the centre and the states have a non-negotiable obligation to take positive steps to give effect to India’s commitment to racial equality. This commitment is embodied in constitutional rights, fundamental duties, statutory provisions and in the international obligations which have been assumed by India.
  • As this Court held in Vishaka v. State of RajasthanThe international conventions and norms are to be read into them in the absence of enacted domestic law occupying the field when there is no inconsistency between them. It is now an accepted rule of judicial construction that regard must be had to international conventions and norms for construing domestic law when there is no inconsistency between them and there is a void in the domestic law”.
  • The court was of the view that in order to enhance a sense of security and inclusion, the Union Government in the Ministry of Home Affairs should take proactive steps to monitor the redressal of issues pertaining to racial discrimination faced by citizens of the nation drawn from the north-east.
  • Decision by the Court:

The court directed that a regular exercise of monitoring and redressal should be carried out by a Committee consisting of the following members :

  1.  Joint Secretary (North-east), Ministry of Home Affairs; and
  2.  Two other members to be nominated by the Union Government (one of whom should be a public figure).
  3. The work of the Committee should be widely publicised in the electronic and print media, including in the north eastern states. The Committee should be accessible to grievances, suggestions and complaints.
  4. The Committee should meet periodically and preferably at monthly intervals to monitor the redressal of all such grievances including the implementation of the recommendations of the Bezbaruah Committee, to the extent to which they have been accepted by the Union Government. The Committee shall carry out the following functions:

a) To monitor, oversee, pursue and review the implementation of the MP Bezbaruah Committee Report dated 11.07.2014;

b) To monitor the initiatives taken by the Government to curb and deal with the incidents of racial discrimination/racial atrocities/racial violence;

c) To monitor action in respect of incidents of racial discrimination/racial atrocities /racial violence, suggest measures and ensure strict action;

d) To receive, consider and entertain complaints from individuals and groups of individuals who claim to be victims of racial abuse/racial atrocities/racial violence/racial discrimination and forward the same to the National Human Rights Commission and/or the State Human Rights. Commissions and/or to the jurisdictional Police Station as the case may be for enquiry and necessary action;

e) To issue necessary directions including calling for reports on incidents of racial discrimination/racial atrocities/racial violence from the State Governments/Union Territories. A decision may also be taken by the Union government on whether any of the other recommendations should be accepted.

The writ petitions are accordingly disposed of.

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