Right to Life / Livelihood

India: Nilabatibehera v State of Orissa, 1993 SCC 746

A mother wrote a letter to the Supreme Court of India, requesting monetary compensation for the death of her 22-year-old son, who died in police custody. She claimed that her son was beaten to death. The Supreme Court took up her case.

“Article 9 (5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 lays down that anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.. This Covenant has been ratified by India,56 which means that the State has undertaken to abide by its terms . . . The State has a .duty of care. to ensure that the guarantee of Article 21 is not denied to anyone. This .duty of care. is strict and admits no exceptions the Court said. The State must take responsibility by paying compensation to the near and dear ones of a person, who has been deprived of her/ his life by the wrongful acts of its agents. However, the Court affirmed that the State has a right to recover the compensation amount from the wrongdoers.”

A Bangladeshi woman was gang raped by railroad employees. She was then raped again by her rescuer. The Supreme Court rejected the argument that the woman, as a foreigner, was not afforded certain constitutional protections. Some provisions of the Indian Constitution refer to ''citizens'' while others refer to ''persons''. Regardless, the Court held that ''life'' as used in Article 21 must be interpreted consistently with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Thus, Article 21 protections protect both citizens and non-citizens. Since rape is a violation of Article 21's fundamental right to life, the victim was entitled to compensation.

The inhabitants of a number of informal settlements in Dhaka were evicted by the government without notice. Their homes were also demolished by bulldozers. The Supreme Court of Bangladesh referred to the Indian Supreme Court case of Olga Tellis v Bombay Municipal Corporation, [1985]. It held that there was a fundamental right to livelihood which derived from such fundamental rights as the right to life, dignity, and equal protection of the law. The government, then, had to ensure that its people had the basic provisions of life, including shelter. The Court also directed the government to make guidelines for the resettlement of inhabitants of informal settlements. Thus, even though the Supreme Court of Bangladesh was not bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court of India, it was nevertheless influenced by at least one of them.

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