Relief paid by admn to Udhampur victims' families came with a rider : The Tribune India

Relief paid by admn to Udhampur victims' families came with a rider

J&K Administration gave Rs 3 lakh each to the families of 12 deceased infants

Relief paid by admn to Udhampur victims' families came with a rider

Photo for representational purpose only. Reuters file



Tribune News Service

Aditi Tandon

New Delhi, October 8

Disturbing details have emerged in the matter involving the death of 12 infants due to diethylene glycol poisoning in Udhampur in January 2020, with evidence revealing that even monetary compensation awarded to next of kin of the deceased is conditional.

The Tribune has learnt that the Jammu and Kashmir administration made attempts to sidestep the September 9, 2020, orders of the National Human Rights Commission which, while holding the State Drugs Department responsible for procedural lapses in failing to check poisonous contents of the cough syrup that killed the infants, ordered payment of Rs 3 lakh to next of kin of each deceased child.

Lose case, lose award

  • J&K Administration gave Rs 3 lakh each to the families of 12 deceased infants
  • Took undertaking that they would return money if its plea against the award succeeded in the SC

The UT administration went on to challenge the NHRC compensation award in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, saying that only the manufacturer could be held liable for the lapse and compensation. After the High Court on March 2, 2021, dismissed the said petition, the J&K administration proceeded to file a special leave petition (SLP) in the apex court against the HC judgment.

Also, although the administration of the Union Territory agreed to pay Rs 3 lakh each to 12 families as directed, it did so subject to an undertaking by each family that they would return the money if the SLP outcome was favourable to the UT.

In the undertaking, a copy of which The Tribune has accessed, the kin of the deceased say, “The deponent undertakes that in the event of any adverse judgment by the apex court in the matter of SLP title Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and others versus the National Human Rights Commission and others (pending adjudication) the compensation amount shall be returned to the government within a month from the date of any such judgment which is delivered.”

Each of these undertakings have been attested by the executive magistrate first class, Udhampur.

The compensation was finally transferred digitally into the bank accounts of the 12 victim families on December 21, 2021, a few days after the families gave the above undertaking to the local administration on December 18 that year.

“The undertakings were a prerequisite for the payment of the compensation to the families. The local administration left no stone unturned in denying even the monetary relief to the families that lost their infants, some of who were so small, they had not even been named,” says Jammu-based social activist Sukesh Khajuria, who had petitioned the NHRC for compensation on the behalf of the victim families.

Khajuria said laxity of the criminal justice system and insensitivity of state governments was the reason why manufacturers of spurious drugs felt emboldened to go on with business as usual.

“When the Supreme Court takes up the SLP, I will urge the court to invoke Article 142 of the Constitution which was invoked in the Bhopal gas tragedy and the Uphaar cinema tragedy cases to ensure complete justice to the victims. In both cases, owners of Uphaar cinema and the Union Carbide factory were made to pay compensation to the victims,” says Khajuria, who, along with the NHRC, is a respondent in the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s SLP and continues to wage a lonely battle for justice.

#Udhampur

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