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Indian Case Summary

The Chairman, Railway Board & Ors vs Mrs. Chandrima Das & Ors on 28 January, 2000 – Case Summary

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In the case of “The Chairman, Railway Board & Ors vs Mrs. Chandrima Das & Ors on 28 January, 2000,” the Supreme Court of India was called upon to adjudicate a matter of grave importance that involved the violation of human rights, specifically the rights of a foreign national on Indian soil. The case was presided over by the bench of R.P.Sethi and S.Saghir Ahmad.

Facts of the Case

The case was initiated by Mrs. Chandrima Das, a practicing advocate of the Calcutta High Court, who filed a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution against the Chairman, Railway Board, and several other officials. The petition was filed on behalf of Smt. Hanuffa Khatoon, a Bangladeshi national who was gang-raped by several individuals, including employees of the Railways, in a room at Yatri Niwas at Howrah Station of the Eastern Railway. The incident led to the registration of G.R.P.S. Case No. 19/98 on 27th February 1998.

Smt. Hanuffa Khatoon arrived at Howrah Railway Station on 26th February 1998, intending to board the Jodhpur Express to visit Ajmer Sharif. She was approached by two individuals, Ashoke Singh and Siya Ram Singh, who posed as influential persons of the Railway. They confirmed her reservation, and later, Ashoke Singh, along with Rafi Ahmed, a Parcel Supervisor at Howrah Station, took her to Yatri Niwas. There, she was forced into a room where she was violated by four individuals.

Issues Raised and Court’s Observations

The primary issue argued before the court was whether the Railways would be liable to pay compensation to Smt. Hanuffa Khatoon, who was a foreigner and not an Indian national. The appellants contended that the commission of the offence by the individuals concerned would not make the Railway or the Union of India liable to pay compensation to the victim of the offence. They argued that it was the individual act of those persons, and they alone would be prosecuted and, if found guilty, would be punished and may also be liable to pay fine or compensation.

The court rejected this contention, stating that the petition was not merely a matter of violation of an ordinary right of a person but the violation of Fundamental Rights. The court referred to its previous judgment in Bodhisatwa vs. Ms. Subdhra Chakroborty, where it held “rape” as an offence violative of the Fundamental Right of a person guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The court also dismissed the argument that Mrs. Chandrima Das, being only a practicing advocate of the Calcutta High Court and not related to the victim, could not have legally instituted these proceedings. The court held that the petition was filed in public interest, and Mrs. Das had the locus standi to challenge the validity or constitutionality of an action taken by the State or any public authority.

The court further rejected the contention that Smt. Hanuffa Khatoon, being a foreign national, could not claim the violation of Fundamental Rights and on that basis, could not be granted any relief. The court referred to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, which has international recognition as the “Moral Code of Conduct,” and stated that the violation of human rights of any individual, irrespective of their nationality, is a matter of grave concern.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the court upheld the High Court’s decision to award a sum of Rs.10 lakhs as compensation for Smt. Hanuffa Khatoon, stating that the rape was committed at the building (

Rail Yatri Niwas) belonging to the Railways and was perpetrated by the Railway employees. The court emphasized that the violation of human rights, especially those as grave as in this case, cannot be ignored on the basis of the victim’s nationality. The court further affirmed that public-spirited citizens, like Mrs. Chandrima Das, have a vital role in preserving the integrity and independence of the judicial system and can legally institute proceedings in public interest.

The case is significant as it expanded the scope of public interest litigation and affirmed the rights of foreign nationals in India. It also highlighted the responsibility of public bodies like the Railways in ensuring the safety and security of individuals within their premises. The court’s decision underscored the importance of upholding human rights and providing justice, irrespective of the victim’s nationality.

The case serves as a stark reminder of the duty of public bodies to ensure the safety of all individuals, irrespective of their nationality, within their premises. It also underscores the importance of public interest litigation in providing access to justice for victims of human rights violations. The decision of the court in this case is a testament to the Indian judiciary’s commitment to upholding human rights and delivering justice.