• D K Basu Versus State of West Bengal & Ors.- Judgment Dated: 24.07.2015



    CRL.M.P. NO.16086 OF 1997


    CRL.M.P. NO.4201 OF 1997

    Dilip K. Basu                                     …Petitioner


    State of West Bengal & Ors.                  …Respondents


    CRL.M.P. NO.4201 OF 1997, 4105 OF 1999, 2600 OF 2000, 2601 OF 2000, 480 OF

    2001, 3965, 10385 OF 2002, 12704 OF 2001, 19694 OF 2010  IN CRL.M.P. NO.

    4201 OF 1997, CRL.M.P. NO. 13566 OF 2011 IN CRL.M.P. NO. 16086 OF 1997 IN

    CRL.M.P. NO. 4201 OF 1997, CRL.M.P. NO. 15490 OF 2014 & 15492 OF 2014 IN

    WRIT PETITION (CRL.)NO. 539 OF 1986

    J U D G M E N T


    T.S. THAKUR, J.

    1.    In D.K. Basu etc. v. State of West  Bengal  etc.[1]  [D.K.  Basu  (1)]

    this Court lamented the growing incidence of torture and  deaths  in  police

    custody. This Court noted that although violation of one  or  the  other  of

    the human rights has been the subject  matter  of  several  Conventions  and

    Declarations and although  commitments  have  been  made  to  eliminate  the

    scourge  of  custodial  torture  yet  gruesome  incidents  of  such  torture

    continue unabated. The  court  described  ‘custodial  torture’  as  a  naked

    violation of human dignity and degradation that destroys self esteem of  the

    victim and does not even spare his personality. Custodial  torture  observed

    the Court is a calculated  assault  on  human  dignity  and  whenever  human

    dignity is wounded, civilisation takes a step backwards.  The  Court  relied

    upon the Report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure and the  Third

    Report of the National Police Commission  in  India  to  hold  that  despite

    recommendations for banishing torture  from  investigative  system,  growing

    incidence of torture and deaths  in  police  custody  come  back  to  haunt.

    Relying upon the decisions of this Court in Joginder Kumar v. State of  U.P.

    and Ors.[2]; Smt. Nilabati Behera alias Lalita Behera v.  State  of  Orissa

    and Ors.[3]; State of M.P. v.  Shyamsunder  Trivedi  and  Ors.[4];  and  the

    113th report of the  Law  Commission  of  India  recommending  insertion  of

    Section 114-B in the Indian Evidence Act, this Court  held  that  while  the

    freedom of an individual must yield to the security of the State, the  right

    to interrogate the detenus, culprits or arrestees in  the  interest  of  the

    nation must take precedence over an individual’s right to personal  liberty.

    Having said that the action of the State, observed this Court, must be  just

    and fair. Using any form of torture for extracting any kind  of  information

    would  neither  be  right  nor  just  or  fair,  hence,  impermissible,  and

    offensive to Article 21 of the Constitution.  A crime suspect, declared  the

    court, may  be  interrogated  and  subjected  to  sustained  and  scientific

    interrogation in the manner determined by the provisions  of  law,  but,  no

    such suspect can be  tortured  or  subjected  to  third  degree  methods  or

    eliminated with a view to eliciting information, extracting a confession  or

    deriving knowledge about his accomplices, weapons  etc.  His  constitutional

    right cannot be abridged except in the manner permitted by  law,  though  in

    the very nature of things there would be a  qualitative  difference  in  the

    method of interrogation  of  such  a  person  as  compared  to  an  ordinary

    criminal. State terrorism  declared  this  Court  is  no  answer  to  combat

    terrorism.  It may only provide legitimacy to terrorism, which  is  bad  for

    the State and the community and above all for the rule of law.  Having  said

    that, the Court issued the following directions and guidelines in all  cases

    of arrest and/or detention:

     “35.   We  therefore,  consider  it  appropriate  to  issue  the   following

    requirements to be followed in all cases of arrest or detention  till  legal

    provisions are made in that behalf as preventive measures:

     (1)  The  police  personnel  carrying  out  the  arrest  and  handling   the

    interrogation of the  arrestee  should  bear  accurate,  visible  and  clear

    identification and name togs with their  designations.  The  particulars  of

    all such police personnel who handle interrogation of the arrestee  must  be

    recorded in a register.

     (2) That the police officer carrying out the arrest of  the  arrestee  shall

    prepare a memo of arrest at  the  time  of  arrest  a  such  memo  shall  be

    attested by atleast one witness who may be either a member of the family  of

    the arrestee or a respectable person of the locality from where  the  arrest

    is made. It shall also be counter signed by the arrestee and  shall  contain

    the time and date of arrest.

     (3) A person who has been arrested or detained and is being held in  custody

    in a police station or interrogation  centre  or  other  lock-up,  shall  be

    entitled to have one friend or relative or other  person  known  to  him  or

    having interest in his welfare being informed, as soon as practicable,  that

    he has been arrested and is being detained at the particular  place,  unless

    the attesting witness of the memo of arrest is himself such a  friend  or  a

    relative of the arrestee.

     (4) The time, place of arrest and venue of custody of an  arrestee  must  be

    notified by the police where the next friend or  relative  of  the  arrestee

    lives outside the district or town through the  legal  Aid  Organisation  in

    the District and the police station of the  area  concerned  telegraphically

    within a period of 8 to 12 hours after the arrest.

     (5) The person arrested must be made aware of this  right  to  have  someone

    informed of his arrest or detention as soon he is put  under  arrest  or  is

     (6) An entry must be made in the diary at the place of  detention  regarding

    the arrest of the person which shall also  disclose  the  name  of  he  next

    friend of the person who has been informed of the arrest and the  names  and

    particulars of the police officials in whose custody the arrestee is.

     (7) The arrestee should, where he so requests, be also examined at the  time

    of his arrest and major and minor injuries, if any present on his/her  body,

    must be recorded at that time. The "Inspection Memo" must be signed both  by

    the arrestee and the police  officer  effecting  the  arrest  and  its  copy

    provided to the arrestee.

     (8) The arrestee should be  subjected  to  medical  examination  by  trained

    doctor every 48 hours during his detention in custody by  a  doctor  on  the

    panel of approved doctors appointed by  Director,  Health  Services  of  the

    concerned  Stare  or  Union  Territory.  Director,  Health  Services  should

    prepare such a penal for all Tehsils and Districts as well.

     (9) Copies of all the documents including the memo of  arrest,  referred  to

    above, should be sent to the illaqa Magistrate for his record.

    (10) The arrestee may be permitted to meet his lawyer during  interrogation,

    though not throughout the interrogation.

    (11) A police control room should be provided  at  all  district  and  state

    headquarters, where information  regarding  the  arrest  and  the  place  of

    custody of the arrestee shall be communicated by  the  officer  causing  the

    arrest, within 12 hours of effecting the arrest and at  the  police  control

    room it should be displayed on a conspicuous notice board.”

    2.    This Court also examined whether compensation  could  be  awarded  and

    declared that pecuniary compensation was permissible  in  appropriate  cases

    by way of redressal upon proof of infringement of fundamental  rights  of  a

    citizen by the public servants and that the  State  was  vicariously  liable

    for their acts. The Court further held that compensation was payable on  the

    principle of strict liability to which the  defence  of  sovereign  immunity

    was not available and that the citizen must receive  compensation  from  the

    State as he/she has a right to be indemnified by the government.

    3.    D.K. Basu(1) was followed  by  seven  subsequent  orders  reported  in

    Dilip K. Basu v. State of W.B. and Ors.[5]; Dilip K. Basu v. State  of  W.B.

    and Ors.[6]; Dilip Kumar Basu v. State of W.B. and Ors.[7];  Dilip  K.  Basu

    and Ors. v. State of W.B. and Ors.[8]; Dilip K. Basu and Ors.  v.  State  of

    W.B. and Ors.[9]; Dilip K. Basu and Ors. v. State of W.B. and Ors.[10];  and

    Dilip K. Basu v. State of W.B. and Ors.[11]. All these orders were aimed  at

    enforcing the implementation of the directions issued in D.K.  Basu(1).   It

    is not, in our view, necessary to refer to each one of the said  orders  for

    observations made therein and directions issued by this  Court  simply  show

    that  this  Court  has  pursued  the  matter  touching  enforcement  of  the

    directions with considerable perseverance.

    4.    What falls for consideration before us  at  present  are  the  prayers

    made in Crl.M.P. No.15492 of  2014  filed  by  Dr.  Abhishek  Manu  Singhvi,

    Senior Advocate, who was appointed Amicus Curiae in this  case.  The  Amicus

    has, in the said application, sought further directions from this  Court  in

    terms of Paras 10(A) to 10(O) of the said Crl.  M.P.  When  the  application

    initially came-up for hearing before this Court  on  5th  August,  2014,  we

    gave a final  opportunity  to  the  respondents-States  to  respond  to  the

    prayers made in the same. We, at the same time,  requested  Dr.  Singhvi  to

    identify areas that need attention and  make  specific  recommendations  for

    consideration  of  this  Court  based  on  the  responses   filed   by   the

    States/Union Territories to the application filed by him.  Dr.  Singhvi  has

    accordingly filed a summary of recommendations,  which,  according  to  him,

    deserve to be examined  and  accepted  while  concluding  these  proceedings

    which have remained pending in this Court for the past 30 years or  so.  We,

    therefore, propose to deal with the recommendations  so  summarised  by  the

    Amicus Curiae, having regard to the responses of the States filed  and  also

    the need for giving quietus to the issues that have  engaged  the  attention

    of this Court for such a long time.

    5.    The Amicus has, in paras 10(A) to 10(B)  of  the  application,  sought

    suitable directions from this Court of  setting-up  of  State  Human  Rights

    Commissions in the States of Delhi, Arunachal Pradesh,  Mizoram,  Meghalaya,

    Tripura and Nagaland, where such  Commissions  have  not  been  set-up  even

    after two decades have passed since  the  enactment  of  the  Protection  of

    Human Rights Act, 1993. The application points out that Delhi has   reported

    the second highest number  of  human  rights  violation  cases  reported  to

    National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).  It  refers  to  the  NHRC  Curtain

    Raiser published on its 20th Foundation Day, according to  which  out  of  a

    total number of 94,985 fresh  cases  registered  in  the  NHRC  the  largest

    number of cases (46,187) came from the State of Uttar  Pradesh  followed  by

    Delhi, which reported 7,988 cases and Haryana, which reported  6,921  cases.

    Despite a large number of complaints  alleging  violation  of  human  rights

    from the Delhi region, the Delhi Government has not  set-up  a  State  Human

    Rights Commission so far. The application further points out  that  Mizoram,

    Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland are all disturbed States  with  problems  of

    insurgency, foreign immigration, tribal warfare and  ethnic  violence  apart

    from custodial violence and deaths,  which  according  to  the  Amicus,  are

    rampant in each one of these States making it necessary  to  have  a  proper

    authority  to  look  into  such  violations  and  grant   redress   wherever

    6.    Despite an opportunity granted for the purpose, the States  that  have

    failed to set-up Human Rights Commissions have not  come  forward  to  offer

    any justification for their omission to do so. All that was argued  by  some

    of  the  counsel  appearing  for  the  defaulting   States   is   that   the

    establishment of a Commission is not mandatory in terms  of  Section  21  of

    the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.  It was  urged  that  the  use  of

    words  ‘A  State  Government  may  constitute  a  body  to   be   known   as

    the……………(Name of the State) Human Rights Commission’  clearly suggests  that

    the State Government may or may not choose to constitute  such  a  body.  In

    the absence of any mandatory requirement under the  Act  constitution  of  a

    State Human Rights Commission cannot, it  was  urged,  be  ordered  by  this

    Court in the present proceedings.

    7.    There is, in our opinion, no merit in the contention urged  on  behalf

    of the defaulting States. We say so for reasons more than one,  but,  before

    we advert to the same we wish to point out that Protection of  Human  Rights

    Act, 1993 symbolises the culmination of a long drawn  struggle  and  crusade

    for protection of human rights in this country as much as elsewhere  is  the

    world. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly in  December,  1948  adopted

    the Universal Declaration of Human  Rights  which  was  a  significant  step

    towards formulating and recognizing such rights. It was, then,  followed  by

    an International Bill  of  Rights  which  was  binding  on  the  covenanting

    parties. Since the Universal Declaration of Human  Rights  was  not  legally

    binding and since United Nations had no machinery for its  enforcement,  the

    deficiency was removed by the UN General Assembly by adopting  in  December,

    1965 two covenants for the observance of human rights viz. (i) the  Covenant

    on Civil and Political Rights; and (ii) the  Covenant  on  Economic,  Social

    and Cultural Rights.  The  first  covenant  formulated  legally  enforceable

    rights of the individual while second required the States to implement  them

    by legislation. These covenants came into force in December, 1976 after  the

    requisite number of  member  States  ratified  them.   Many  of  the  States

    ratified the Covenants subsequently at the end  of  1981.   These  Covenants

    thus become legally binding on the ratifying States and  since  India  is  a

    party to  the  said  Covenants,  the  President  of  India  promulgated  the

    Protection of Human Rights  Ordinance,  1993  on  28th  September,  1993  to

    provide for the constitution of a National Human  Rights  Commission,  State

    Human Rights Commissions in the States and Human Rights  Courts  for  better

    protection of  human  rights  and  for  matters  connected  therewith.   The

    ordinance was shortly thereafter replaced by the Protection of Human  Rights

    Act, 1993.

    8.    In the Statement of Objects and Reasons of  the  Protection  of  Human

    Rights Act, 1993 it, is inter alia, mentioned that India is a party  to  the

    International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and  the  International

    Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural  Rights  adopted  by  the  General

    Assembly of the United Nations on 16th December, 1966. It is further  stated

    that the human rights embodied  in  the  said  Covenants  are  substantially

    protected by the Constitution and that there is a growing concern about  the

    changing social realities and the emerging trends in  the  nature  of  crime

    and violence. The Statement of Objects and Reasons also refers to  the  wide

    ranging discussions that were  held  at  various  fora  such  as  the  Chief

    Ministers’ Conference on Human Rights, seminars organized in  various  parts

    of the country and the meetings with leaders of various  political  parties,

    which culminated in the presentation of Protection  of  Human  Rights  Bill,

    1993 that came to be passed by both the Houses of  Parliament  and  received

    the assent of the  President  on  8th  January,  1994  taking  retrospective

    effect from 28th September, 1993.  The significance of the human rights  and

    the need for their protection and enforcement is thus  beyond  the  pale  of

    any debate.  The movement for the protection of such rights is not  confined

    only to India alone. It is a global phenomenon.  It  is,  in  this  backdrop

    that the provisions of Section 21 of the Act need  to  be  examined.  It  is

    true that a plain reading of the provisions may  give  the  impression  that

    the setting-up of a State Human Rights Commission rests  in  the  discretion

    of the State Government. But a closer  and  more  careful  analysis  of  the

    provisions contained in the Act dispel that impression.  Section 21  of  the

    Act, which deals with the setting-up of State Human  Rights  Commission,  is

    in the following terms:

     “21. Constitution of State Human Rights Commission.—

    (1) A  State  Government  may  constitute  a  body  to  be  known   as   the

    ............................. (Name of the State)  Human  Rights  Commission

    to exercise  the  powers  conferred  upon,  and  to  perform  the  functions

    assigned to a State Commission under this Chapter.

    (2) The State Commission shall, with effect from  such  date  as  the  State

    Government may by notification specify, consist of—

    (a) a Chairperson who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court;

    (b) one Member who is, or has been, a Judge of  a  High  Court  or  District

    Judge in the State with a minimum of  seven  years  experience  as  District


    (c) one Member to be appointed from among persons  having  knowledge  of  or

    practical experience in matters relating to human rights.

    (3) There shall be a Secretary who shall be the Chief Executive  Officer  of

    the State Commission and shall  exercise  such  powers  and  discharge  such

    functions of the State Commission as it may delegate to him.

    (4) The headquarters of the State Commission shall be at such place  as  the

    State Government may, by notification, specify.

    (5) A State Commission may inquire into violation of human  rights  only  in

    respect of matters relatable to any of the entries  enumerated  in  List  II

    and List III in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution: Provided  that  if

    any such matter is already being inquired into  by  the  Commission  or  any

    other Commission duly constituted under  any  law  for  the  time  being  in

    force, the  State  Commission  shall  not  inquire  into  the  said  matter:

    Provided further that in relation to the  Jammu  and  Kashmir  Human  Rights

    Commission, this sub-section shall have effect  as  if  for  the  words  and

    figures “List II and List III in the Seventh Schedule to the  Constitution”,

    the words and figures “List III in the Seventh Schedule to the  Constitution

    as applicable to the State of Jammu and Kashmir and in  respect  of  matters

    in relation to which the Legislature of that State has power to  make  laws”

    had been substituted.

    (6) Two or more State Governments may, with the consent of a Chairperson  or

    Member of a State Commission, appoint such Chairperson or, as the  case  may

    be,  such  Member  of  another  State  Commission  simultaneously  if   such

    Chairperson or Member consents to  such  appointment:  Provided  that  every

    appointment made under this sub-section shall be made  offer  obtaining  the

    recommendations of the committee referred to in sub-section (1)  of  section

    22 in respect of the state for which a common chairman or member,  or  both,

    the case may be, is to be appointed.”

    9.    A plain reading of the above would show that the Parliament  has  used

    the word ‘may’ in sub-Section (1) while providing for the  setting-up  of  a

    State Human Rights Commission. In contrast the Parliament has used the  word

    ‘shall’ in sub-Section (3) while providing for constitution  of  a  National

    Commission. The argument on behalf of the defaulting States, therefore,  was

    that the use of two different expressions which dealing with the subject  of

    analogous nature is a clear indication that while a  National  Human  Rights

    Commission is mandatory a State Commission  is  not.  That  argument  is  no

    doubt attractive, but does not stand close scrutiny. The use of  word  ‘may’

    is not by itself determinative of the  true  nature  of  the  power  or  the

    obligation conferred or created under a provision.  The  legal  position  on

    the subject is fairly well settled by a  long  line  of  decisions  of  this

    Court.  The stated position is that the use of word ‘may’  does  not  always

    mean that the authority upon which the  power  is  vested  may  or  may  not

    exercise that power. Whether or not the word ‘may’ should  be  construed  as

    mandatory and equivalent to the word ‘shall’ would depend  upon  the  object

    and the purpose of the enactment under which the said power is conferred  as

    also related provisions made in the  enactment.  The  word  ‘may’  has  been

    often read as ‘shall’ or ‘must’ when there is something  in  the  nature  of

    the thing to be done which must compel such a reading. In other  words,  the

    conferment of the power upon the authority may having regard to the  context

    in which such power has been conferred and the purpose of its conferment  as

    also the circumstances in which it is meant to be exercised carry with  such

    power an obligation which compels its exercise. The locus classicus  on  the

    subject is found in Julius v. Bishop of  Oxford[12]  where  Justice  Cairns,

    L.C. observed:

    “…The words  ‘it shall be lawful’ are not equivocal.   They  are  plain  and

    unambiguous.  They are words merely making that  legal  and  possible  which

    there would otherwise be no  right  or  authority  to  do.   They  confer  a

    faculty or power, and they do not  of  themselves  do  more  than  confer  a

    faculty or power.  But there may be something in the  nature  of  the  thing

    empowered to be done, something in the object for which it is  to  be  done,

    something in the conditions under which it is to be done, something  in  the

    title of the person or  persons  for  whose  benefit  the  power  is  to  be

    exercised, which may couple the power with a duty, and make it the  duty  of

    the person in whom the power is reposed, to exercise that power when  called

    upon to do so. …”

    Lord Blackburn in the same case observed:

    “I do not think the words “it shall be lawful” are in  themselves  ambiguous

    at all.  They are apt words to express that a power is given; and as,  prima

    facie, the donee of a power may either exercise it or leave  it  unused,  it

    is not inaccurate to say that, prima facie, they are  equivalent  to  saying

    that the donee may do  it;  but  if  the  object  for  which  the  power  is

    conferred is for the purpose of enforcing a right, there may be a duty  cast

    on the donee of the power, to exercise it for the benefit of those who  have

    that right, when required on their behalf….”

    10.   A long line of decisions of this Court  starting  with  Sardar  Govind

    Rao and Ors. v. State of Madhya Pradesh[13] have followed the above line  of

    reasoning and authoritatively held  that  the  use  of  the  word  ‘may’  or

    ‘shall’ by themselves do not necessarily suggest that one is  directory  and

    the other mandatory, but, the context in which  the  said  expressions  have

    been used as also the scheme and  the  purpose  underlying  the  legislation

    will determine whether the legislative intent really was  to  simply  confer

    the power or such conferment was accompanied by the  duty  to  exercise  the

    same. In The Official Liquidator  v. Dharti Dhan Pvt.  Ltd.[14]  this  Court

    summed up the legal position thus :

     “In fact it is quite  accurate  to  say  that  the  word  "may"  by  itself,

    acquires the meaning' of "must" or "shall"  sometimes.  This  word  however,

    always signifies a conferment of power. That power  may,  having  regard  to

    the context in which it occurs, and the requirements  contemplated  for  its

    exercise, have annexed to it an obligation which compels its exercise  in  a

    certain way  on  facts  and  circumstances  from  which  the  obligation  to

    exercise it in that way arises. In other words, it is the context which  can

    attach the obligation to the power compel- ling its exercise  in  a  certain

    way. The context, both legal and factual,  may  impart  to  the  power  that

    obligatoriness. Thus, the question to be determined  in  such  cases  always

    is, whether the power conferred by the use of the word  "may"  has,  annexed

    to it, an obligation that, on the fulfilment of certain  legally  prescribed

    conditions, to be shown by evidence, a particular  kind  of  order  must  be

    made. If the statute leaves no room for  discretion  the  power  has  to  be

    exercised in the manner  indicated  by  the  other  legal  provisions  which

    provide the legal context. Even then  the  facts  must  establish  that  the

    legal conditions are fulfilled: A power is exercised  even  when  the  Court

    rejects an application to exercise it in the particular  way  in  which  the

    applicant desires it to be exercised. Where the  power  is  wide  enough  to

    cover both an acceptance and a refusal of an application for  its  exercise,

    depending upon facts, it is  directory  or  discretionary.  It  is  not  the

    conferment of a power which  the  word  "may"  indicates  that  annexes  any

    obligation to its exercise but the legal and factual context of it.”

    11.   So also, this Court in ND  Jayal  and  Anr.  v.  Union  of  India  and

    Ors.[15] interpreted the provisions of  the  Environmental  Protection  Act,

    1986 to mean that the  power  conferred  under  the  Act  was  not  a  power

    simpliciter, but, was power  coupled  with  duty.  Unless  the  Act  was  so

    interpreted sustainable development and protection of life under Article  21

    was not possible observed the Court. In  Manushkhlal  Vithaldas  Chauhan  v.

    State of Gujarat[16] this Court held that  the  scheme  of  the  statute  is

    determinative of the nature of duty or power conferred  upon  the  authority

    while determining whether such power is obligatory, mandatory  or  directory

    and that even if that duty is not set out clearly and  specifically  in  the

    stature, it may be  implied  as  correlative  to  a  right.  Numerous  other

    pronouncements of this Court  have  similarly  addressed  and  answered  the

    issue. It is unnecessary to refer to  all  those  decisions  for  we  remain

    content with reference to the decision of this Court in  Bachahan  Devi  and

    Anr. v. Nagar Nigam, Gorakhpur  and  Anr.[17]  in  which  the  position  was

    succinctly summarized as under:

     “18. It is well settled that the use of word `may' in a statutory  provision

    would not by itself show that the provision is directory in nature. In  some

    cases, the  legislature  may  use  the  word  `may'  as  a  matter  of  pure

    conventional  courtesy  and  yet  intend  a  mandatory  force.   In   order,

    therefore, to interpret the legal import of the word `may',  the  court  has

    to consider various factors, namely, the object and the scheme of  the  Act,

    the context and the background against which the words have been  used,  the

    purpose and the advantages sought to be achieved by the use  of  this  word,

    and the like. It is equally well-settled that where the word `may'  involves

    a discretion coupled with an obligation  or  where  it  confers  a  positive

    benefit to a general class of subjects in a utility Act, or where the  court

    advances a remedy and suppresses the mischief, or  where  giving  the  words

    directory significance would defeat the very object of  the  Act,  the  word

    `may' should be interpreted to convey a mandatory force. As a general  rule,

    the word  `may'  is  permissive  and  operative  to  confer  discretion  and

    especially so, where it is used in juxtaposition to the word 'shall',  which

    ordinarily is imperative as it  imposes  a  duty.  Cases  however,  are  not

    wanting where the words `may' `shall', and `must' are used  interchangeably.

    In order to find out whether these words are being used in  a  directory  or

    in a mandatory sense, the intent of the legislature should  be  looked  into

    along  with  the  pertinent  circumstances.  The  distinction  of  mandatory

    compliance or directory effect of the language  depends  upon  the  language

    couched in the statute under  consideration  and  its  object,  purpose  and

    effect. The distinction reflected in the use of the word  `shall'  or  `may'

    depends on conferment of power. Depending upon the context, 'may'  does  not

    always mean may. 'May' is a must for enabling compliance  of  provision  but

    there are cases in which, for various reasons, as soon as a  person  who  is

    within the statute is entrusted with the  power,  it  becomes  his  duty  to

    exercise that power. Where the language  of  statute  creates  a  duty,  the

    special remedy is prescribed for non-performance of the duty.

    20. If it appears to be the settled intention of the legislature  to  convey

    the sense of compulsion, as where an obligation is created, the use  of  the

    word 'may' will  not  prevent  the  court  from  giving  it  the  effect  of

    Compulsion or obligation. Where the statute  was  passed  purely  in  public

    interest  and  that  rights  of  private  citizens  have  been  considerably

    modified and curtailed in the interests of the  general  development  of  an

    area or in the interests or removal of slums and  unsanitary  areas.  Though

    the power is conferred upon the statutory body by the use of the word  'may'

    that power must be construed as a statutory duty.  Conversely,  the  use  of

    the term 'shall' may indicate the  use  in  optional  or  permissive  sense.

    Although in general sense 'may' is enabling or discretional and  `shall'  is

    obligatory, the connotation  is  not  inelastic  and  inviolate."  Where  to

    interpret the word `may' as directory would render the very  object  of  the

    Act as nugatory, the word 'may' must mean 'shall'.

    21. The ultimate rule in construing auxiliary verbs like `may'  and  `shall'

    is to discover the legislative intent;  and  the  use  of  words  `may'  and

    'shall' is not decisive of its discretion or mandates. The use of the  words

    `may' and `shall' may  help  the  courts  in  ascertaining  the  legislative

    intent without giving to either a controlling  or  a  determinating  effect.

    The courts have further to consider the subject matter, the purpose  of  the

    provisions, the object intended to be secured by the  statute  which  is  of

    prime importance, as also the actual words employed.”

     (emphasis supplied)

    12.   The above decision also dispels the impression that if the  Parliament

    has used the words “may” and “shall” at the places in  the  same  provision,

    it means that the intention was to make a distinction in as much as one  was

    intended to be discretionary while the  other  mandatory.  This  is  obvious

    from the following passage where this Court declared that even when the  two

    words are used in the same provision the Court’s power to discover the  true

    intention of the legislature remains unaffected:

     “22. …..Obviously where the legislature uses two words may and shall in  two

    different parts of the same provision prima facie it would appear  that  the

    legislature manifested its intent on to make one part directory and  another

    mandatory. But that by itself is not decisive. The power of  court  to  find

    out whether the provision is directory or mandatory remains unimpaired.”

    13.   When we examine the scheme of the legislation and  the  provisions  of

    Section 21 (supra) in the light  of  the  above  principles,  the  following

    broad features emerge prominently:

    that the Act is aimed at providing an efficacious and transparent  mechanism

    for prevention of violation of human rights both at national level  as  also

    at the state level;

    that the National Human Rights Commission is  vested  with  the  powers  and

    functions set out in Chapter-III of comprising Sections  12  to  16  of  the

    Protection of Human Rights Act, 1963.  While  in  relation  to  State  Human

    Rights Commissions similar provisions of Sections 9, 10, 10, 12, 13, 14,  15

    to 18 apply mutatis mutandis subject to certain  modifications  referred  to

    in clauses (a) to (d) of the said provision. This  implies  that  he  powers

    exercisable by the State Commissions under  the  said  provisions  are  pari

    materia  with  the  powers  exercisable  by  the   National   Human   Rights

    (iii) that while Section 3 does use the word  ‘shall’  in  relation  to  the

    constitution of a  National  Human  Rights  Commission,  the  absence  of  a

    similar expression in Section and the use of the word ‘may’ as  observed  by

    this Court in Bachahan Devi (supra) case  makes  little  difference  as  the

    scheme of the Act and the true intention underlying the  legislation  is  to

    be determined by the Court depending upon  whether  the  power  was  coupled

    with a duty to exercise the same or was conferment of power simpliciter.

    14.   Time now to refer to certain other provisions of the Act. In terms  of

    Section 13(6) of the Act, the  National  Commission  is  empowered  whenever

    considered necessary or expedient so to do, to transfer any complaint  filed

    or pending before it to the State Commission of the  State  from  which  the

    complaint arises for disposal in accordance with the provisions of the  Act,

    subject to the condition that the complaint  is  one  respecting  which  the

    State Commission has jurisdiction to entertain the same. Upon such  transfer

    the State Commission is competent to dispose of the matter as  if  complaint

    was initially filed before it.    The power of the State Commission,  it  is

    noteworthy, is confined to matters enumerated in  List-II  and  List-III  of

    the Constitution in terms of Section 21 sub-Section (5)  extracted  earlier.

    Significantly, Section 12 applicable to State Commissions also provides  for

    not only inquiries into complaints of violation of human rights or  abetment

    thereof and negligence in the prevention of  such  violation,  by  a  public

    servant but also matters enumerated in clauses (a)  to  (g).  the  provision

    enjoins upon the State  Commissions  the  task  of  spreading  human  rights

    literacy among various sections  of  the  society  and  promoting  awareness

    about the safeguards available for the protection of  those  rights  through

    publications in the media,  seminars  and  other  available  means;  and  to

    encourage the efforts of  non-governmental  organizations  and  institutions

    working in the field  of  human  rights;  and  to  perform  all  such  other

    functions as may be considered necessary for the promotion of human  rights.

    All these functions are critical for the promotion and protection  of  human

    rights at the State level. The  essence  of  a  statutory  Commission  will,

    therefore, have the effect of negating the  legislative  intent  that  human

    rights need to be promoted  and  protected  against  violations.  The  State

    Governments cannot frustrate the  objects  underlying  the  legislation  but

    pleading that the legislative measure  notwithstanding  they  can  in  their

    discretion  keep  the  setting-up  of  the  Commissions  at  bay.  Any  such

    contention will be destructive of the scheme of the Act and the promise  the

    law contains for the protection of the rights of the people.

    15.   The upshot of the  above  discussion  that  the  power  of  the  State

    Governments under Section 21 to set-up  State  Human  Rights  Commission  in

    their respective areas/territories is not a power simpliciter  but  a  power

    coupled with the duty to exercise such power especially when it is  not  the

    case of anyone of the defaulting States that there is no violation of  human

    rights in  their  territorial  limits.   The  fact  that  Delhi  has  itself

    reported the second largest number of cases  involving  human  rights  cases

    would belie any such claim even if it were made. So  also,  it  is  not  the

    case of the North-Eastern States where such Commissions have not  been  set-

    up that there are no violations of Human Rights in those States.   The  fact

    that most if not all the States are affected by ethnic  and  other  violence

    and extremist activities calling for curbs affecting the  people  living  in

    those areas resulting, at times, in the violation of their rights cannot  be

    disputed.  Such occurrence of violence and the state of  affairs  prevailing

    in  most  of  the  States  cannot  support  the  contention  that  no   such

    commissions are required in those  States  as  there  are  no  human  rights

    violations of any kind whatsoever.

    16.   There is another angle from  which  the  matter  may  be  viewed.   It

    touches the right of the affected citizens to    “access  justice”  and  the

    denial of such access by reason of non-setting up  of  the  Commissions.  In

    Imtiyaz Ahmad  v.  State of  Uttar  Pradesh  and  Ors.[18]  this  Court  has

    declared that access to justice is  a  fundamental  right  guaranteed  under

    Article 21 of the Constitution. This Court observed:

    “25….A person's access to justice is a guaranteed  fundamental  right  under

    the  Constitution  and  particularly  Article  21.  Denial  of  this   right

    undermines  public  confidence  in   the   justice   delivery   system   and

    incentivises people to look for short-cuts and other fora  where  they  feel

    that justice will be done quicker. In the long run, this  also  weakens  the

    justice delivery system and poses a threat to Rule of Law.

    26. It may not be out of place to highlight that access to justice must  not

    be understood in a purely quantitative dimension. Access to  justice  in  an

    egalitarian democracy must be   understood to  mean  qualitative  access  to

    justice as well. Access to justice is, therefore, much more  than  improving

    an individual's access to courts, or guaranteeing  representation.  It  must

    be defined in terms of ensuring that legal and judicial  outcomes  are  just

    and equitable (See United Nations Development Programme, Access  to  Justice

    - Practice Note (2004)].”

    17.   Human rights violations in the States that are far  removed  from  the

    NHRC headquarters in Delhi itself makes access to justice for  victims  from

    those states an illusion. While theoretically  it  is  possible  that  those

    affected by violation of human rights can approach the NHRC by addressing  a

    complaint to the NHRC for redressal, it does not necessarily mean that  such

    access to justice for redressal of human rights violation is convenient  for

    the victims from  the  states  unless  the  States  have  set-up  their  own

    Commissions that would look into such complaints and grant relief.  We  need

    to remember that access to justice so much depends upon the ability  of  the

    victim to pursue his or her grievance before the forum  competent  to  grant

    relief. North-Eastern parts of the  country  are  mostly  inhabited  by  the

    tribals. Such regions cannot be deprived of  the  beneficial  provisions  of

    the  Act  simply  because  the  States  are  small  and  the  setting-up  of

    commissions in those states would mean financial burden for  the  exchequer.

    Even otherwise there is no real basis  for  the  contention  that  financial

    constrains prevent these States from setting-up their  own  Commissions.  At

    any rate, the provisions of Section 21(6) clearly provide for  two  or  more

    State Governments  setting–up  Commissions  with  a  common  Chairperson  or

    Member.  Such appointments may be possible with the consent  of  Chairperson

    or Member concerned but it is nobody’s case that any  attempt  had  in  that

    direction been made but the same  had  failed  on  account  of  the  persons

    concerned not agreeing to take up the  responsibility  vis-a-vis  the  other

    State. Even the NHRC had in its Annual Report (1996-1997) suggested that  if

    financial constraint was really one of the reasons  for  not  setting-up  of

    Commission  in  the  North-Eastern  Regions,  the  State  Governments  could

    consider setting-up such commissions by resorting to  Section  21(6),  which

    permits  two  States  having  the  same  Chairperson  or   Members   thereby

    considerably  reducing  the  expenses   on   the   establishment   of   such

    18.   Reference in this connection may be made  to  the  recommendations  of

    the NHRC published in its Annual Report for the  year  2004-2005  where  the

    commission observed:

    “16.1 State Human Rights Commissions have been set up in  151  States  viz.,

    the States of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Himachal  Pradesh,  Jammu

    & Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh,  Maharashtra,  Manipur,  Orissa,  Punjab,

    Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The  Commission  would

    like to reiterate its view that the ‘better protection of human rights’  can

    be ensured if all the States set up Human Rights Commission. The  Commission

    also emphasizes that the State Human Rights Commission  which  have  already

    been set up or are proposed to be set up should be in  compliance  with  the

    ‘Paris Principles’.

    16.2 The Commission, on its part, has endeavoured to assist  and  guide  the

    State Commissions in whatever manner possible, whenever  requests  for  such

    assistance or guidance has been  sought.  The  strengthening  of  the  State

    Commissions, is an important agenda in  the  Commission’s  activities.  With

    this in view, the  Commission  has  taken  the  initiative  to  have  annual

    interactions with all the  State  Human  Rights  Commissions,  where  mutual

    discussions take place.

    16.3 The first such annual meeting was held on  the  30-01-2004,  where  the

    agenda included coordination and sharing of information  between  the  SHRCs

    and the Commission;  training,  awareness  building  and  substantive  human

    rights issues.  Taking  forward  the  initiative,  the  second  meeting  was

    convened on the  13-05-2005.  Apart  from  the  various  issues  of  concern

    discussed in the meeting, the meeting concluded with  the  adoption  of  the

    following Resolution:-

    “The  National  Human  Rights  Commission  and  the   State   Human   Rights

    Commissions  present  hereby  unanimously  resolve   to   urge   the   State

    Governments to:-

    Setup, on priority, State Human Rights Commissions where  the  same  do  not

    b) Where, there are State Human Rights Commissions or, are  in  the  process

    of being setup, it be ensured that they  are  structurally  and  financially

    independent as  envisaged  in  and,  fully  confirming  to,  the  principles

    relating to the status of national  institutions  (the  “Paris  Principles’)

    which were endorsed by the UN General Assembly Resolution 48/134  of  20-12-

    The  National  and  State  Commissions  also  reiterate   and   remind   the

    Governments, both, at the  Centre  and  in  the  States,  that  the  primary

    obligation towards the protection of human rights is that of the  State  and

    that the national human rights institutions are for  ‘better  protection  of

    human rights’.

    16.4  The  Commission  places  great  importance   to   these   interactions

    especially keeping in view the social,  cultural  and  linguistic  diversity

    that comprises  our  society.  Institutionalizing  the  mechanism  of  these

    annual interactions is one way the Commission hopes to keep up  the  process

    of dialogue. It is  thus,  all  the  more  important  that  all  the  states

    expeditiously set up human rights Commissions.”

    (emphasis supplied)

    19.   A similar recommendation was made in the Annual Report  for  the  year

    2009-2010 of NHRC. It said:

    “10.1   Section 21 of the PHRA,  1993  as  amended  in  2006,  provides  for

    constitution of State Human Rights Commissions (SHRCs) in  all  the  States.

    The existence and functioning of a Human  Rights  Commission  in  the  State

    goes a long way in the ‘better’ protection and promotion  of  human  rights.

    It is now an accepted fact that good governance and human rights go hand  in

    hand. The SHRCs have been set-up in 18 States.  The names  of  these  States

    are:  Andhra  Pradesh,   Assam,  Bihar,  Chhattisgarh,   Gujarat,   Himachal

    Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala,  Madhya  Pradesh,  Maharashtra,

    Manipur, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan,  Tamil  Nadu,  Uttar  Pradesh  and  West


    10.2   The NHRC is keen that SHRCs are set-up in  all  the  States  so  that

    each  and  every  citizen  of  the  country  has  easy  recourse  to  better

    protection of ’human rights’ as well as for matters connected  therewith  or

    incidental thereto.   The  Commission  earnestly  recommends  to  all  those

    States which have not yet constituted SHRCs to follow suit at  the  earliest

    in the interest of better protection and promotion of human rights. …”

    (emphasis supplied)

    20.   Yet again, the same has been reiterated in the Annual Report  for  the

    year 2010-2011 of NHRC in the following words:

    “15.1 Section 21 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 as  amended  in

    2006, stipulates constitution of State Human Rights Commissions  (SHRCs)  in

    all the States. The creation of a Human Rights Commission in all the  States

    would definitely facilitate in `better’ protection and  promotion  of  human

    rights. It is now an accepted proposition that  good  governance  and  human

    rights go hand in hand. During the period under report, SHRCs  were  set  up

    in two States, namely, Jharkhand and Sikkim, thus taking the  overall  total

    of SHRCs in the country to 20. Eighteen States which already  have  an  SHRC

    are Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat,  Himachal  Pradesh,

    Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya  Pradesh,  Maharashtra,  Manipur,

    Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh  and  West  Bengal.  At

    present, there is no Chairperson and Members in the Himachal  Pradesh  State

    Human Rights Commission except for a Secretary.

    15.2 NHRC is keen that SHRCs are set up in every State  of  the  country  so

    that its inhabitants have easy access to better protection of  human  rights

    and justice. The Commission once again makes an earnest appeal to all  those

    States which have not yet constituted SHRCs to take action at  the  earliest

    in the interest of better protection  and  promotion  of  human  rights.  In

    addition, the Commission is  in  constant  touch  with  all  the  SHRCs  and

    renders technical support to them as and when required by them.”

    (emphasis supplied)

    21.   It is a matter of  regret  that  despite  the  National  Human  Rights

    Commission itself strongly and repeatedly recommending setting-up  of  State

    Commission in the States the same have not been set-up. Keeping in view  the

    totality  of  the  circumstances,  therefore,  we  see  no  reason  why  the

    recommendation made by the Amicus for a direction to the  States  of  Delhi,

    Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland  should  not  be

    issued  to  set-up  State  Human  Rights  Commission  in  their   respective

    22.   The other recommendation which the  Amicus  has  noted  for  issue  of

    suitable directions relates to the filling-up of vacancy of Chairperson  and

    Members in several State Human Rights Commissions.  The  Amicus  points  out

    that in the States of Manipur and Himachal Pradesh SHRC  is  not  functional

    since post of Chairperson and several  Members  remains  unfilled.   In  the

    State of Jammu and Kashmir, the  post  of  Chairperson  and  one  Member  is

    vacant. In the State of Jharkhand, the Chairperson is in  position  but  the

    post of sole Member is vacant.  So also,  in  the  State  of  Karnataka  two

    Members in the Commission are working while the post of Chairperson and  one

    member remains vacant.  Even  in  the  State  of  Tamil  Nadu  the  post  of

    Chairperson remains vacant.  The Amicus states that similar is the  position

    in several other States also which means that although States  have  set  up

    SHRC, the same are  dysfunctional  on  account  of  non  filling-up  of  the

    vacancies on account of administrative apathy and lethargy.  It  was  argued

    by the Amicus that dysfunctional SHRCs are as good as there  being  no  such

    Commissions at all thereby defeating the very  purpose  underlying  the  Act

    and calling for a direction from this Court to the States concerned to  fill

    up the existing vacancies immediately and also to ensure that no vacancy  in

    the SHRC  whether  against  the  post  of  Chairperson  or  Members  remains

    unfilled for more than three months.

    23.   There is, in our opinion, considerable merit in  the  submission  made

    by the Amicus that the very purpose of setting up of the State Human  Rights

    Commission gets defeated if vacancies that occur from time to time  are  not

    promptly filled up and the Commission kept functional at all  times.   There

    is hardly any explanation much less a cogent one  for  the  failure  of  the

    State to take immediate steps for filling-up of the vacancies wherever  they

    have occurred. The inaction or bureaucratic indifference or  even  the  lack

    of political will  cannot  frustrate  the  laudable  object  underlying  the

    Parliamentary legislation. With the number of  complaints  regarding  breach

    of human rights increasing everyday even in cities like Delhi which  is  the

    power centre and throbbing capital of the county, there is  no  question  of

    statutory Commissions being made irrelevant or dysfunctional for any  reason

    whatsoever. The power available to the Government to fill up  the  vacancies

    wherever they exist is, as noticed earlier, coupled with the  duty  to  fill

    up such vacancies.  The States  ought  to  realise  that  the  Human  Rights

    Commission  set  up  by  them  are  not  some  kind  of  idle  formality  or

    dispensable ritual.  The Commissions are meant to  be  watch  dogs  for  the

    protection of the human rights of the  citizens  and  effective  instruments

    for redressal of grievances and grant of relief wherever  necessary.  Denial

    of access to the mechanism conceptualised under the Act  by  reason  of  non

    filling up of the vacancies directly affects the rights of the citizens  and

    becomes non functional.  It is in that  spirit  that  we  deem  it  fit  and

    proper to direct that all vacancies against  the  post  of  Chairperson  and

    Members of the State Human Rights Commission  shall  be  filled  up  by  the

    concerned State Governments as expeditiously as possible but, in  any  case,

    within a period of three months from the date of this order.  We  only  hope

    and trust that we shall be spared the unpleasant task of  initiating  action

    against the defaulting State in case the needful  is  not  done  within  the

    time allotted. We also recommend to the State  Governments  that  since  the

    dates on which vacancies are scheduled to occur are known well  in  advance,

    (save and except  where  an  incumbent  dies  in  office)  the  process  for

    appointment of the incumbents against such  vacancies  should  be  initiated

    well in time in future so that no post remains vacant  in  any  State  Human

    Rights Commission for a period or unfilled for  any  period  for  more  than

    three months from the date the vacancy arises.

    24.   That brings us to the third recommendation that Amicus has  formulated

    concerning the constitution of Human Rights Court in different districts  in

    terms of Section 30 of The Protection of Human Rights  Act,  1993.   Section

    30 of the Act provides that the State  Government  shall  specify  with  the

    concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High  Court,  for  each  district  a

    Court of Session to be a Human Rights Court so  that  the  offences  arising

    out of violation of human rights are tried and disposed of speedily. It  was

    submitted that while  the  State  of  Sikkim  has  complied  with  the  said

    provision, other States are silent in that regard. It was urged  that  if  a

    small State like Sikkim could comply  with  the  requirement  of  specifying

    Sessions Courts to be Human Rights Court, there  was  no  reason  why  other

    States cannot follow suit. There is considerable merit in  that  submission.

    Section 30 of  the  Act  stipulates  that  for  providing  speedy  trial  of

    offences arising out of violation of human  rights,  the  State  Government,

    may with the concurrence  of  the  Chief  Justice  of  the  High  Court,  by

    notification, specify for each district a Court of Session  to  be  a  Human

    Rights Court provided that if a Court of Session is already specified  as  a

    special Court or a special Court is already constituted  for  such  offences

    under any other law for the time being in force, no such specification of  a

    Court would be necessary.

    25.   There is, in our opinion, no reason why the State  Governments  should

    not seriously consider the question of specifying human rights Court to  try

    offences arising out of violation of human  rights.   There  is  nothing  on

    record to suggest that the Governments have at all made any attempt in  this

    direction or taken steps to consult the Chief  Justices  of  the  respective

    High Courts. The least which the State Governments can and ought  to  do  is

    to take up the matter with the  Chief  Justices  of  High  Courts  of  their

    respective States and examine the feasibility  of  specifying  Human  Rights

    Court in each district within the contemplation of Section 30  of  the  Act.

    Beyond that we do not propose to say anything at this stage.

    26.   There are, apart from the above, few  other  recommendations  made  by

    the Amicus like installation of CCTV Cameras  in  all  Police  Stations  and

    prisons in a phased manner, and  appointment  of  non-official  visitors  to

    prisons and police stations for  making  random  and  surprise  inspections.

    Initiation of human proceedings Under  Section  302/304  IPC  in  each  case

    where the enquiry establishes culpability in custodial death and framing  of

    uniform definition of custodial death and mandatory  deployment  of  atleast

    two women constables in each district are also recommended by the Amicus.

    27.   As regards  installation  of  CCTV  cameras  in  police  stations  and

    prisons, with a view to checking human rights abuse,  it  is  heartening  to

    note  that  all  the  States  have  in  their   affidavits   supported   the

    recommendation for installation of  CCTV  cameras  in  Police  Stations  and

    prisons. In some of the States, steps appear to have already been  initiated

    in that direction. In the State of Bihar, CCTV cameras in  all  prisons  and

    in 44 police stations in the State have already been installed. So also  the

    State of Tamil Nadu plans to equip all police stations  with  CCTV  cameras.

    State of Haryana has stated that CCTV cameras should  be  installed  in  all

    police stations, especially, at the entrance  and  in  the  lockups.   Union

    Territories of Andaman & Nicobar and  Puducherry  has  also  installed  CCTV

    cameras in most of the police stations. Some other States also appear to  be

    taking steps to do so. Some of the States  have,  however,  remained  silent

    and non-committal on the issue. We  do  not  for  the  present  consider  it

    necessary to issue a direction for  installation  of  CCTV  cameras  in  all

    police stations. We are of the opinion that the matter cannot be left to  be

    considered by the State Governments concerned, having  regard  to  the  fact

    that several other State Governments  have  already  taken  action  in  that

    direction which we consider is commendable. All that we  need  say  is  that

    the State Governments may consider taking an appropriate  decision  in  this

    regard, and  appropriate  action  wherever  it  is  considered  feasible  to

    install CCTV cameras in police stations. Some of these police  stations  may

    be located in sensitive areas prone to human rights  violation.  The  States

    would, therefore, do well in identifying such police stations in  the  first

    instance and providing the necessary safeguard  against  such  violation  by

    installing CCTV camera in the same.  The  process  can  be  completed  in  a

    phased manner depending upon the nature and the extent of violation and  the

    experience of the past.

    28.   In regard to CCTV cameras in prison, we see  no  reason  why  all  the

    States should not  do  so.   CCTV  cameras  will  help  go  a  long  way  in

    preventing violation of human rights of those  incarcerating  in  jails.  It

    will also help the authorities in maintaining proper  discipline  among  the

    inmates and taking corrective measures wherever  abuses  are  noticed.  This

    can be done in our opinion expeditiously and as far  as  possible  within  a

    period of one year from the date of this order.

    29.   That leaves us  with  the  appointment  of  non-official  visitors  to

    prisons and police stations for making random  and  surprise  inspection  to

    check violation of human rights.  The  Amicus  points  out  that  there  are

    provisions in the Prison Manual providing for  appointment  of  non-official

    visitors to prisons in the  State.   These  appointments  are  made  on  the

    recommendations of the Magistrate of the District in  which  the  prison  is

    situated.  He urged that the provisions being salutary ought to  be  invoked

    by the Governments concerned and non-official visitors to prisons in  police

    stations nominated including independent  persons  like  journalist.   There

    is, in our opinion, no real harm or danger in  appointment  of  non-official

    visitors to prisons and police stations provided the  visitors  who  are  so

    appointed do not interfere with the  ongoing  investigations  if  any.   All

    that we need say is that the State Governments may take  appropriate  action

    in this regard keeping in view the provisions of the Prison Manuals and  the

    Police Acts and the Rules applicable to each State.

    30.    That  leaves  us  with  the  question  of  initiation   of   criminal

    proceedings in cases where  enquiry  establishes  culpability  in  custodial

    deaths and for deployment of atleast two women constables in each  district.

    We see no reason why appropriate proceedings cannot be initiated  in  cases

    where enquiry establishes culpability of those in  whose  custody  a  victim

    dies or suffers any injuries or torture.  The law  should  take  its  course

    and those responsible duly and appropriately proceeded against.

    31.   As regards deployment of women constables all  that  we  need  say  is

    that the States concerned would consider the desirability of  posting  women

    constables in the police stations wherever it is found that  over  a  period

    of past two years women were detained in connection with any  criminal  case

    or investigation. Needless to say that in case women constables  are  needed

    in such police stations for interrogation  or  detention,  the  State  shall

    provide  such  infrastructural  facilities  for  such  constables   as   are

    To sum up:

    1.    The States of Delhi, Himachal  Pradesh,  Mizoram,  Arunachal  Pradesh,

    Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland shall within a period  of  six  months  from

    today  set  up  State  Human  Rights  Commissions   for   their   respective

    territories with or without resort to provisions of  Section  21(6)  of  the

    Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

    2.    All vacancies, for the post of  Chairperson  or  the  Member  of  SHRC

    wherever they exist at present shall be filled up by the  State  Governments

    concerned within a period of three months from today.

    3.    Vacancies occurring against the post of Chairperson or the Members  of

    the SHRC in future shall be filled up as expeditiously as possible  but  not

    later than three months from the date such vacancy occurs.

    4.    The State Governments  shall  take  appropriate  action  in  terms  of

    Section 30 of the Protection  of  Human  Rights  Act,  1993,  in  regard  to

    setting up/specifying Human Rights Courts.

    5.    The State Governments shall take steps to install CCTV cameras in  all

    the prisons in their respective States, within a period  of  one  year  from

    today but not later than two years.

    6.    The  State  Governments  shall  also  consider  installation  of  CCTV

    cameras in police stations in a phased manner depending upon  the  incidents

    of human rights violation reported in such stations.

    7.    The State  Governments  shall  consider  appointment  of  non-official

    visitors to prisons and police stations in terms of the relevant  provisions

    of the Act wherever they exist in the Jail Manuals  or  the  relevant  Rules

    and Regulations.

    8.    The State Governments shall launch  in  all  cases  where  an  enquiry

    establishes culpability of the persons  in  whose  custody  the  victim  has

    suffered death or injury, an appropriate prosecution for the  commission  of

    offences  disclosed  by  such  enquiry  report   and/or   investigation   in

    accordance with law.

    9.    The State Governments shall consider deployment of at least two  women

    constables in each police station wherever  such  deployment  is  considered

    necessary  having  regard  to  the  number  of  women  taken  for  custodial

    interrogation or interrogation for other purposes over the past two years.

    32.   These petitions are, with the above directions, disposed of.   Liberty

    is,  however,  reserved  to  the  petitioner  to  seek  revival   of   these

    proceedings should there be any cogent reason for such revival at  any  time

    in future. No costs.


    (T.S. THAKUR)



    New Delhi;

    24th July, 2015.

    ITEM NO.1F-For Judgment    COURT NO.2               SECTION PIL(W)

    S U P R E M E  C O U R T  O F  I N D I A


    Crl.M.P. Nos.  16086/1997  in  Crl.M.P.  No.  4201/1997  with  Crl.M.P.  No.

    4201/1997, 4105/1999,  2600/2000,  2601/2000,  480/2001,  3965,  10385/2002,

    12704/2001, 19694/2010 in Crl.M.P. No. 4201/1997,  Crl.M.P.  No.  13566/2011

    in  Crl.M.P.  No.  16086/1997  in  Crl.M.P.  No.  4201/1997,  Crl.M.P.   No.

    15490/2014 in Writ Petition(s)(Criminal)  No(s).  539/1986

    SHRI DILIP K. BASU                                 Petitioner(s)


    STATE OF WEST BENGAL & ORS.                        Respondent(s)

    Date : 24/07/2015 These petitions were called on for pronouncement of

    JUDGMENT today.

    For Petitioner(s)

    Ms. Suruchii Aggarwal,Adv.

    For Respondent(s)

    Mr. Ravi Prakash Mehrotra,Adv.

    Mr. Anip Sachthey,Adv.

    Mr. Anil K. Jha,Adv.

    Mr. B. Krishna Prasad,Adv.

    Mr. G. Prakash,Adv.

    Mr. Gopal Singh,Adv.

    Mr. Rituraj Biswas, Adv.

    Mr. Manish Kumar, Adv.

    Mr. Guntur Prabhakar,Adv.

    Ms. Indra Sawhney,Adv.

    Mr. Naresh K. Sharma,Adv.

    Dr. A.M. Singhvi, Sr. Adv.

    Mr. Pranab Kumar Mullick, Adv.

    Mr. Amit Bhandari, Adv.

    Mrs. S. Mullick, Adv.

    Mr. Sebat Kumar D., Adv.

    Ms. Sushma Suri,Adv.

    Mr. T. C. Sharma,Adv.

    Mr. T. V. Ratnam,Adv.

    Mr. Pravir Choudhary,Adv.

    Mr. K. R. Sasiprabhu,Adv.

    Mr. Shreekant N. Terdal,Adv.

    Mr. D. S. Mahra,Adv.

    Mr. Ranjan Mukherjee,Adv.

    Mrs. D. Bharathi Reddy,Adv.

    Mr. Khwairakpam Nobin Singh,Adv.

    Ms. Asha Gopalan Nair,Adv.

    Mr. Sanjay R. Hegde,Sr. Adv.

    Mr. Gopal Prasad,Adv.

    Mr. Javed Mahmud Rao,Adv.

    Mr. Abhijit Sengupta,Adv.

    Mr. Jayesh Gaurav, Adv.

    Mr. Ratan Kumar Choudhuri,Adv.

    Ms. Bina Madhavan,Adv.

    For M/s Corporate Law Group

    Mr. C. D. Singh,Adv.

    Ms. Sakshi Kakkar, Adv.

    Mr. Jatinder Kumar Bhatia,Adv.

    Mr. P. V. Yogeswaran,Adv.

    Mr. P. V. Dinesh,Adv.

    Mr. Shibashish Misra,Adv.

    Mr. Ansar Ahmad Chaudhary,Adv.

    Mr. T. Harish Kumar,Adv.

    Mr. Manish Kumar Saran,Adv.

    Mr. Anuvrat Sharma,Adv.

    Mr. Balaji Srinivasan,Adv.

    Mr. Ajay Pal,Adv.

    Mr. Suryanarayana Singh, Sr. AAG

    Ms. Pragati Neekhra,Adv.

    Mr. Gunnam Venkateswara Rao,Adv.

    Ms. Ruchi Kohli,Adv.

    Mr. Sunil Fernandes,Adv.

    Mr. K.V. Jagdishvaran, Adv.

    Ms. G. Indira,Adv.

    Mr. M. Yogesh Kanna,Adv.

    Mr. Jayant Patel, Adv.

    Mr. Chandra Prakash,Adv.

    Mr. Sapam Biswajit Meitei, Adv.

    Mr. Z.H. Isaac Haiding, Adv.

    Mr. Ashok Kumar Singh, Adv.

    Mrs. K. Enatoli Sema, Adv.

    Mr. Edward Belho, Adv.

    Mr. Amit Kumar Singh, Adv.

    Ms. A. Subhashini, Adv.

    Hon'ble Mr. Justice T.S. Thakur pronounced the judgment  of  the

    Bench comprising His Lordship and Hon'ble Mrs. Justice R. Banumathi.

    The petitions are disposed of in terms of the Signed  Reportable

    Judgment with following directions:

    1.    The States of Delhi, Himachal  Pradesh,  Mizoram,  Arunachal  Pradesh,

    Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland shall within a period  of  six  months  from

    today  set  up  State  Human  Rights  Commissions   for   their   respective

    territories with or without resort to provisions of  Section  21(6)  of  the

    Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

    2.    All vacancies, for the post of  Chairperson  or  the  Member  of  SHRC

    wherever they exist at present shall be filled up by the  State  Governments

    concerned within a period of three months from today.

    3.    Vacancies occurring against the post of Chairperson or the Members  of

    the SHRC in future shall be filled up as expeditiously as possible  but  not

    later than three months from the date such vacancy occurs.

    4.    The State Governments  shall  take  appropriate  action  in  terms  of

    Section 30 of the Protection  of  Human  Rights  Act,  1993,  in  regard  to

    setting up/specifying Human Rights Courts.

    5.    The State Governments shall take steps to install CCTV cameras in  all

    the prisons in their respective States, within a period  of  one  year  from

    today but not later than two years.

    6.    The  State  Governments  shall  also  consider  installation  of  CCTV

    cameras in police stations in a phased manner depending upon  the  incidents

    of human rights violation reported in such stations.

    7.    The State  Governments  shall  consider  appointment  of  non-official

    visitors to prisons and police stations in terms of the relevant  provisions

    of the Act wherever they exist in the Jail Manuals  or  the  relevant  Rules

    and Regulations.

    8.    The State Governments shall launch  in  all  cases  where  an  enquiry

    establishes culpability of the persons  in  whose  custody  the  victim  has

    suffered death or injury, an appropriate prosecution for the  commission  of

    offences  disclosed  by  such  enquiry  report   and/or   investigation   in

    accordance with law.

    9.    The State Governments shall consider deployment of at least two  women

    constables in each police station wherever  such  deployment  is  considered

    necessary  having  regard  to  the  number  of  women  taken  for  custodial

    interrogation or interrogation for other purposes over the past two years.

    (VINOD KR.JHA)                        (VEENA KHERA)

    COURT MASTER                                COURT MASTER

    (Signed Reportable judgment is placed on the file) 


    [1]    (1997) 1 SCC 416

    [2]    (1994) 4 SCC 260

    [3]    (1993) 2 SCC 746

    [4]    (1995) 4 SCC 262

    [5]    (1997) 6 SCC 642

    [6]    (1998) 9 SCC 437

    [7]    (1998) 6 SCC 380

    [8]    (2002) 10 SCC 741

    [9]    (2003) 11 SCC 723

    [10]   (2003) 11 SCC 725

    [11]   (2003) 12 SCC 174

    [12]   (1880) 5 AC 214

    [13]   AIR 1965 SC 1222

    [14]   (1977) 2 SCC 166

    [15]   (2004) 9 SCC 362

    [16]   (1997) 7 SCC 622

    [17]   (2008) 12 SCC 372

    [18]   (2012) 2 SCC 688

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