Can Kerala Human Rights Commission entertain a PIL: HC to examine


Kerala High Court

Kochi: Can a public interest litigation be entertained by the Kerala Human Rights Commission (KHRC) is a question being examined by the High Court here.

The high court decided to examine the issue after the Commission entertained a complaint filed against the Kerala Gramin Bank to stop it from recovering a loan amount after the death of the borrower.

While deciding to examine the issue, the high court put on hold further proceedings in the Commission in relation to the complaint and also made it clear that taking advantage of the interim order, "the bank shall not take any coercive steps for recovery of the debt".

The high court also directed the bank to make the legal representatives of the borrower a party in the matter.

While the primary reliefs sought in the complaint were general in nature, it also sought writing off of the loan availed by one Suresh Babu in 2017 as he had died in 2019.

Entertaining the complaint, the Commission first directed the General Manager, Kerala Gramin Bank, Malappuram to file a report but he did not do so.

Thereafter, he was twice directed to appear before the Commission, but the official neither appeared nor filed a report and the KHRC, finally, directed him to show cause as to why action be not taken against him for not complying with its orders.

The Commission's order was challenged by the bank before the high court which observed that the questions before it were whether a public interest litigation (PIL) can be entertained by the KHRC and whether in the absence of any specific averments and proof that the complaint was made on behalf of the family of the deceased borrowed, can the same be entertained.

The high court further observed that the Commission has the power to "inquire, suo-motu or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf or on a direction or order of any court, into complaint of violation of human rights or abetment thereof or negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant".

However, in the instant matter a bare reading of the complaint "does not disclose any specific averment" that it was moved before the Commission on behalf of the deceased borrower's family, the court said.

Instead, the opening sentence of the complaint itself states that it is a PIL and the prayers sought are also in the nature of general reliefs, except for one, the court added.

The reliefs sought in the complaint were -- "direct the Social Justice Department of the State that if the borrower availing the housing loan for construction of the house/loan by mortgaging the property if dies or becomes vegetative then the banks should compulsorily provide life insurance cover for the total loan availed to the borrower (at the expense of the borrower) to protect their family".

The complaint had also sought writing off of the loan availed by the borrower in view of his death. PTI

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