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Bombay High Court for policy to compensate terror victims' families

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today suggested the Centre to come out with a policy to adequately compensate families of those killed in terror attacks instead of paying a standard amount by way of ex-gratia.

A division bench comprising Justices Abhay Oka and A S Chandurkar asked the Union government to file a fresh affidavit by July 30 detailing steps it intended to take to compensate the victims' families.

The court's order came after the Union government, in an affidavit, said it has come out with a circular under which an ex-gratia payment of Rs four lakh would be made to such families.

While the Centre would pay Rs three lakh, the remaining would be contributed by the respective state governments.

The bench also asked Advocate General Darius Khambata to appear in the matter to assist the court. The court was hearing a PIL filed by Rajeshwar Panchal, an advocate, who sought a just and fair amount to be given as compensation to the families of people killed in terror attacks.

Panchal argued that the income of the deceased, the social status of the family and the number of dependents needed to be taken into account to determine the compensation.

He said Motor Vehicles Act and Workmen's compensation Act laid down a formula to arrive at such a compensation.

The High Court had earlier observed that giving suitable compensation to the victims of terror attacks or blasts is a liability of the state and such relief cannot be ex-gratia (done from a sense of moral obligation rather than because of any legal requirement).

The PIL, while calling for a policy decision on the issue, sought judicial intervention for Protection of Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, in relation to victims of terror attacks.

The PIL claimed that 724 people had died in terror attacks in Mumbai between the serial blasts in 1993 and triple coordinate explosions on July 13, 2011. It said the victims and their families had failed to get a "just compensation" from the government.

"After every such dreadful and gory terror attack, the ministers concerned condemn the incident. They make empty promises to prevent such incidents and eventually declare some ex-gratia, which is always a tiny amount for the victims and their family members, that too, as if they are obliging the victims," the PIL stated.

The PIL also urged the HC to declare that Protection of Right to Life and Liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution includes right to a secure life or the right to live with safety.

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