The High Court of Kerala has suggested that the Government evolve a uniform formula for compensating flood victims. The Division Bench of Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar made the suggestion while considering a public interest litigation by P. K Firoz, Youth League Leader, seeking to set up a special tribunal for assessing and disbursing flood compensation. He voiced the grievance that compensation was being granted by the state government without any firm criteria and uniform formula.
The Court suggested that the Government devise a two-tier compensation formula – at the first stage grant minimum compensation and at a later stage grant final compensation on basis of actual loss. The minimum compensation should be worked out on the basis of common factors like level of inundation in an area, extent of holdings of persons in that area, extent of improvements made by the person in that area etc. It was also suggested that the minimum compensation should be granted to all affected, irrespective of income criteria, solely on the basis of the claims of the victims, without insisting on any further scrutiny. For the minimum compensation, certification by any authority regarding extent of inundated area should not be necessary, if details of inundation and its duration are available in the satellite data.
It was noted in the order authored by Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar as :
“We are of the view that once a uniform formula is devised to determine the minimum amount payable to flood victims, then the further compensation payable to any flood victim can be based on proof of actual loss sustained by him, and can be determined on case to case basis. The aforesaid two tier system of compensation, we feel,will result in an equitable distribution of compensation at the initial level, as also ensure greater transparency while fixing the additional compensation at the 2nd stage. It would also spare the citizens of the trouble of running behind various authorities for getting appropriate certifications to support his claim for the minimum compensation amount”.
The Court also observed that for the second stage of compensation, the government will have to evolve a policy to compensate various categories of persons like householders, businessmen, farmers etc. on the basis of losses sustained to them. While the Court lauded the Government policy of compensation formulated through government orders issued on August 16 and September 3, as informed by Advocate General C P Sudhakara Prasad, the Court urged that the uniform formula be devised. The Government was required to file a statement regarding the methodology of compensation within ten days.
The PIL by Firoz, filed through Advocates P Deepak, K R Arun Krishnan and P E Sajal, also sought that services of Kerala Legal Services Authority be roped in to disburse compensation. While issuing the order, the Court took into consideration inputs of Adv. Jacob P Alex, who has been appointed as amicus curiae to render assistance in matters related to flood relief and rehabilitation. The next hearing date is September 19.
On an earlier occasion, the same bench had made certain recommendations regarding factors to be considered while undertaking rehabilitation and restoration operations in the aftermath of floods.