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FACTS OF THE CASE: Mrs. Chandrima Das, a practicing advocate of the Calcutta High
Court, filed a writ petition under article 226 of the constitution claiming that the fundamental
rights of her client, Mrs. Hanuffa Khatoon had been infringed. Mrs. Khatoon, a Bangladeshi
national, arrived at the Howrah Railway Station on 26th February, 1998 and awaited the
arrival of her train to Ajmer Sharif later that evening. After conforming the reservation of a
berth against her waitlisted ticket, she was asked to wait in the Ladies Waiting Room by the
Train Ticket Examiner. A tout (Ashoke Singh) and a railway ticket broker (Siya Ram Singh)
came to confirm her reservation at 1700 hrs. Later, at 2000 hrs, Siya Ram asked her to
accompany a boy named Kashi for a meal after which she vomited and returned to the
waiting room. Ashoke Singh with Rafi Ahmed, the Parcel Supervisor, then convinced her that
all the lady attendants were engaged in other duties and hence she should accompany them to
the Yatri Niwas. They were joined by a member of the Electronic Department (Sita Ram
Singh) on the way and a Parcel Clerk (Lalan Singh) and a Parcel Clearing Agent (Awdesh
Singh) in the room. There, she was forcibly made to consume liquor and was then brutally
violated leaving her in a state of shock. On managing to escape, she saw Siya Ram,
pretending to be her saviour, slap and chastise Ashoke Singh on the platform. Siya Ram
offered her a safe haven for the night at his house with his wife and children. He, however,
accompanied with a friend (Ram Samiran Sharma), took her to an alternate location and
raped and tried to kill her. The, landlord alarmed by Hanuffas cries, informed the police, who
eventually rescued her. The High Court directed the Railway authorities to pay her a
compensation of Rs. 10, 00,000.
JUDGEMENT: The appellant in The Supreme Court put forth four main contentions. These
were the following:
1. Mrs. Hanuffa Khatoons claim lies in the realm of private law: The appellant
contended that this would enable the court to analyse the evidence presented by both
sides and decide whether it would constitute a tort against the respondent, thereby,
qualifying her claim for damages. Citing the decision of the court in the case of
Common Cause, A Registered Society v. The Union of India, the court held that the
writ jurisdiction of High Court (Article 226) and The Supreme Court (Article 32)
comes under its power of Judicial Review and can be exercised to quash any
executive action which is violative of the fundamental rights. The expanding scope of
article 14 ensures the same. Moreover, the judgement stated that several decisions
made by the court in the past have altered the notion that contractual matters could
not be entertained under Articles 32 and 226. Numerous verdicts passed by the court
reiterated the stance that compensation may be granted to individuals who suffered
personal damage because of the actions of a state functionary and amounted to a
tortious act. Rape, constitutes the violation of a fundamental right under Article 21.
Any matter that constitutes an infringement of the fundamental rights lies in the

realm of public law, irrespective of whether caused by a public functionary. This

contention was thereby rejected by the court.
2. The locus standi of the respondent, Mrs. Chandrima Das: The learned judge
dismissed this contention as a misconception. The concept of locus standi had
undergone numerous changes such as a modification in the case of the writs of
Habeas Corpus and Quo Warranto and the belief that lawyers, as integral members of
the judicial system had the locus standi to represent their clients claims. In case of
Public Interest Litigations, it was held that a public spirited citizens faith in the rule
of law could not be undermined by the conservative yardstick of locus standi. This
contention was hereby rejected.
3. Being a foreign national, Mrs. Khatoon wasnt entitled to any relief under public law
for the violation of a Fundamental Right: The court rejected this contention on the
following grounds:
a. The preamble of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, states, inter
alia, that there should not be any discrimination on the grounds of nationality
regarding ones rights. All are entitled to an equal protection in case of the
violation of this of this declaration. The General Assembly, while adopting the
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, observed that
women were entitled to an equal enjoyment of protection of Human Rights.
The applicability of the above declarations, for the sake of their universal
implementation could be read into domestic jurisprudence. Innumerable
instances of cases as well as Colloquia were cited to show that the judiciary must
familiarise itself with the norms of domestic jurisprudence to protect Human
b. The fundamental rights enshrined under part III of the constitution aim at
safeguarding basic Human Rights.
c. While certain Fundamental Rights such as those guaranteed under Articles 15, 16
and 19 were available only citizens, others such as articles 14, 20, 21 and 22
were enjoyed by both citizens and non-citizens. A gang-rape constitutes an
infringement of the right to a dignified life guaranteed under article 21. This
right was enjoyed by Mrs. Khatoon too.
4. The central government cannot be held vicariously liable for the offence of rape
committed by the employees of the railways: The concept of sovereign immunity
under the Kasturi Lal case cannot be used as a defence to wrongs committed by the
functionaries of the commercial establishments of a state (such as the Yatri Niwas of
the Railways) in a welfare state. If any such employee commits a wrong, the state
will be held vicariously liable.

Having refuted all the contentions made by the appellant, the court directed the state to pay
compensation to the High Commissioner of Bangladesh within a period of three months
without any order as to costs.