Vikram v. State of Bihar

1988 AIR 1782; 1988 SCR Supl. (1) 755;1988 SCC Supl. 734; JT 1988 (3) 186; 1988 SCALE (2) 325
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This writ petition had been filed in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution (right to move the Supreme Court for violation of fundamental rights), as a result of a letter outlining the condition of women in a “care home.” It was alleged in the letter that female inmates were made to live in inhuman conditions, were ill-treated, provided with little food of poor quality and were given no medical attention. The residents were not given an opportunity to earn a livelihood or return to their families. The care home was managed by the Welfare Department of the State Government of Bihar.

The Supreme Court was asked to decide whether the conditions of the care home violated the right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

The Court characterized India as a welfare state and proceeded to outline the State’s obligations under the Constitution. The Court held that the State had an obligation to protect the weaker sections of the society and to improve their “economic and social status on the basis of constitutional guarantees spelled out in its provisions.”

The Court further held that it was incumbent upon the state to provide at least the “minimum conditions ensuring human dignity.” Consequently the State of Bihar was directed to expeditiously provide suitable alternative accommodation and in the meanwhile to put the existing home in proper order, provide sufficient amenities including furniture, cots, blankets and clothing and to implement the increase in daily allowance to Rs. 200. The Court also directed the Welfare Department to ensure daily visits by a doctor.

“[I]n the discharge of its responsibilities to the people, the State recognises the need for maintaining establishments for the care of those unfortunates, both women and children, who are the castaways of an imperfect social order and for whom, therefore, of necessary provision must be made for their protection and welfare.” (1988) 1 SCR 755, pg. 759.