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Have human rights adequately developed and protected in India?


Have human rights adequately developed and protected in India?

 “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

– Nelson Mandela

When there are any acts of wrong or violation of rights of a person, one often hears about the Constitutional provisions and Fundamental Rights being violated. True they are violated but it is ironic as to no voices are raised about the basic human rights of a person being violated. Human Rights are those rights which a person is born with which is inalienable and inherent. When these are violated and denied not much concern is shown. It would not be untrue to say that human rights as concept is not only neglected and but is also sadly still an alien concept to the general masses.

Human rights can be defined as rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.  Everyone is entitled to these rights, without any discrimination whatsoever.

The foundations of the International human rights law are the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly in 1945 and 1948, respectively. Further the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights entered into force 1976 and its two Optional Protocols (on the complaints procedure and on the death penalty) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights entered into force 1976 and its Optional Protocol. These law deal in detail, elaborately on each and every human right of a person.

There are a series of international human rights treaties and other instruments adopted since 1945 which have expanded the body of international human rights law. They include the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), among others.

India is party to these Conventions and Declarations. In fact when India got independence and Drafting Committee was set up for drafting the Indian Constitution, principles of UDHR and International Covenants were discussed and reflected in the Constitution. We have enacted The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 which was enforced on 28th January, 1993, wherein “Human Rights” has been defined as the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the constitution or embodied in the International covenants and enforceable by courts in India. The main objective of protection of Human Rights Act 1993 is protecting human beings from various violations. The Act also provides for Commissions such as the National Human Rights Commission and State Human Rights Commissions which are an autonomous public body. The Commissions have been provided with various duties such as taking suo-moto actions conduct inquiry of violation of human rights, approach Judicial courts for any directions such as writs, orders etc., recommend government authorities to look into the matter and initiate relief to victims.

In spite of all these efforts question remains- Why is human rights not much recognised and discussed? Why are human rights not respected by the government authorities such as in cases of atrocities against Tribals? Why human rights rank second or third in line of comparison to other legal and Constitutional rights? Why much importance is given to other legal and Constitutional Rights? Why are the Human Rights Movements or groups or NGOs not strong as in other developed countries like USA?

Time and again due to various incidents it have been projected that human rights of citizens of India aren’t secured and protected and that India still continues to suffer from significant human rights violations, despite framing many laws and policies and promising and making commitments to tackle the problems. For e.g., lack of accountability for past abuses committed by security forces persisted even as there were new allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings, including in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, and Jammu and Kashmir. In the first 10 months of 2017, there were 42 reported militant attacks in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in which 184 people were killed, including 44 security force personnel. Several were killed or injured as government forces attempted to contain violent protests.

In May, the army gave a commendation to an officer who used a bystander unlawfully as a “human shield” to evacuate security personnel and election staff from a mob in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam district. The government has failed to review and repeal the abusive Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in force in Jammu and Kashmir and in parts of India’s north-eastern region, which gives soldiers who commit violations effective immunity from prosecution. The death of Manjula Shetye in Mumbai prison after six prison staff allegedly beat her shows the atrocities of police authorities.

The Mob attacks by extremist Hindu groups or the “cow vigilante” against minority communities, especially Muslims, amid rumours that they sold, bought, or killed cows for beef. Instead of taking prompt legal action against the attackers, police frequently filed complaints against the victims under laws banning cow slaughter. This incident was apparent violation of human rights however no reliefs are yet provided.  The Tribal communities continues to remain vulnerable to displacement because of mining, dams, and other large infrastructure projects. The authorities in India continued to use sedition and criminal defamation laws against government critics. Journalists faced increasing pressure to self-censor due to threat of legal action, smear campaigns and threats on social media, and even threats of physical attacks. In September, unidentified gunmen shot dead publisher and Editor Gauri Lankesh outside her home in Bengaluru city.

Multiple high-profile cases of rape and sexual violence against woman and children across the country exposes the failures of the criminal justice system. The Supreme Court in its ruling of Right to Privacy and Decriminalization of Section 377 acknowledged the basic human right of identity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in India. However there is yet a long way for them to be accepted by the people and getting other legal rights such as adoption rights. The arrest of Human Rights activists in 2018 showed the importance and respect given to their work towards the society and issues of human rights.

Statistics show over one lakh cases pending with the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission since 2007 while only 53,137 cases were heard and given verdict in. The Statistics of National Human Rights Commission isn’t satisfactory[1]. The Amnesty International Report in its report states the standard of human rights in India and that it hasn’t been protected up to its mark[2].These various and horrendous incidents along with the Statistics depict slow development and negligence shown towards human rights of person.

With securing seat at United Nations Human Rights Council, it is important for India to live up to the standards and save, secure and protect human rights of its own citizens. For this it is utmost important to create awareness amongst the people from the grass root level. It is important that children be taught about Human Rights and its importance in school thus there should be change in the curriculum in schools across all boards. This will help in building knowledge/ awareness and concerns of human rights since the beginning among the children. It is also important that time and again important amendments be made in Act itself to enhance and expand its scope and meet new challenges of the society. There should be awareness programmes and workshops be held relating to human rights of person. It is important that the thinking of human mind be channelized in this direction as well.