What are Human Rights?
■ Human Rights are moral claims which are inalienable and inherent to all individuals by virtue of their being humans alone.
■ Throughout history, there has been a conflict between ruling elite and ruled.
e.g. Magna Carta-England 1215.
■ French Declaration of Rights of Man and of Citizen-1789.
■ American Bill of Rights.
■ Since First World War, League of Nations took some initiative.
■ ILO was created in 1919.
■ International Slavery Convention was signed in 1926
■ But during 1920s and 30s massive abuse of human life and dignity based on race, religion and nationality were there.
■ UNO was established after World War II.
■ Art I of UN Charter: 'To achieve international co-operation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedom for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.'
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
General Assembly of United Nations adopted and proclaimed Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.
■ Art 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
■ Art 2: Everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration without distinction of any kind such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, nation, property, birth or other status.
■ Art 3: Everyone has right to life, liberty and security of person.
■ Art 4: Slavery and slave trade is prohibited.
■ Art 5: No one shall be subject to torture.
■ Art 7: All are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.
■ Art 9: No one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
■ Art 15: Everyone has right to a nationality.
■ Art 18: Freedom of thought, conscience & religion.
■ Art 23: Right to work.
■ Art 26: Right to education.
Indian Constitution and Human Rights
■ Art 13: Boldly declares that all laws in so far they are inconsistent with Fundamental Rights, be void, to extent of inconsistency, and further State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges these rights and any law made in contravention, shall be void.
■ Art 14: Secures equality before law to all persons.
■ Art 15: Prohibits discrimination among citizens on ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
■ Art 16: Ensures equal opportunity to them in matters of public employment.
■ Art 19: Assures freedom of speech and expression, right to assemble peacefully and without arms; to form association and unions; to move freely throughout territory of India; to reside and settle in any part of country, trade and business etc.
■ Art 21: Guarantees equal protection of law and prohibits deprivation of life and personal liberty.
■ Art 23: Prohibits traffic in human beings and forced labour.
■ Art 24: Prohibits child labour.
■ Art 25-30: Assures freedom of conscience and right to manage religious institutions; as well as makes provisions for protection of minorities and their places of worship and educational institutions.
■ Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) provides for a lot of social and economic benefits for citizens to be attained in future.
■ In addition to these, there are several laws of a reformative character like Employees State Insurance Acts, Dowry (Prohibition) Act, Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, Minimum Wages Act, Workmen Compensation Act, Protection of Civil Rights Act, Environmental Protection Act, etc. which try to ensure safety and security against various evils.
National Human Rights Commission
■ In keeping with spirit of human rights movement all over world, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) came into existence in India through an Ordinance promulgated on 28th September 1993 by President of India.
■ However, soon Ordinance was replaced by a statute called Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 which came into force in 1994. This Act provides for setting up NHRC at Centre as well as one Commission each at State level.
■ National Human Rights Commission is designed to protect human rights, defined as "rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of individual guaranteed by Constitution or embodied in International covenant and which are enforceable by Courts in India" (Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993).
• NHRC consists of a Chairperson and four members, all of them being full-time members.
• Apart from these full-time members, Commission also has its deemed members as Chairpersons of National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for SCs & STs and National Commission for Women.
• multi-membership is intended to reinforce independence and impartiality of Commission. Of five members including Chairperson, three are to possess high level judicial background and remaining must have knowledge of or practical experience in matters relating to Human Rights.
• Chairperson must be no less than a former Chief Justice of India.
• It can intervene in any legal proceedings involving an allegation of violation of Human Rights.
• It can also, visit, with prior approval of State Government, any jail to study living conditions of inmates and make recommendations.
• It can review safeguards provided by or under Constitution or any law for protection of Human Rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation.
• Commission also reviews factors, including acts of terrorism, that inhibit enjoyment of Human Rights and recommends remedial measures.
• It also undertakes and promotes research in field of Human Rights.
• Finally, it encourages NGOs working in field of Human Rights.
Autonomy of Commission
• autonomy of Commission is derived from method of appointment of its members, their fixity of tenure, and statutory guarantees.
• Chairperson and members of Commission are appointed by President on basis of recommendations of a committee comprising Prime Minister as chairperson, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Home Minister, leaders of Opposition in LS and RS and Dy. Chairperson of RS as members.
Working of Commission
• Commission has all powers of a Civil Court.
• It has its own investigating staff for investigation into complaints of Human Rights violations.
• It is open to Commission to utilise services of any officer or investigation agency of Central Government or any State Government.
• Commission while inquiring into complaints of violations of human rights may call for information or report from Central Government or any State-Government, or any other authority or organisation subordinate thereto within such time as may be specified by it.
Commission may take any of following steps upon completion of an enquiry:
1. Where enquiry discloses Commission of violation of Human Rights or negligence in prevention of violation of Human Rights by a public servant, it may recommend to concerned Government or authority initiation of proceedings for prosecution or such other function.
2. Approach SC or HC concerned for such directions, orders, or writs as that court may deem necessary.
3. Recommend to concerned Government or authority for grant of such immediate interim relief to victim or members of his family.
authority or State Government or Some of Programmes and Human Rights issues taken up by Commission include:
• Review of Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
• Protocols to Convention on Rights of Child
• Preventing Employment of Children by Government Servants: Amendment of Service Rules
• Abolition of Child Labour
• Guidebook for Media on Sexual Violence against Children
• Trafficking in Women and Children : Manual for Judiciary for Gender Sensitization
• Sensitization Program on Prevention of Sex Tourism and Trafficking
• Maternal Anaemia and Human Rights
• Rehabilitation of Destitute Women in Vrindavan
• Combating Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place
• Harassment of Women Passengers in Trains
• Abolition of Manual Scavenging
• Dalits issues including atrocities perpetrated on them
• Problems faced by Denotified and Nomadic Tribes
• Rights of Disabled
• Right to Health . HIV/AIDS
Central Government to whom Commission recommends for action has to indicate its comments/ action taken on report/recommendations of Commission within a period of one month in respect of general complaints and within a period of three months in respect of complaints relating to Armed Forces.