This article was written by Varakala Trinayana Kumar of UPES, Dehradun. If you are interested in contributing guest posts to this blog, please email your articles to [email protected]
What are human rights? Human rights in general refer to all the rights which are in the nature of the right in rem or rights in personam that are provided to an individual by the virtue of his existence as a person. These rights are enforced through the force of the Constitution or a government.
Section 2 (d) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 defines human rights as 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 Government of India to keep a check on the violations of these Human Rights has set up a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and with each state having its own Human Rights Commission i.e. the State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC’s) under the NHRC to address and redress all the violations of human rights that takes place so as to protect the rights of an individual of a country by the force of law.
For the Commission, the protection of human rights has become the resistance of democracy itself, a democracy that is comprehensive in character and caring in respect of its most vulnerable citizens. That democracy, in turn, has enabled the Commission to task without fear or hesitation and to pull attention to those acts of the State and its agents that can or do result in the abuse of human rights whether through acts of commission, omission, abetment or negligence.
The Commission has a wide obligation including civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, and group rights. Section 12 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 lies down that the Commission shall perform all or any of the following functions, namely:
• Inquiring suo motu, or on petitions, presented to it by victims, or any persons on their behalf, or on a direction or order of any court, into complaints of violation of human rights or abetment thereof, or negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant.
• Intervening in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before the Court, with the approval of such Courts.
• Visiting, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, any jail or other institution under the control of the State Government, where persons are detained or lodged for purposes of treatment, reformation or protection, for the study of the living conditions of the inmates thereof and making recommendations.
• Reviewing the safeguards provided by, or under, the Constitution, or any law for the time being in force, for the protection of human rights, and recommending measures for their effective implementation.
• Reviewing the factors, including acts of terrorism, that inhibits the enjoyment of human rights, and recommending appropriate remedial measures.
• Studying treaties and other international instruments on human rights, and making recommendations for their effective implementation.
• Undertaking and promoting research in the field of human rights.
• Spreading human rights literacy amongst various sections of society, and promoting awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights, through publications, the media, seminars and other available means.
• Encouraging the efforts of non-governmental organizations, and institutions working in the field of human rights.
• Undertaking such other functions as may be considered necessary for the promotion of human rights.
Complaint Redressal and Inquiry is one of the major activities of SHRC. SHRC accepts grievances written in any language by post, telegram, fax, email or even on mobile, and also through assistance counter. It charges no fees.
• The Commission takes support of a number of legislative Bills/Acts from the human rights perspective:
– The Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1985 (TADA)
– The Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2000
– The Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, 2001 (POTO)
– Freedom of Information Act
– Domestic Violence Bill
– The Child Marriage Restraint Act
– National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill, 2004
– Food Safety and Standards Bill, 2005.
• The Commission has a very exclusive function of nursing the execution of its recommendations. Commission regularly monitors, through visits of Members of the Commission and its Special Rapporteur, regular response from the Ministries of State and also from other related agencies on the following issues:
– Prison environments
– Custodial deaths
– Hospitals for mentally ill patients
– Status of bonded and child labour
– Homes run by the Government
– Rights of internally displaced persons
– Monitors Vishakha (Supreme Court) guidelines on sexual harassment at work place
– Encounter deaths
– Deaths of children in protection homes
• The Commission has laid equivalent position on Civil and Political Rights as well as Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Commission has abetted in narrowing concerns and recommendations resulting in concrete curative steps.
As mentioned above, there are many types of human right violations that takes place but out of them, majority are against the police official regarding Custodial deaths, inhumane treatment of criminal and violations of human rights.
If there is any situation of violation of human rights guaranteed under the Constitution, the injured party may himself file a petition for violation of his human rights in the Commission or that the Commission may by Suo Moto take up the case based on any newspaper report or any other probable source of information. Once he petition is filed in the Commission, it goes through various stages of scrutiny to achieve justice. The following are the various structural sections in the State Human Rights Commissions.
- INWARD SECTION:
This section constitutes the primary step of the process involved in registering a complaint. This is where the petitions are generally filed in person or say that those sent through post, telegram or any means are accepted or say filed. Petitions for violation of human rights are generally in the form of letters sent through post or telegrams addressing either the Chairperson, Secretary or Head of the HRC and under-signed by the petitioner. The petitions are here sorted out and forwarded to the Scrutiny department.
- SCRUTINY SECTION:
Once a petition is received and registered, it is then received by this section which accepts the petition forwarded by the Inward Section, then scrutinizes the content and checks if there is any violation of Human right. If there is any abuse of human right the petition is forwarded else is dismissed. The forwarded petition is first fed into the computer thereby it generates a random code that would be the petition code.
- PUBLIC RELATIONS SECTION:
Parties to the case or say that the petitioners or the aggrieved parties are not always educated or well versed with their rights. The parties to the case are mostly people unaware of the current scenario of the abuse of legal right and the process that is concerned with it. This section is specially set up so that people can discuss their issues, get suggestions, any necessary information or knowledge from the available Public Relations Officer as a professional help.
- JUDICIAL SECTION:
Immediately as the petitions are accepted, the petitions forwarded by the Inward are sorted out and then a Cause list is prepared. Cause list is a summary of various cases that are going to be heard on various allotted date and that it gives a brief of the cases pending, their hearing dates and the progress of the case.
- COURT HALL:
Once the Cause List is prepared, various petitions according to their dates of hearing are heard in a Court room of the Commission with a bench of judges with the relevant authority. The case is heard in the same manner as done in a court of similar stature and that either a judgment is passed or further postposed based on the pending issues of the case and if the case is mostly of civil nature than that of human right violation or say of any other nature, then the case is directed to the concerned forum or court.
- RECORD ROOM:
Once the hearing of a court is done, either the case is closed or further hearing date is given. In any case, the petition and its Order, Comments, Report, etc. are stored in this particular section. All the details of every case that enters the court hall are maintained for future record.
India being the largest Democracy in the world has a duty to protect the kings of democracy i.e. the people or say citizens of a country. The Constitution of India gives various rights to citizens of India which are enforceable in the Court of Law if violated. Any violation if occurred and reported, the government is duty bound to redress it and see that the injured party is compensated for his loss. The Government of India to keep a check on these violations has set up a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and with each state having its own Human Rights Commission i.e. the State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC’s) under the NHRC. Setting up of Commissions at the State level has made it easy for people to approach the court at ease and that the reach of the Commission has also reached the micro level successfully.