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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 11 December, 2023

  • 15 Min Read

75th Year of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Human Rights 75 is an initiative to mark the 75th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human Rights 75, an initiative whose 3 main goals focus on universality, progress and engagement under the leadership of UN Human Rights, together with its partners.

  • UDHR – A global document that establishes the human rights and civil liberty of every person in the world.
  • It consists of a preamble and 30 articles setting out fundamental rights and freedoms.
  • Basis – Vienna Declaration and Program of Action of 1993.
  • Proclaimed by – The United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (UNGA resolution 217 A).

UDHR sets out, for the 1st time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages. Human Rights Day is celebrated annually around the world on 10 December every year to honour the UN Assembly adoption of UDHR.

  • Legality – It isn’t a treaty and isn’t legally binding in itself, but it is viewed as the basis for international human rights law.
  • Achievements – It have inspired and paved the way for more than 70 human rights treaties at global and regional levels.
  • It inspired the decolonization movement, anti-apartheid movement and on gender issues and even on LGBTIQ+ issues.
  • India is a signatory to this declaration.

Other Treaties related to Human Rights?

  • International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and international human rights law are complementary bodies of international law that share some of the same aims.
    • International humanitarian law is a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict. It protects persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare. International humanitarian law is also known as the law of war or the law of armed conflict.
  • Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948)
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965)
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)
  • Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
  • International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1999)
  • International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (2006)
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006)
  • In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

India’s Performance on Related Indices and Reports?

  • Indices:
    • World Press Freedom Index 2022:
      • Published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
      • Rank of India 150 out of 180 countries.
    • Human Freedom Index:
      • Jointly published by Cato Institute and the Fraser Institute.
      • India ranked 119th out of 165 countries in the 2021 report.
    • Index of Economic Freedom:
      • Economic Freedom Index 2021 has been published by the Heritage Foundation.
      • India’s economic freedom score is 53.9, making its economy the 131st freest in the 2022 Index.
      • India is ranked 27th among 39 countries in the Asia–Pacific region.

Freedom of Press in India?

  • The Constitution, the supreme law of the land, guarantees freedom of speech and expression under Article 19, which deals with ‘Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.
  • Freedom of press is not expressly protected by the Indian legal system but it is impliedly protected under article 19(1) (a) of the constitution, which states - "All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression".
  • In 1950, the Supreme Court in Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras observed that freedom of the press lay at the foundation of all democratic organisations.
  • However, Freedom of press is also not absolute. It faces certain restrictions under Article 19(2), which are as follows-
    • Matters related to interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is an independent statutory body established to protect and promote human rights in India. It is responsible for reviewing and addressing human rights violations and making recommendations for the protection and promotion of human rights.

  • NHRC was established under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993.
  • It is an embodiment of India’s concern for the promotion and protection of human rights.
  • It is established in conformity with the Paris Principles (1991), adopted at the first international workshop on national institutions for the protection of human rights.

What is the composition of NHRC?

The NHRC comprises of a Chairperson, five full-time Members, and seven deemed Members. The statute lays down qualifications for the appointment of the Chairperson and Members of the Commission.

Position

Qualification

Chairman

A person who has been Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court

5 Members

  • One Member who is or has been a Judge of the Supreme Court.
  • One Member who is or has been the Chief Justice of a High Court
  • Three Members to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights.
  • Note: Of the three members, at least one will be a woman.

7 Deemed Members

Chairpersons/Chief Commissioner of the

  • National Commission for Backward Classes
  • National Commission for Minorities
  • National Commission for Scheduled Castes
  • National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
  • National Commission for Protection of Child Rights
  • National Commission for Women
  • Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities

Table - Composition of NHRC

Appointment:The chairperson and members of the NHRC are appointed by the President of India, based on the recommendations of a committee consisting of

    • Prime Minister
    • Speaker of the Lok Sabha
    • Minister of Home Affairs
    • Leader of the Opposition (Lok Sabha)
    • Leader of the Opposition (Rajya Sabha)
    • Deputy Chairman (Rajya Sabha)
  • Term: Three years or till the age of seventy years for both the Chairperson and Members.
  • Removal: The Chairperson or any other Member of the Commission shall be removed from his office by order of the President on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity after the inquiry of the Supreme Court. The President also, by order, removes from office the Chairperson or any other Member if the Chairperson or such other Member:
    • Is adjudged an insolvent.
    • Engages during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his office.
    • Is unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body.
    • Is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court.
    • Is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for an offense which, in the opinion of the President, involves moral turpitude.

What are the functions of NHRC?

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has a number of functions that are designed to protect and promote human rights in India. Some of the key functions of the NHRC include:

  • Inquire into complaints of violation of human rights/abetment or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant.
  • Intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court with the approval of the such court.
  • Visit any jail or any other institution under the control of the State Government to study the living condition of the inmates and make recommendations thereon
  • Review the safeguards under the Constitution/law in force for the protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation.
  • Review the factors like terrorism that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures.
  • Study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations.
  • Undertake and promote research in the field of human rights.
  • Spread human rights literacy among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available.
  • Encourage the efforts of NGOs and institutions working in the field of human rights.

What are the powers of NHRC?

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has a number of powers that enable it to carry out its mandate to protect and promote human rights in India. Some of these powers include:

  • Powers of a civil court in the investigation and inquiry into complaints of human rights violations: The Commission, when investigating complaints, has the same powers as a Civil Court hearing a case under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. These powers include the ability to:
    • Summon and enforce the attendance of witnesses and examine them on oath.
    • Discovery and production of any document.
    • Receiving evidence on affidavits.
    • Requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any Court or office.
    • Issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents.
  • Power to recommend compensation to victims of human rights violations: The NHRC has the authority to recommend that victims of human rights violations be compensated for their losses or suffering.
  • Power to approach the Supreme Court or the High Court for the enforcement of human rights: If necessary, the NHRC can approach the Supreme Court or the High Court for the enforcement of human rights in order to protect the rights of individuals or groups.
  • Power to take suo moto cognizance of human rights violations: The NHRC has the authority to take "suo motu" cognizance of human rights violations, even if a formal complaint has not been filed.

What are the various initiatives undertaken by NHRC?

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) undertakes a variety of initiatives to carry out its mandate of promoting and protecting human rights in India. Some of them include:

  • Reviewing laws like the Terrorist & Disruptive Activities Act and Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2000.
  • Protection of human rights in areas of insurgency and terrorism.
  • Setting up the guidelines to check misuse of the power of arrest by the police. Setting up of Human Rights Cells in the State/City Police Headquarters.
  • Steps to check custodial deaths, rape, and torture.
  • Accession to the Convention against Torture, Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions.
  • Systemic reforms of police, prisons, and other centers of detention.
  • Protecting the Human Rights of persons affected by HIV/AIDS.

What are the challenges faced by NHRC?

Some of the key challenges faced by the NHRC in its efforts to protect and promote human rights include

  • Limited resources and staff: The NHRC has limited resources and staff, which can make it difficult for it to effectively carry out its mandate. This can lead to a backlog of cases and a lack of capacity to address all human rights issues in a timely manner.
  • Heavy workload and a backlog of cases: The NHRC receives a large number of complaints of human rights violations and has a heavy workload as a result. This can lead to a backlog of cases and a delay in addressing human rights issues.
  • Limited ability to enforce its recommendations: NHRC has limited ability to enforce its recommendations, which can hinder its effectiveness in addressing human rights issues and ensuring their implementation.
  • Limited jurisdiction over certain categories of cases: The NHRC has certain limitations in its jurisdiction and cannot investigate cases that are older than one year, cases that are anonymous, vague, and frivolous.
  • Limited powers to investigate and address human rights violations by non-state actors: The NHRC does not have the authority to investigate and address human rights violations by non-state actors, such as private companies or individuals.

What measures could help towards the effective functioning of NHRC?

Some measures that could help for the effective functioning of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) are:

  • Regular training and capacity building: Regular training and capacity building exercises for commission members and staff to ensure that they are equipped to handle human rights cases.
  • Streamline processes and procedures: This includes simplifying the complaint process, improving case management, and adopting best practices from other human rights bodies.
  • Increase powers and authority: In order to more effectively address human rights issues, the NHRC could be given more powers and authority, such as the ability to enforce its recommendations or to investigate and address human rights violations by non-state actors.
  • Address structural issues: This could include working to change laws and policies that perpetuate discrimination and inequality or addressing systemic issues such as corruption or lack of accountability.
  • Enhance outreach and communication: This could include increasing its presence on social media, conducting more public hearings, and collaborating with civil society organizations and other stakeholders.
  • Clear and transparent procedures for lodging complaints and investigating human rights violations.
  • Time-bound investigations to ensure swift justice for victims of human rights violations.
  • Adequate representation of marginalized communities, such as SCs and STs, on the commission.
  • Institutional Accountability: Regular monitoring and evaluation of the commission's performance to ensure accountability.

What is State Human Rights Commission, and what are its features?

The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in India serves as a watchdog to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights within each state. It was established as per the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993.

  • Composition: The State Commission shall consist of a Chairperson and 4 members.

Position

Qualification

Chairperson

A person who has been Chief Justice or Judge of a High Court

4 Members

One Member who is, or has been, a Judge of a High Court.

One Member who is, or has been, a district judge in that State.

Two members to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of human rights.

Appointment: The Chairperson and other Members shall be appointed by the Governor after obtaining the recommendation of a Committee consisting of:

    • The Chief Minister
    • Speaker of the Legislative Assembly
    • Minister-in-charge of the Department of Home in that State
    • Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly.

Removal: The Chairperson or any other Member of the Commission shall be removed from his office by order of the President on similar grounds as that of the Chairperson and members of the NHRC.

Source:


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