“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. […] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
Human Rights Day is commemorated on December 10 each year. The theme of Human Rights Day for 2021 is “Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights”. This theme corresponds to the cardinal principle of “Equality” as enunciated under article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (hereinafter UDHR) which bring into line with AGENDA 2030 (General Assembly resolution 70/1) and with a Shared United Nations System Framework for Action titled as “Leaving No One Behind: Equality and Non-Discrimination at the Heart of Sustainable Development” which was endorsed on 27 April 2016 by the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB).
Human rights are nothing but natural rights which are as old as the history of human civilization itself. The canvas of this right extended with the change in nature of State from police state to welfare state. It is inalienable rights subject to statutory restriction which often termed as reasonable restriction.
The term “human rights” as per Macmillan Dictionary means “the rights that everyone should have in a society, including the right to express opinions about the government or to have protection from harm”.
D.D. Basu defines human rights as “those minimum rights which every individual must have against the state or other public authority by virtue of his being a member of human family irrespective of any other consideration.”
The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 under the provisions of section 2(1) (d) defines Human Rights 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.”
Human rights became the focal point of world community since 13th century when the first written law of Magna Carta or Charter of Liberties of England, 1215 came into reality to limit the power of capricious regime.
International Framework of Human Rights
“No cause is more worthy than the cause of human rights. Human rights are more than legal concepts: they are the essence of man. They are what make man human. That is why they are called human rights; deny them and you deny man’s humanity.”
Jose W. Diokono
Patronage of human rights is prerequisite for the progress and escalation of human personality, which eventually bestows in the development of the state as a whole. It is a globally recognized issue and various intercontinental instruments have been legislated for human rights protection. The notion of human rights is dynamic and acclimatizes to the needs of the nation and its people. The United Nations through its charter signifies a momentous advancement in the direction for the endorsement as well as protection of human rights. Four intercontinental conventions namely the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights 1966, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, which were legislated under the auspices supervision of the United Nations collectively known as International Bill of Rights. The international human rights regime is continuously pullulating with the development of human civilization. It bestows certain conventional standards which all the nations should not only acknowledge but also incorporate in their municipal legislations. It is the obligation of all the nations that they shall work to promote the welfare of people by annihilating all description of bigotry and provide right to equality, dignity and fair dealing to all.
National Framework of Human Rights
“On the 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so labouriously built up.”
Dr. B R Ambedkar
India is an egalitarian country, and one of its primary manifestations is the promotion of the indispensable rights of the populace. The Government of India has accorded sui generis consideration contemplation to the recognition and respect for human rights which are inscribed as fundamental rights in the Constitution enshrined in Part III, which encompasses civil and political rights. The preamble to the Indian Constitution enshrines the Constitution’s philosophy and objective, which includes the protection of an individual’s dignity. Part III of the constitution guarantees fundamental rights to people, including the right to equality, the right to freedom, the right against exploitation, the right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights, and the right to constitutional remedies, which are essential for the development of a human individual. It is the obligation of both the national and provincial governments to provide appropriate environments for people to realize their human rights. The constitution establishes similar obligations to endeavor for the welfare of the people and the observance of human rights through the Directive Principles of State Policy, which are entrenched in Part IV of the Constitution. These are setting the bar for the state to formulate policies for distributive justice, right to work, right to education, social security, just and humane working conditions, promoting the interests of marginalized communities, enhance the standard of nutrition and living and improving public health, protecting and improving the environment and ecology, and so on, so that human beings can enjoy these rights within reasonable limits.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was established by an Act of Parliament popularly known as Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 which aims to protect and promote human rights. The responsibilities of Commission have been incorporated in Section 12 of the Act. It is also responsible for disseminating as well as propagating awareness of human rights among the general public and encouraging all ideologues in the field of human rights literacy, not only at the national but also at the international level.
Present Socio-Political Context
“Justice without power is inefficient; power without justice is tyranny. Justice without power is opposed, because there are always wicked men. Power without justice is soon questioned. Justice and power must therefore be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful and whatever is powerful may be just.”
Democratic state without decentralization masked by nationalism and developmental glitter equipped with hunger for profit and corruption masquerading growth-oriented governance is recognized as elected authoritarian. Centralism alienates the public and jeopardises the Republic. This is the genuine picture of India at present. One has to assess the quantum and yardstick of human rights and share in welfare policies which the marginalized and suppressed segments of society genuinely enjoy, if at all, then seek restitution for the sufferings and disabilities of these various communities, who make up the handsome majority. Isn’t it time to remind ourselves, among the nauseating noises of market freedom being used to steal the poor by global giant corporations boosting profits through propaganda and political pressure? We appertain to huan civilization not of moneyocracy. The rule of law is not a tool to preserve vested interests, showcase hypothetical comfort or halt the progress of the society. What does it mean to develop and what does it entail? After such analysis, we will look at the accessibility of legal remedies and see if they are only available on paper or in practise. The Constitutional device rings for whom? The judges’ robes provide hope for whom? If the macro sector of the masses is plagued by monstrous wrongs, human rights are a mirage. If right to full personality is denied, he or she becomes alienated from society, and if such deprived and poor groups protest and become desperate, social and political stability is jeopardised.
The basic human rights for which the today’s generation is struggling about are the fresh water to drink and fresh air to breathe in. Other pertinent human rights which one should be talk about the selectivity of the constitutional post holder such as Prime Minister, other key official who took oath of the constitution tarnish the vey ethos of the basic structure of the constitution itself. The only inclusivity seen the slogan of “sabka sath sabka vikas” but the reality be seen in the speech of political rally and the tweets, which again fall in the ambit of corrupt practices of section 8 Disqualification on conviction for certain offences, section 8A Disqualification on ground of corrupt practices, section 9 Disqualification for dismissal for corruption or disloyalty, section 123 Corrupt practices and section 125 Promoting enmity between classes in connection with election, and tried to disturb the harmony within the country. The arbitrary deprivation of life and other unlawful or political motivated killings in the name of cow protection, encounter killing etc.
Whosoever express any protest to any governmental legislation whether is it the CAA or the Farm laws subject to the arbitrary arrest and detention under UAPA and NSA. The media which show some courage to report the truth are subjected to be with inhumane treatment and torture by the police and the recent example is of Tripura Violence. The type of treatment given by the Apex courts of the country in dealing with the cases of marginalized people also put question mark on its independence.
There are a lot of subject of human rights and violation to talk about but now is the time to focus on basic and quintessential human rights to be take care by the government in the form of removing inequalities of economic distribution, religious tolerance, environmental degradation etc and fair treatment of its people.
In recent past the Apex courts in India has played a key role in preserving the human rights. Now we are moving to appreciate some of the remarkable decisions.
In August 2017, a nine-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court in Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India, conjointly held that right to privacy is an intrinsic part of life and personal liberty under Article 21.
In 2018, the landmark decision of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, the Supreme Court decriminalized consensual homosexual relation by reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
In Rambabu Singh Thakur v. Sunil Arora, the court gave various instructions to political parties to compulsorily update their websites, the individuate statistics of candidates along with sub judice criminal cases against them, and spell out the grounds for nominating such candidates and also why individuals who did not have any criminal antecedents could not be nominated.
In Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, the Apex Court has observed that under Article 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution, the freedom of speech and expression on the internet, as well as the freedom to practise any profession, occupation, trade, or business on the internet, is a fundamental right. The Court further stated that an extended suspension of the internet is not permitted, and that continually blocking the internet through Section 144 CrPC orders is an abuse of power. This decision was taken in a case challenging internet blackouts in Kashmir.
In Amish Devgan v. Union of India, the court made several pertinent remarks on what embodies hate speech while rejecting to quash FIRs against TV anchor Amish Devgan for allegedly hurting religious sentiments as he used the words “Lootera Chishti” signifying the Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti in one of his TV debates. The Court also observed that freedom and rights cannot extend to fashion public disorder or provoke hostility.
In Laxmibai Chandaragi v. The State of Karnataka, the Court has observed that the consent of the family or the community or the clan is not necessary once two adult individuals agree to enter wedlock and their consent has to be piously given primacy.
In Union of India v. KA Najeeb, the Supreme Court, citing Article 21 of the Constitution which impliedly provides right to speedy trial, released on bail to an accused who had spent more than 5 years in prison while awaiting trial in a case filed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The Court made it clear; however, that the clause of the UAPA does not preclude constitutional courts from issuing bail in cases involving violations of basic human rights.
It is the penultimate time for judiciary to exercise its suo moto jurisdiction in order to ensure the human rights protection.
Development should be acknowledged as a process designed progressively to construct environment in which every person can relish, implement and utilize under the rule of law all his human rights, whether economic, social, cultural, civil or political.
Equality and non-discrimination are human rights based approach to development which appears to be the superlative approach to eliminate inequalities and recommence our journey towards appreciating Agenda 2030. A human rights based economy can eradicate poverty. It should be the foundation of a new social contract. Successive financial and health crises have had perpetual and intricate impingement on millions of millennial. Notwithstanding their rights are protected, including social protection as well as jobs security, the “COVID generation” runs the risk of falling prey to the detrimental effects of mounting nonequivalence and pauperism. Environmental degradation, such as climate warming, pollution, and depletion of natural resources, has a disproportionately negative impact on people, groups, and communities. These consequences exacerbate existing disparities and have a detrimental effect on immediate and potential descendant’s existence. By addressing grievances, removing disparities and exclusion, and allowing people to be involved in decision-making that affects their lives, human rights have the capacity to address the core causes of conflict and crises. Human rights-abiding societies are more robust, better suited to withstand unexpected catastrophes such as pandemics and the consequences of climate change. Human rights for all ensures that everyone has access to the protective benefits of social justice, but inequality will drive the cycle of conflict and crises if certain people or groups are excluded or discriminated against.