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What was the first global expression of Human Rights ?
The first global expression of human rights came in 1948, just after the second world war, in the form of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly. The declaration recognizes that human beings are inherently entitled to certain rights; justice and peace in the world can be established only if the human dignity of all people is respected, and disregard for the same outrages the conscience of mankind. The declaration recognizes freedom of speech, belief, freedom from fear and from want as the highest aspiration of people. The declaration consists of 30 articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions and laws. The International Bill of Human Rights which consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Protocols, took on the force of international law in 1976. Subsequently, the Vienna Declaration and Plan of action were adopted in 1993. This declaration established the interdependence of democracy, economic development, and human rights; brought in the concept of rights being indivisible, interdependent, and inter-related and led to the creation of the post of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights . India is also a signatory to the Vienna declaration.
What is the main framework for protecting human rights in India ?
The main framework for protecting human rights in India is provided by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. This has been enacted pursuant to the directive under Article 51 of the Constitution and also the commitments taken at the Vienna conference. It defines human right as the right relating to liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Indian constitution as embodied in the fundamental rights and the International covenants (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on the 16th December, 1966), and enforceable by courts in India.
The Act provides for the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission, State Human Rights Commission in States and Human Rights Courts for better protection of human rights and for matters connected therewith.
What functions does the Act assign to the National Human Rights Commission ?
According to the Act the Commission is required to inquire, into violation of human rights, or 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 such court; visit, any jail or any other institution under the control of the State Government, where persons are detained or lodged for purposes of treatment, reformation or protection to study the living condition of the inmates and make recommendations thereon ; review the safeguards under the Constitution or any law for the time being in force for the protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation; review the factors, including acts of 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 for their effective implementation; 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 for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other available means; encourage the efforts of non-Governmental organizations and institutions working in the field of human rights; such other functions as it may consider necessary for the promotion of human rights.
What is the objective for setting up Human Rights Courts ?
The human rights courts are set up for the purpose of providing speedy trial of offences arising out of violation of human rights. As per the Act the State Government may, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, specify for each district a Court of Session to be a Human Rights Court to try the said offences. For every Human Rights Court, the State Government is required to specify a Public Prosecutor or appoint an advocate who has been in practice for not less than seven years, as a Special Public Prosecutor for the purpose of conducting cases in that Court.
How does the National Human Rights Commission function ?
The NHRC takes up cases either on its own initiative or on the basis of complaints received. It has all the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, particularly with regard to summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath; discovery and production of any document; receiving evidence on affidavits; requisitioning any public record or its copy from any court or office; issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents; any other matter which may be prescribed. The Commission has its own investigating staff headed by a Director General of Police for investigation into complaints of human rights violations. Under the Act, it is open to the Commission to utilise the services of any officer or investigation agency of the Central Government or any State Government. The Commission has also associated non-Governmental organizations in many cases.
What steps can the NHRC take once it establishes of violation of human rights ?
The NHRC can recommend to the concerned government to initiate action against the guilty, it can recommend grant of immediate relief to the victim or his family and it can also approach the Supreme Court or High Courts for orders that they may deem necessary. The concerned government is required to indicate the action taken on the Commission’s recommendations within one month in general cases and three months in cases concerning the armed forces.
How can complaints be made to the Commission ?
Self contained complaints can be made in Hindi, English or any other language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution . Additional documents or affidavits can be asked for. The commission also has the discretion for accepting complaints telegraphically or through the FAX, email or the mobile telephone number of the Commission. However, complaints are not accepted if the event referred to is more than a year old, or the matter is sub- judice, vague, anonymous, pseudonymous, frivolous or pertaining to service matters.