News: The Chief Justice Of India (CJI) N V Ramana pointed out the atrocities and other custodial tortures in the police station. He said that such problems prevail in society even today and also highlighted that human rights and human dignity are sacrosanct and cannot be compromised. Read news here.
About Human Rights from UPSC perspective:
What are human rights?
According to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Human Rights refer to the rights which any and every person should have on account of them being human. No matter if you are a male, female, what your nationality is; what race you belong to, or what occupation you do, Human Rights are the rights of all irrespective of the divisions. These rights vary from the most basic/ fundamental like the right to life to the rights which make life worth living like the right to freedom of speech, right to food, basic education, home, shelter, etc.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and India:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. By this time the world had witnessed two World Wars and their deadly repercussions which the common and helpless people had to suffer. Be it the soldiers and civilians being killed in the war, or the radiations which killed the masses slowly ( due to atom bombs). It was only the common people ( who had nothing to do with international politics) who had to suffer majorly.
The UDHR in this direction is an international document that speaks of preserving and promoting human rights. All the 193 member countries of the UN have ratified at least one treaty influenced by the Declaration. Though the UDHR is not a legally binding treaty, the contents in the document have been incorporated in international treaties and national constitutions, and other agreements.
India got independence in 1947 and subsequently was in the process of forming its own constitution. While writing the constitution, the constitution committee headed by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar took inspiration and observed the happenings around the world and even went to the extent of incorporating some of the good points from the constitutions of other countries. In the same process, India was extremely inspired by the document of UDHR. Moreover, since India had suffered much at the hands of dominating power (British), actively participated in drafting the UDHR. The UDHR consists of 30 articles in total.
UDHR and Indian Constitution:
The constitution of India which was adopted by the people of India in 1950 had points that were included in the UDHR document. Rights such as the Fundamental Rights (Article 12 to 35), Directive Principles Of State Policy(Article 36 to 51), etc in the Indian Constitution have been incorporated from the UDHR. Moreover, the formation of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at the union level was made possible through the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 which since its inception was inspired by the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights (UDHR).
National Human Rights Commission from UPSC perspective:
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is an important topic to be studied for the UPSC Civil Services Prelims exam as well as for Mains GS Paper II.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is an independent statutory body that was established on 12th October 1993, under the Protection of the Human Rights Act, 1993, and amended twice in 2006 and 2019. It was established in tandem with the Paris Principles, adopted for the promotion and protection of human rights in Paris (October 1991), and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1993. This NHRC is the watchdog of human rights in the country, i.e. the rights related to life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, and is enforceable by courts in India.
The NHRC is a multi-member body, consisting of a chairman and seven other members out of which 3 are the ex-officio members of NHRC. The President Of India appoints the chairman of NHRC and its other members, recommended by a high-powered committee headed by the Prime Minister. These members and the chairperson are appointed for a term of 5 years or up to the age of 70 years whichever is earlier. The same procedure of appointment is applied for appointing the members and chairperson of a State Human Rights Commission. They are appointed by the Governor in consultation with the Chief Minister, Home Minister, Speaker of Legislative Assembly, and Leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Assembly.
By structure, the retired Chief Justice of India (CJI) becomes the chairperson of NHRC. The other members are, one retired judge of the SC, one retired judge of any high court. The ex-officio members consist of the chairpersons of the National Commission for minorities; the National Commission for Scheduled castes; National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and the National Commission for Women. And the other two members consist of those who have practical experience in the field of human rights.
The NHRC is the apex body when it comes to the protection of human rights in India. It has powers of that of a civil court and also has the authority to recommend for the payment of damages. Since it is a statutory body i.e. created by an act of the parliament, the NHRC can give directions to both the central and the state governments to undertake certain measures or policies to uphold human rights.
Moreover, it submits its annual report to the President of India which causes the report to be laid before both the houses of the parliament. The NHRC has the power to interfere in any of the proceedings in any court of law, the case which deals with the violation of human rights. Moreover, it can visit any jail or any other institution which the commission feels violates human rights either suo moto or after receiving a complaint. Not just this, the commission also undertakes research activities in the field of human rights.
UNCAT and India:
Even though India upholds Human Rights and is explicitly mentioned in the Constitution Of India, it is among the nine countries that have not yet ratified the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT). Adopted in 1984, UNCAT is an international human rights treaty to prevent torture and other cruel and inhuman acts and punishments prevailing around the world. Though India signed the convention in 1997, it has not yet ratified UNCAT in spite of the NHRC saying that custodial violence and violation of human rights are rampant in the country.
One possible reason for India not ratifying the UNCAT is the clause that if a nation adheres to UNCAT, the parties to the convention should not transfer a person to countries where there is a danger of torture. This is the reason why fugitives are not sent back to India very easily. Especially if she/he is hiding in a developed western country. Thus in order to bring reforms to uphold human rights, India should ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).
Though India has measures clearly mentioned in the Constitution to protect and uphold human rights, these articles which talk about freedom are very general in nature and they do not specifically talk about the rights of the persons in prisons, etc. Here you can use the unfortunate Tamil Nadu incident where the father-son duo was killed in police custody which led to outrage in the country in your mains answer writing.
Consider the following Statements
- National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was established in compliance with the Paris Principles of Human Rights, 1991 which were adopted for the promotion and protection of Human Rights and were endorsed by the United Nations at its General Assembly of 1993
- The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is a statutory body mentioned in the Constitution of India that was established in 1993 under the ‘Protection of Human Rights Act.’
- The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations body that has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis. The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland.
- The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, commonly known as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) or the UN Human Rights Office, is a department of the Secretariat of the United Nations that works to promote and protect the human rights that are guaranteed under international law.
Choose the correct answer from the below-given options.
A) None of the above statements are true.
B) Only Statements 1, 2, and 3 are true.
C) Only statements 2, 3, and 4 are true.
D) All the above statements are true.
National Human Rights Commission considered the ‘Watchdog of Human Rights’ in the country has ex-officio members apart from the full-time members.
Who among the following are those ex-officio members?
- Chairman of Commission for Minorities.
- Chairman of Commission for SC’s.
- Chairman of Commission for ST’s.
- Chairman of Commission for Women.
- Chairman of Commission for protection of Child Rights.
Choose the correct code from the following.
- 2, 3 only.
- 2, 3, 4 only.
- 1, 4, 5 only.
- 1, 2, 3, 4 only.
Consider the statements regarding the State Human Rights Commission.
- Constituting of a State Human Rights Commission is an obligation on every state under the Human Rights Protection Rights Act, 1993.
- It can inquire into violation of human rights only in respect of subjects mentioned in the State List.
- The commission can look into a matter of violation of Human Right only within one year of its occurrence.
Choose the correct statement/s from the following.
- 1 and 3 Only
- 3 Only
- 1 and 2 Only
- 2 and 3 Only
Q.1. Elucidate on the role played by India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in dealing with a serious violation of human rights. (250 words)
Q2. What are human rights? How far do you think the NHRC has been able to fulfill its mandate in preserving these rights.
Q3. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is a toothless tiger. Comment.
More on this website for your UPSC Preparation:
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: https://currentaffairsupsc.in/international-relations/
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: https://currentaffairsupsc.in/science-technology/
ENVIRONMENT & ECO.: https://currentaffairsupsc.in/environment-ecology-and-biodiversity/