Skip to main content

Decline of human rights protection regime: Why Chhattisgarh officials may never appear before NHRC

By Pushkar Raj*
The recent summoning of Chhattisgarh officials by the National Human Rights Commissions (NHRC) for abuse of power is significant due to the expectations from human rights protection institutions in the country to deliver on their mandate.

However, concerned officials may never appear before the commission to explain their conduct indicating a steep decline in human rights protection regime in the country.
Like many other countries, the human rights regime was initiated in India in the aftermath of 1993 Geneva world conference on human rights. Consequently, the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA) was passed by the parliament for “better protection of human rights” paving way for setting up the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and a number of State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC) in the states.
Reality
Though the task of protection of human rights was to be carried out under the leadership of NHRC, but it has failed to do justice to its mandate. It is evident from a recent Supreme Court observation in Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association versus Union of India case when the court censured the commission for inefficient functioning.
The court criticized it for closing down some of the cases of encounter killings “without any application of mind’’ and on the basis of a magisterial inquiry which is essentially an administrative finding. The observations of the court were not unfounded given that the commission has an investigation wing headed by a DGP rank officer. The court went on to describe the commission as a toothless tiger.
The court’s comments echo a general feeling amongst the human rights activists in the country that the NHRC has failed to fix accountability for serious human rights violations, inspire SHRCs and send messages to the government on important issues related to human rights.
For many years now, the NHRC has failed to take a concrete stance on death penalty despite documented studies (Lethal Lottery: The Death Penalty in India; Amnesty India-PUCL) that it is closely related to one’s access to justice and is usually awarded to the poorest, without leading to any deterrence to crime. While the outgoing chairman of the commission, Justice Balakrishnan supported the death penalty, the commission never clarified its position on it.
The commission failed to take remedial measures when the government cancelled several human rights organisation’s licenses under Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act, without which they cannot solicit funds from abroad. It is alleged that the government’s move was vindictive and a violation of the UN declaration on HRDs that confers on CSOs the right to solicit, receive and utilize resources.
Reason
The commission has come to this pass because the government, irrespective of political party, seems to have lost interest in human rights’ protection and promotion, thereby, encouraging and maintaining only a fa├žade rather than substance on this matter. It is the responsibility of the government of the day to appoint credible people to these institutions if any improvement in the situation of human rights is to be realized. But the government’s actions have only been disappointing.
In 2010, the government appointed a chairman of NHRC who faced serious allegations of corruption. The matter dragged in the Supreme Court for years and was subsequently withdrawn by the government on the plea that the judge concerned had retired from the office.
It has chosen to appoint retired police officers to the commission. While the previous government appointed a former chief of anti-corruption bureau , CBI and a former director of anti-terror agency, NIA as the member of the NHRC, the present government nominated a BJP leader to be its member. By this count under the category of ‘persons having knowledge of human rights’ the present commission has one former police officer who is a terrorism expert and other, if confirmed, would be an active politician.
The government has not cared to put NHRC annual reports before the parliament for discussion, so much so that commission has now even stopped preparing them on a regular basis. It has caused dilution of its accountability inbuilt under the legislation under which it was setup.
Repercussion
This cynical approach to these important institutions has reduced the human rights regime in the country to a farce and sent a damaging message across the country. Out of 24 SHRCs, 10 are without chairpersons, nine have vacancy of members and some, including Maharashtra, with consistently high police custodial deaths- have retired police officers as members on their bench.
As majority of the complaints made to these commissions relate to police, appointment of retired police officers to these institutions have dealt a serious blow to their credibility, eroding people’s faith in these institutions. For example, Soni Sori, a victim of police atrocity and sexual violence did not expect a fair hearing from the Chhattisgarh SHRC, and when she approached the NHRC it was quick to give a clean chit to the state government (The Hindu, 15 April 2013).
The erosion of authority of human rights institutions is a major blow to the preservation and promotion of human rights in the country. It is a matter of grave concern in light of expenses involved in approaching the judiciary reeling under millions of pending cases. Clearly, the government has a lot to explain and do if it cares for its constitutional and international obligations.
---
*Melbourne-based researcher and author, who earlier taught political science in Delhi University and was the national general secretary of People's Union for Civil Liberties. Contact: raajpushkar@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Billion vaccine doses? Devil is in details: 70% haven't got 2nd jab; numbers jacked up

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  India has reached the one billion Covid-19 vaccinations milestone. It is indeed a great news and a big salute to the less paid ordinary health-workers in interiors of India for this feat. The government wants all of India's 944 million adults to get vaccinated this year. Around three-quarters of adults in the country of 1.3 billion people have had one shot and around 30 percent are fully vaccinated, the government says.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Top upper caste judges 'biased' towards Dalit colleagues: US Bar Association report

By Rajiv Shah  A high profile report prepared by the influential  American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights , taking note of the fact that “in the 70-year history of the Indian Republic, only six Dalit judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court”, has taken strong exception to what it calls “lack of representation of Dalits” in the legal profession and the judiciary.

Political consensus? Celebrations, with over 5,000 plus post-vaccine deaths in India

By Rosamma Thomas*  As India fully vaccinated nearly 20% of its population and celebrated the “milestone” of administering one billion (100 crore) Covid-19 vaccine doses, it was time to remember those who died shortly after vaccination . By October 20, 2021 Twitter handle C400T, tracking deaths reported to have occurred after receiving the Covid-19 shot in India, updated the 5,134th death.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Failure of 'trickle down theory' behind India's poor Global Hunger Index rating

By Dr Gian Singh*  On October 14, 2021, two organisations, Concern Worldwide (An Irish aid agency) and WeltHungerHilfe (a German organization that researches the problem of global hunger), jointly published the Global Hunger Index (GHI) for 2021. These organizations have included 116 countries in the world hunger rankings.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Uttarakhand, Kerala disaster due to policies favouring India's developmental mafia

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Two of India’s most beautiful regions where thousands of people go to watch and feel the wonders of nature are suffering because of the extremely disastrous rains and floods. The pain that the rains brought to Kerala and Uttarakhand is a warning to all of us. It's nature’s warning to us to mend our ways.

March opposes Sabarmati Ashram renovation: 'Mahatmaji had kept open for access to all'

Counterview Desk A Sevagram to Sabarmati march, which began on October 17 from Wardha (Maharashtra) and will end on October 24 in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), has demanded that the Sabarmati Ashram, the government should not impose "the fashion and glitz of a shallow modernity" at the cost of Rs 1,200 crore, in the name of renovating the Ashram founded by Gandhiji.

Religious mobs replicate blasphemy laws, 'threatening' liberty in a free country

Nihangs, Lakhbir Singh By Ajit Singh*   A Dalit man, Lakhbir Singh, was mercilessly beaten up and lynched to death near farmers’ protest site in the State of Haryana allegedly by Nihang Sikhs. It was alleged that he committed blasphemy by desecrating the Holy Book Guru Granth Sahib.