Human Rights in India: Is it our fundamental right?

24 Apr 2023  Read 2631 Views

Human rights have gained more attention & scrutiny in recent years, both domestically and internationally due to significant media coverage on several high-profile cases of human rights violations, such as Delhi gang rape case (violence against women), discrimination against marginalized communities like Dalits, etc., government’s use of sedition laws to restrict freedom of expression, Kashmir conflict in India, which sparked heavy public outrage. 

This article focuses on human rights in Constitution, international human rights law, international and national cases on human rights violation, remedies & many more.

Human Rights in Constitution

These are the constitutionally guaranteed human rights in India:

  • Despite the constitutional protections, several instances of human rights violations have occurred in India like discrimination based on caste, gender, etc. , police brutality, custodial deaths & encounter killings.

  • Some of the fundamental human rights provisions under the Indian Constitution are:

  1. Right to Equality (Article 14-18): This guarantees equality before the law and prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.

  2. Right to Freedom (Article 19-22): This guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association, movement, and to practice any profession or occupation.

  3. Right against Exploitation (Article 23-24): This prohibits trafficking, forced labor, and employment of children under the age of 14.

  4. Right to Freedom of Religion (Article 25-28): This guarantees the freedom to profess, practice, and propagate any religion.

  5. Cultural and Educational Rights (Article 29-30): This guarantees the right to conserve one's language, culture, and script, and to establish and administer educational institutions.

  6. Right to Life and Personal Liberty (Article 21): This guarantees the right to life and personal liberty, which includes the right to live with dignity, privacy, and personal autonomy.

  7. Right to Education (Article 21A): This guarantees the right to education for all children between the ages of 6 and 14.

  8. Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32): This guarantees the right to approach the courts for the enforcement of fundamental rights.

  • No doubt, the Indian government has taken steps to address human rights violations, like the establishment of the NHRC. 

Know the difference between human rights and fundamental rights in this article

Human rights violation in India

There have been various cases of human rights violations reported in India. Here are some examples of human rights violations cases in India:

  1. Discrimination against marginalized communities: Several cases have been reported on discrimination against marginalized communities, including Dalits (formerly known as "untouchables"), indigenous people, and religious minorities. in education, employment, and access to healthcare.

  2. Violence against women: There have been several incidences of sexual harassment, rape, and domestic violence against women in India. The biggest example is the Nirbhaya case which sparked nationwide protests. The accused were given death sentence & this case led to legal reforms including Criminal law (Amendment) Act, 2013.

  3. Custodial deaths: There have been reports of police brutality, torture in India mainly to extract confessions. Custodial deaths  (deaths that occur in police custody) have been a longstanding human rights issue in India. However the SC in 2014 issued guidelines to prevent custodial deaths and torture by including medical examinations of prisoners and creating an independent authority to investigate custodial violence complaints.

  4. Extrajudicial killings-  Encounter killings or police encounters refer to situations where the police or security forces involve extrajudicial killings of generally suspects individuals. These encounters are often referred to as "fake encounters" as they are mostly staged to appear as if the suspects were killed in self-defence, which is not in reality..

  5. Abuses of power by government officials: There have been several incidences of abuses of power by government officials, like corruption, nepotism, and harassment of whistleblowers.

International cases of human rights violation

There have been numerous international cases of human rights violations worldwide, let’s wrap few of them:

  1. Afghanistan- Taliban issue- The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 raised serious concerns about human rights violations in the country. The Taliban had a history of committing serious human rights abuses, like targeting women and minorities, extrajudicial killings and torture.After taking control of Afghanistan, the Taliban promised to respect human rights.UN & human rights groups, have called on the Taliban to respect human rights. It is yet to be seen if Taliban maintains its promise to respect human rights.

  2. Rohingya crisis in Myanmar: The Rohingya people, a Muslim minority group in Myanmar, faced persecution and violence for a very long period of time and in 2017, the Myanmar military launched a brutal crackdown on the Rohingya, resulting in thousands of deaths & displacement. UN said that the violence is ethnic cleansing and genocide.

  3. Syrian civil war: This war began in 2011 which led to a widespread human rights violations, including the use of chemical weapons, torture, and attacks on civilians. The conflict has displaced millions of people and generated a humanitarian crisis.

  4. Chinese govt. Towards Uyghurs: The Chinese government has been accused of committing human rights violations against the Uyghur minority group in the Xinjiang region, resulting in arbitrary detention, forced labor, and cultural genocide. UN with other countries called for an end to the abuses.

  5. Israel-Palestine conflict: The conflict between Israel and Palestine gained immense attention, with both sides accused of committing human rights violations. These violations include attacks on civilians, arbitrary detention & restrictions on freedom of movement.

India & International human rights law

  • India is a signatory to various international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and its two covenants; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It is also a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council and

  • India, in order to comply with these international standards and apply these international provisions domestically, has implemented various laws, policies, and programs aimed at protecting and promoting human rights via its Constitution and Human Rights Act.

  • Say, India has enacted laws to protect the rights of women, children, and marginalized communities, and has established institutions like the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women.

  • However, India is also criticized for not complying with international human rights obligations, say treatment of minority communities etc.

What is Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a historic document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10th December, 1948 which outlines the fundamental human rights and freedoms crucial to all individuals.

  • The UDHR consists of 30 articles which describes several human rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and security of person, the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, the right to education, the right to work and equal pay for equal work etc.

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration and not a legally binding treaty.

  • However, UDHR has now been a part of customary international law as countries have widely recognized it as a landmark achievement in the history of human rights, so all the countries need to comply with the international human rights standards. 

  • UDHR has been translated into over 500 languages and has served as the basis for developing international human rights treaties and agreements.

International Covenants of UDHR

Two international covenants adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 are based on the principles of the UDHR and have been ratified by many countries. These covenants are:

  1. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): This covenant recognizes the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of religion, & the right to a fair trial, prohibiting torture, slavery, and arbitrary detention.

  2. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR): This covenant recognizes the economic, social, and cultural rights of individuals, including the right to work, education, health, and an adequate standard of living & recognizes the right to form and join trade unions & the right to access to scientific progress.

Both the ICCPR and the ICESCR require states to take measures to protect and promote the rights enshrined in the covenants. States that have ratified these covenants are legally bound to respect, protect, and fulfil these rights.

What to do if human rights are violated?

Here are a few remedies:

  1. Legal action: Individuals or groups whose human rights have been violated may seek remedy via national courts or tribunals. This may involve filing a lawsuit or lodging a complaint with a human rights commission (state or national) or ombudsman. In some cases, international courts or tribunals may have jurisdiction over human rights violations committed by state actors.

  2. Political action: Individuals or groups may seek political remedies by advocating and working hard towards bringing the human rights violations into limelight via media coverage & pressure governments or other actors to take action to address them such as via petitions, forms etc.

  3. International human rights bodies: Individuals or groups may seek remedies via international human rights bodies, like the United Nations Human Rights Council or the International Criminal Court. These bodies have the authority to investigate human rights violations. One can approach these bodies through NGOs working in their states.

  4. Humanitarian aid and support: In cases where individuals or groups have been displaced or otherwise affected by human rights violations, humanitarian aid and support may be provided to help meet their basic needs. It can be given by govts. NGOs, individual donors, UNO etc.

  5. However, the effectiveness of these remedies can vary depending on the specific circumstances of each & every case.

Conclusion

India has a complex and diverse society, with a population of over 1.3 billion people, & a different cultures, religions, socio-economic backgrounds. Protection of human rights in such a large and diverse country can be a challenging task, however, there are several measures that the Indian government has taken to ensure the protection of human rights such as constitutional safeguards, legal reforms like amendment in rape laws, civil society activism along with international human rights instruments.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 275 Post(s)

She is a Legal Content Manager at Finology Legal! With a Masters in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), a BBA.LL.B from ITM University, and patent analyst training from IIPTA, she truly specializes in her field. Her passion for IPR and Criminal laws is evident from her advanced certification in Forensic Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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