In India the idea of human rights is not a contribution of western countries. These rights are a common heritage of glorious past. Of course, the enjoyment of these rights was not open to all segments of the society. There was no uniform application of these freedoms as the society was a caste-ridden hierarchical one. Throughout the period of liberation movement, Indians fought for the protection of their human rights such as political freedom and right of self-determination.
After independence, the constitution of India was formulated with a guarantee of fundamental rights and freedom. In conformity with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, Part III of the Indian Constitution provides six types of Fundamental Rights.
- Right to equality: Which includes equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment, abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles. Right to equality is provided from Article 14 to Article 18 of Indian constitution.
- Right to freedom: Which includes freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association or union or cooperatives, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation , right to life and liberty, protection in respect to conviction in offences and protection against arrest and detention in certain cases. Right to freedom is provided from Article 19 to 22 of constitution.
- Right against exploitation: Which prohibits all forms of forced labour, child labour and traffic of human beings. It is provided under Articles 23 and 24 of Indian constitution.
- Right to freedom of religion: Which includes freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion, freedom to manage religious affairs, freedom from certain taxes and freedom from religious instructions in certain educational institutes. Article 25 to 28 enumerates the right to freedom of religion.
- Cultural and Educational rights: Preserve the right of any section of citizens to conserve their culture, language or script, and right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. Article 29 and Article 30 of Indian constitution provides for cultural and educational rights.
- Right to constitutional remedies: Which is present for enforcement of Fundamental Rights. It is provided under Article 32 of Indian constitution.
The Constitution of India not only provides six fundamental rights to citizens but also has made them enforceable. The cases of the violation of human rights are alleged to be plenty which have taken different forms in different times. The examples are communal violence, caste rivalry, starvation death, exploitation of workers, domestic violence, custodian violence, sexual violence, social discrimination etc. For the eradication of these violence’s, a democratic polity, parliamentary form of government and an impartial and independent judiciary have been established.
India has been committed to ensure the protection and preservation of these rights. Judiciary has been separated from the executive. With the power of judicial review, the Supreme Court is empowered to strike down any law of the legislature and any order of the executive if they violate the fundamental rights of the people.
Human Rights Act 1993 created “The National Human Rights Commission” with the following provisions:
(a) The commission is authorized to conduct enquiry on a petition presented to it by a victim or into complaint of violation of human rights or abetment thereof or negligence by some public servant in prevention of such violation.
(b) The National Human Rights Commission can also intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of Human Rights pending before some court with the permission of the court.
(d) The commission can review the existing safeguards and laws protecting Human Rights and can make suggestions for effective implementation thereof.
(e) The National Human Rights Commissions encourages NGO’s and institutions and promotes research in the field of Human Rights.
The National Human Rights Commission is headed by a chairman and includes four members and three deemed members who are chairpersons of the National Minority Commission, The National Commission of Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes and National Commission for women. The chairperson and the members are appointed by the president of India on the recommendation of a committee comprising of the Prime Minister as its chairman, speakers of Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha. According to the Human Rights Act of 1993 only the present or some former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court can hold the post of chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission.
The NHRC protects the fundamental rights enshrined on the constitution or include in treatise to which India is a party. It has also stressed the need for appropriate political measures to tackle terrorism, the insulation of investing of investigative functions of the police from political or other extraneous pressure and the revision of the Indian Prisons Act of 1994 for improvement in conditions in jails and police lockups.
Priorities of the National human Rights Commission include ending of child labour, provision of elementary education to all and guaranteeing a certain level of exception of all levels of society that they can live under protection of an adequate and effective legal system. The NHRC has recommended that all states must have their own Human Rights Commission to ensure swift disposal of petitions coming from respective states.
It would be in the interest of the country that baseless complaints on Human Rights excesses in areas hit by insurgency are discouraged because majority of complaints received in these areas have been found baseless by the army and the NHRC. Hence for successful working of NHRC sincerity on the part of complainants should be first priority and necessity.