New Delhi, 10th December, 2015
The Chief Justice of India, Mr. Justice T.S. Thakur has said that it is time that Parliament revisited the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 to make it more effective empowering the Human Rights Commissions in a manner that, if not all, to begin with, at least some of their recommendations are binding for the Governments. He was addressing the Human Rights Day function of the NHRC, as a Chief Guest, in New Delhi today.
Referring to non-compliance of more than 600 recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Justice Thakur said that when a recommendation for a relief is made by a body like NHRC, having a former Chief Justice of India as its Chairperson, former Judge of Supreme Court and a former Chief Justice of High Court as its Members and two other Members of eminence, the least the Governments must do is to give a reasonable answer why the recommendations by the NHRC cannot be implemented.
Justice Thakur was reacting to the NHRC Acting Chairperson, Mr. Justice Cyriac Joseph’s observation that recommendations of the NHRC in 679 cases were not implemented by the different Governments and that many termed it to be a toothless or paper tiger.
He said the judiciary was not lagging behind in enforcing human rights and cited a number of cases wherein its interventions not only brought relief to the victims of human rights violations but also issues like clean environment and drinking water as enforceable rights within the ambit of Right to Life. He said that some of the human rights should be placed a pedestal higher than the constitutional rights.
Observing that there were a number of deficiencies in the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, Justice Thakur said that these needed to be looked into. He pointed out that Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 has given the Governments mandate to set up Human Rights Courts but in order to make them functionally effective, the need is to identify some definite class of cases pertaining to offences against women, children and vulnerable sections of the society which can be heard by these Courts on a fast track basis.
Justice Thakur wondered why a city like Delhi should not have a Human Rights Commission. He said and said that the Supreme Court has given six months’ time in July, 2015 to the Delhi Government to set up a Human Rights Commission and the response is awaited.
Justice Thakur lauded the role being played by the National Human Rights Commission towards protection and promotion of human rights.
Earlier, the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Mr. Kiren Rijiju, as a Guest of Honour, said that India is committed to protection and promotion of human rights and is party to several international Covenants on human rights. He also agreed with Justice Cyriac Joseph’s observations and said that Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 needed to be reviewed.
Mr. Justice Cyriac Joseph, Acting Chairperson, NHRC, in his Presidential Address, said that protection of human rights is an obligation of the State. The Judiciary, Legislature and Executive have to play an equal role in the protection and promotion of human rights. He also said that the judiciary was better placed than the Human Rights Commissions to protect human rights as their orders were binding unlike the Commission’s. Parliament, in its wisdom, thought it best to make Human Rights Commissions recommendatory bodies, though after a period of 22 years of NHRC’s existence and experience, it was desirable to make its recommendations binding.
The NHRC Acting Chairperson said that the Commission, during the last 22 years of its existence, registered more than 15 lakh 42 thousand cases out of which it disposed of more than 14 lakh 84 thousand cases. It has recommended monetary relief of more than rupees 102 crore 20 lakh in 4328 cases. Out of this, in 3649 cases, more than rupees 74 crore 52 lakh were paid to the victims or their dependents. He said that in 679 cases, the Governments had not accepted the Commission’s recommendations. He lauded the role of Human Rights Defenders towards protection and promotion of human rights.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, in his message on Human Rights Day, read by Ms. Kiren Mehra Kerpelman, Director, UNIC – India & Bhutan said that “Amid large-scale atrocities and widespread abuses across the world, Human Rights Day should rally more concerted global action to promote the timeless principles that we have collectively pledged to uphold.”
Marking the Human Rights Day celebrations, prizes were given to the winners of NHRC’s Short Films on Human Rights Award Scheme. These included, ‘The Rice Mill Story’ by Mr. Amith Krishnan, first prize of rupees one lakh, ‘Sapno Ka Basar’ by Aditya Kapur, second prize of rupees 75 thousand and ‘Kulfi’ by Vivek K.R., third prize of rupees 50 thousand.
Winners of painting competition for visually impaired children organised by the Commission were also given prizes. They included, Master harsh Keshari, first prize of rupees 10 thousand, Kumari Elem, second prize of rupees eight thousand and Kumari Bhawana, third prize of rupees six thousand in the age group of 5 to 12 years. In the age group of 12 to 18 years, first prize of rupees 10 thousand went to Kumari Sanjana, second prize of rupees eight thousand went to Master John Moses and third prize of rupees six thousand went to Kumari Vandana Gupta.
Justice T.S. Thakur also released five NHRC publications including a Trilingual Glossary of Human Rights Terms in English – Malayalam – Hindi. He also opened NHRC’s photo and children’s paintings exhibition marking the Human Rights Day.
Several prominent dignitaries, including, among others, Judges of Supreme Court, High Courts, former Judges of Supreme Court, High Courts, UN representatives, diplomats, senior Government functionaries, civil society representatives, groups of specially privileged children, members of Para Military Forces, NHRC officers and staff attended the function.