Protection Of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019

On 19th July, 2019, the Lok Sabha passed the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bill amends the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

Objective:

The proposed amendments will enable both the Commission as well as the State Commissions to be more compliant with the Paris Principles concerning its autonomy, independence, pluralism and wide-ranging functions in order to effectively protect and promote human rights.

Salient Features of the Bill:

 ·Supreme Court Judge: It provided that a person who has been the Chief Justice of India, or a Judge of the Supreme Court will be the chairperson of the National Human Right Commission (NHRC). As per the 1993 Act, only a person who has been the Chief Justice of India can be made the NHRC chairperson.

·High Court Judge: It proposes to enable any person who has been a judge of a High Court to be the chairperson of State Human Right Commission (SHRC).

·Human Right Experts to be Member: It provides for two persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC.

·Provision of Women Member: It increases the number of members from two to three and that of three members of the commission; at least one will be a woman.

·Reduction of Term of Office: It reduces the term of office of chairpersons and members of NHRC and SHRC to three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. The 1993 Act states that the chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRC will hold office for five years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.

·Reappointment Provisions: It also allows for the reappointment of chairpersons of the NHRC and SHRCs.

·Members from Various Commissions: It also provided to include Chairperson of the National Commission for Backward Classes, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as deemed Members of the Commission.

·Powers of Secretary-General: It allows the Secretary-General and Secretary to exercise all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), subject to the respective chairperson’s control.

·Union Territories: Now the central government may confer on a SHRC human rights functions being discharged by Union Territories. Functions relating to human rights in the case of Delhi will be dealt with by the NHRC.

Impact:

The amendment will ensure transparency in the appointment of chairman and members of the commission and better performance of functions and duties.

Human Rights Issues in India:

Custodial Violence

Custody death, torture in custody and custodial rape has been subjects of much concern. The incidence of custody deaths demonstrates more undeniably the brutalisation of the processes of law enforcement by the police and armed forces.

Project Displacement

Project displacement for the construction of large dams or for power projects, for instance, has led to protest movements directly involving the affected people. Human rights issues that arise include displacement, rehabilitation, impoverishment that results from displacement, for e.g. Narmada Bachao Andolan was started in 1985 to stop indigenous people being deprived of their land and livelihood.

Refugees Human Rights Issue

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and also it does not have a domestic legislation in place. Despite this, it continues to be a host to the largest number of refugees across South East Asia. India has adopted an ad hoc administrative policy to accord protection to refugees ever since independence. This poses problems of human right abuses of refugees, lack of basic amenities and discrimination between refugees themselves, for e.g. ongoing crisis over Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. The exclusion of asylum-seekers and refugees adds up to violation of India’s duty under customary international law, which restricts governments from returning people to a territory where they are vulnerable to serious human rights violations.

Right over Resources

The 2006 Forest Rights Act gave tribal’s right to live on and protect the land that they had been cultivating within forest boundaries. But in February 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the eviction of more than a million forest-dwelling and tribal families across 16 states, depriving them from their rights over forest resources.The next Supreme Court hearing in the case will be on 24 July, 2019, when the court may once again order the eviction of millions of people. This comes at a time when India’s tribal peoples are facing an unprecedented assault on their rights.

Sexual Harassment at Workplace

Sexual harassment at workplace is a universal issue whether it be a developed nation or a developing nation or an underdeveloped nation, cruelties and abuse against women is common everywhere. It is seen to be occurring more with women as they are viewed as the most vulnerable section of the society. Registered cases of sexual harassment at Indian workplaces increased 54% from 2014 to 2017. Sexual harassment violates the fundamental right of a woman to gender equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Fake Encounters (Extra-judicial killings)

In India, extra-judicial killings by the police or the security forces are called encounter killings. The killing by the state forces is most often declared to be defensive, cases of attempted murder and other related offences are registered against the victims, and the cases closed without further investigation.

Recently, in January, 2019, the officials from the Office of the High Commissioner for United Nations Human Rights (OCHR) raised concerns on extra judicial killing by Uttar Pradesh police. Most of the cases which the OHCHR has raised with the Indian government pertain to Muslim victims.

Child Rights Issues

According to the UNICEF, there are about 10.1 million children employed in child labour in India today. That amounts to nearly 13% of our workforce, or in other words, 1 in every 10 worker in India is a child; a child who is promised protections under the Indian Law, and guaranteed education and mid-day meals, till the age of 14 is being robbed off their rights.

Prisons Related Issues

The conditions in jails, solitary confinement, the inhuman treatment of prisoners, overcrowding of prisons are some of serious issues that have been raised repeatedly against human rights violation.

Recently released NCRB data in May, 2019, presents a pathetic condition of Indian prisons and prisoners. According to it, the number of unnatural deaths in prisons doubled between 2015 and 2016; the rate of suicide among prisoners also increased by 28%. A phenomenal rise in the number of people held under administrative (or ‘prevention’) detention laws in Jammu and Kashmir (a 300% increase) was also noted.

Minorities Rights Violation

Religious minorities, especially Muslims, have come under increasing threat of harassment and violence in recent years. Mobs have lynched many people from marginalized groups throughout India, especially Muslims often over suspicions of cow slaughter and religious fundamentalism.

Source : Civil Services Chronicle Online, 19th July, 2019