‘HUMAN RIGHTS’ are the most basic rights available to an individual in the world. These are the freedoms that are defined and protected by various legislations, are applicable everywhere and cannot be taken away from anyone, although it can be restricted by law sometimes. They play an indispensable role in protecting the rights of an individual, and ensuring that their most basic needs are met at all times. It is an indefinite part of every person’s life, encouraging people to stand up against any kind of abuse or malpractice. Human Rights are available to people from the time they are born, to the day they die. These are inalienable and held by all human beings regardless of their caste, colour, religion, age and sex.
“To deny people their Human Rights is to challenge their very humanity”1 -Nelson Mandela
Section 2(1)(d) of the Protection of Human Rights Act,1993 defines Human Rights as- “Human Rights are the rights relating to life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the constitution or embodied in the international Covenants and enforceable by courts in India”.2
Over the course of last few decades, the importance of human rights have significantly expanded, ranging from greater awareness of the individuals regarding the concept to establishing more number of Human Rights forums and courts to deal with matters pertaining to non-fulfillment or harming the interests of individuals in some way or the other.
The Swaraj Bill, 1895 talked about the freedoms and rights needed to be granted to people which entailed right to privacy and equality, freedom of speech etc. Further, the Government of India Act, 1909 was enacted for the purpose of providing equal opportunities in public services. Other resolutions of Indian National Congress made between the years of 1917-1919, reiterated the
1 Available at http://www.mandela.gov.za/mandela_speeches/1990/900626_usa.htm, (Visited on May 9, 2021). 2 How are Human Rights defined in the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993https://nhrc.nic.in/faqs/how-are human-rights-defined-protection-human-rights-act-1993-
0#:~:text=In%20terms%20of%20Section%202,enforceable%20by%20courts%20in%20India, (Visited on May 9, 2021).
demand for conferment of various rights and freedoms and to have equal status and position as that of English people. ‘Commonwealth of India Bill’ was passed by the Indian National Congress in 1925 demanding the declaration of Bill of Rights but since that alone was not sufficient, it demanded for the incorporation of ‘Fundamental rights’ in future constitutional acts also. In 1928, a first formal document came into existence with a report made by Jawaharlal Nehru but this report was rejected by ‘Simon Commission’. This led to an important programme held by the National Congress in Karachi that aimed at the constitution of Fundamental rights and duties. Next, the Government of India Act, 1919 was replaced by the Government of India Act, 1935. However, there was no provision for the fundamental rights in the act. It was only after the end of the second World War in 1945, that the issue of India’s independence was reconsidered and a constituent assembly was set up in the year 1946. Meanwhile in 1945, it was the ‘Sapru Committee’ that recognized that Fundamental Rights (defined as the basic human rights of all citizens) should be incorporated in the constitution of India.
Human Rights are a special sort of inalienable moral entitlement.3 These are universal in nature which suggests that these are equally applicable everywhere. These rights enhance person’s confidence and helps in maintaining his/her dignity. They are dynamic and not static because it keeps on evolving and continous amendments can be made for the bettement of the human life. These are irrevocable because they are essential and cannot generally be taken away by any person or any other higher authority.
Human Rights cover almost all areas and aspects of human life and activities. It includes giving both ‘Civil’ and ‘Political’ rights to people. ‘Civil rights’ are set out in the first 18 articles of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and are those rights which are granted for the provision of equal opportunities and for the constitution of free and equal citizenship in a democracy. These include freedom of speech, thought, expression, movement and press and protection from discrimination on grounds like caste, colour, religion, sex etc. Civil rights laws attempt to ensure equal citizenship for the people have previously been discriminated against in some way or other.
3 Nature and Definition of Human Rights, available at https://www.abyssinialaw.com/study-on-line/item/942-nature and-definition-of-human-rights, (Visited on May 11, 2021).
On the other hand, ‘Political rights’ are the freedoms given to an individual which enables him to participate in the activities of political parties and government and are set out in Articles 19 to 21 of UDHR. These include right to seek redressal or legal remedy, right to vote, right to petition, right to assemble.
Apart from this, the economic and social rights are listed in Articles 22 to 26 UDHR. ‘Economic rights’ provide the conditions necessary for prosperity and well-being . Economic rights refer, for example, right to the property, the right to work, which one freely chooses or accepts, the right to a fair wage, a reasonable limitation of working hours, and trade union rights.
‘Social rights’ are those rights necessary for an adequate standard of living, including rights to health, shelter, food, social care, and right to education.
The UDHR lists ‘Cultural rights’ in Articles 27 and 28. It is basically the right to participate freely in the cultural life of the community, the right to share in the scientific advancement and the right to the protection of moral and material interests resulting from any scientific , literary or artistic production of which one is the author.5
Indian constitution recognizes 6 Fundamental rights for the promotion and protection of the people of its country. These include-
➢ Right to equality- This right gaurantees that every person is equal in the eyes of law. It prohibits discrimination on various grounds like caste, colour, religion, sex, nationality, occupation, sexual orientation, place of birth. Many times,
➢ Right to freedom- It includes freedom of assembly, movement and freedom of speech and expression.
➢ Right against exploitation- This right seeks to protect citizens from being forced to work against their wishes and will. It prohibits human trafficking, forced labour or begar where a worker is forced to work without any wages.
4 The right to an adequate standard of living, available at https://www.humanrights.is/en/human-rights-education project/human-rights-concepts-ideas-and-fora/substantive-human-rights/the-right-to-an-adequate-standard-of-living, (Visited on May 11, 2021).
➢ Right to freedom of religion- Every person has the right to profess, practice and propagate any religion of their choice and everybody is free to follow whatsoever, their religion tells them to.
➢ Cultural and educational rights- This right gives person a right to safegaurd and preserve their own culture and language and also gives minorities a right to set up or establish educational institutions. In ‘Unni Krishnan v State of A.P’, the Supreme Court has
recognized a fundamental right to education in the right to life under article 21. Taking the aid of Articles 41 and 45, it has held that every child/citizen of this country has a right to free education until he completes fourteen years of age.6
➢ Right to constitutional remedies- The right to appeal to the court of law for justice is given to all the citizens of the country. This right is extremely crucial for the redressal of greivances and for the legal development of the citizens of the nation.
HUMAN RIGHTS LAWS: PROTECTION AT THE NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LEVEL
The primary aim of Human Rights law is to protect the individuals from the violation of their human rights. These rights are available to every person equally, even to the criminals, law breakers and offenders. It also ensures that everybody is equal in the eyes of law. A specific legislation ‘Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993’ was passed by the parliament of India for better protection of individual rights. It is aimed at giving all people equal opportunities and preventing unfair treatment on the basis of irrelevant personal characteristics7. The act covers discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, religious belief, ethical belief, colour, race, ethnic or national origins, disability, age, political opinion, employment status, family status, sexual orientation.8
United Nations Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body set up within United Nations (UN) comprising of 47 member states that works to promote and protect the rights of an individual and to address all the issues pertaining to gross Human Rights violations. It was
6 Human Rights Violations- An Anathema to society, available at
http://www.legalservicesindia.com/articles/violation.htm, (Visited on May12, 2021).
7 The Human Rights Act, available at https://www.justice.govt.nz/about/learn-about-the-justice-system/how-the justice-system-works/the-basis-for-all-law/the-human-rights-act/, (Visited on May 13, 2021). 8ibid
formed on March 15th, 2006 with its current headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The council also receives thematic and country-specific reports from a series of independent expert mechanisms, including special procedures, as well as from the office of high commissioner for human rights.
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS: AN END TO HUMANISM?
In many cases, there has been ‘Use of torture by police’. On May 25,2020, ‘George Floyd’ a 46 year old black man was brutally murdered by a white police officer ‘Derek Chauvin’ in Minnesota, United States while being arrested on the suspicion of using a counterfiet $20 bill while he was buying cigarettes. Derek Chauvin, who is white, kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 15 seconds straight, according to a Time analysis of a time stamped video. Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life9. The entire incident also points out to the ‘Pandemic of Racism’ which led to his death along with current police brutality. This was a yet another case that speaks volumes about continous oppression of black people and their community. This kind of racial discrimination is not new. It dates back to ‘Slavery’ and ‘Segregation’ when people were discriminated on the basis of their racial and physical features.
Floyd’s death came six weeks after police in louisvelle, Kentucky, fatally shot ‘Breonna Taylor’, a 26 year old black woman, during a midnight ‘No-knock’ raid on her home.10 It came 10 weeks after the killing of ‘Ahmaud Arbery’, a 25 year old black man, who was chased down by a white father and son in a pickup truck as he jogged in his neighborhood in Glynn County, Georgia.11
A perfect example of violation of Human Rights would be that of ‘Myanmar Military coup’ where military has taken complete control over the country and has announced one year state of emergency, whereby the power would be handed over to military general ‘Ming Aung Hlaing’ because the military claims that the country’s elections held last november (in which National League for Democracy founded by Aung San Suu Kyi won with majority votes) were rigged
9 How George Floyd was killed in police custody?, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/31/us/george floyd-investigation.html, (Visited on May 14, 2021).
10 It was a modern day lynching: Violent deaths reflect a brutal American legacy, available at https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/history-of-lynching-violent-deaths-reflect-brutal-american legacy, (Visited on May 14, 2021).
and that there had been a ‘terrible fraud’. Even though they have not actually been able to provide any strong evidence. Widespread protests are going in the country including clashes between military and protesters and even arresting of various political leaders, one of them being ‘Aung Sun Suu Kyi’. Violent protests took to streets, with cutting down of internet services. Social media platforms were blocked , curfews were introduced, gatherings of more than five people were banned. The situation worsened with police firing rubber bullets at the protesters. This incident showcases the act of transgression.
The UN Human Rights Council’s 47 members have voted to adopt a resolution in a meeting held on February 12, 2021, demmanding the “immediate and unconditional” release of political detainees and the restroration of Myanmar’s elected government.12 The resolution, put forward by the UK and the European Union, also called for the lifting of restrictions on the internet, unimpeded access for the delivery of UN humanitarian aid, and access for UN Human Rights monitors.13
Another horrific incidence that comes to picture is that of ‘Rohingya Crisis’. The Rohingyas have faced decades of discrimination and repression under successive Myanmar governments. Effectively denied citizenship under the 1982 Citizenship law, they are one of the largest stateless populations in the world. About 900,000 Rohingyas are currently living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh, most of whom fled from Myanmar since August 2017 to escape military’s crisis against humanity and possible genocide. The estimated 600,000 Rohingyas who remain in Rakhine state are subject to government persecution and violence, confined to camps and villages without freedom of movement, and cut off from access to adequate food, health care, education and livelihoods.14
Many of the black people become victims of ‘Mob-lynching’. Lynchings are a brutal form of extra-judicial killings and took place in many states, including the three states where Floyd,
12 Available at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-56037305, (Visited on May 15, 2021). 13 ibid
14 Rohingya, available at
https://www.hrw.org/tag/rohingya#:~:text=The%20Rohingya%20have%20faced%20decades,stateless%20populatio ns%20in%20the%20world, (visited on May 16, 2021).
Taylor and Arbrey lived.15 They not only included hanging people from trees, they often included torture. White mobs cuts off black men’s genitals, severed fingers and toes, and skinned victims who were sometimes burned alive.16 In the ‘Harpur Lynching Case’, Qasim and Shamiuddin were thrashed by a mob on rumours on their involvement into cow slaughter. The incident hogged headlines when a video showing both lying in a pool of blood and men from the mob shouting at them for facing the punishment for attempting cow slaughter.17 Even in the ‘Akhlaq Lynching case’, the accused in Mohammed Akhlaq’s murder case, who was dragged and killed by a mob on suspicion of eating beef in Dadri’s Bishada village, may soon secure a job. Mohammed Akhlaq was dragged out of his home and stoned to death on a village street after a public announcement from the local temple that the family had slaughtered a calf and eaten its meat. The two cases serve as a perfect example of ‘Cow vigilantism’.18
It can be concluded that a person’s human rights cannot be taken away from him by any person or higher authority. They are an indispensable part of every person’s life and protect individuals against abuses and exploitation which is one of the reasons why United Nations set up an inter governmental body specifically for dealing with human rights cases. There is no denying the fact that gross human rights violation cases occur frequently especially in the modern present scenario but some degree of lost space is said to be recovered with the help of tiring efforts of human rights councils and forums that are set up for dealing with matters pertaining to the rights and freedoms of the people of the country. Every individual on this planet demands rights as their basic right. But perhaps, the most interesting question that rises here is why do we demand rights at the first place? People demand it because there is lack of it. In recent years, human rights have come to occupy a prominent place in all aspects of human life. The entire point of incorporating human rights into the lives of people is to finish off the discriminatory practices and head towards a place where everyone is treated equally and their rights are protected no matter what.
AUTHOR: ADVITIYA MALHOTRA
ARMY INSTITUTE OF LAW, MOHALI
15 It was a modern day lynching: Violent deaths reflect a brutal American legacy, available at https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/history-of-lynching-violent-deaths-reflect-brutal-american legacy, (Visited on May 16, 2021).
17 Available at https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-hapur-lynching-case-up-top-cop-issues-apology-after-viral pic-shows-mob-dragging-victim-in-police-presence-2627784, (Visited on May 16, 2021). 18 ibid