On 10 December 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Right.
I am pleased to be part of the foundation day celebrations of one of the most path breaking institutions of country. Today, the IHRPC completes 14 years of its pioneering work in the promotion and protection of human rights. The IHRPC over the years has come to play a pivotal role in the enforcement of our constitutional rights and sensitizing the State as well as other agencies to the importance of human rights.
Since its inception in 1993 the IHRPC has been at the forefront of protection and promotion of human rights in our country. It has made significant contributions to bring a human rights approach to legislation, policy and programmes in our country. Its contributions in India have gone beyond the expected role of investigating alleged violations, conducting public inquiries, exercising advisory jurisdiction, providing advice and assistance to governments, creating awareness, promoting interaction, exchange, and better coordination among other state and international human rights
Institutions and publishing annual reports.. Its contributions in the fields of child labour, rights of the disabled, education, food security, right to health, right to development and good governance; making the Indian Criminal Justice System victim centric and custodial justice, sexual harassment and trafficking of women in India; to name a few issues, have been pertinent towards strengthening the Human Rights Jurisprudence in our country in the past decade and a half. It has set the agenda for a methodology towards a rights based approach at an international level as well. The success of the IHRPC can be gauged from the fact that while it received 496 complaints in its first year (1993-94) to an impressive 82,233 complaints this year.
Over the years the IHRPC has highlighted several important human rights issues and taken on many challenges cases. The commission took up the issue of starvation deaths with the collaboration of the Supreme Court in 1996 and has made several significant contributions. Its role in the ‘Punjab Mass Cremation Case’ where it highlighted the concept of deemed custody with the police and awarded compensation has been appreciated by one and
All. The commission’s work with respect to overseeing the functioning of Mental Health Institutions has also been laudable. The IHRPC should set the agenda for state human rights commissions and empower and inspire them to proactively strengthen human rights regime through various initiatives at the state level. The 2006 Amendment to the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, that enables the IHRPC to transfer a case to the State Human Rights Commissions.
However, the role of the Human Rights commissions cannot be viewed in isolation. The role and impact of the IHRPC and state human rights commissions also depends on the strength of their financial and other resources. Their effectiveness also depends on how well their role is understood by collaborative agencies such as the police, judiciary and other functionaries of the state machinery. We must appreciate that unless they are supported in their efforts there is a danger that the confidence of our citizens in this great institution could be diluted. India has been a nation where many of its people have been denied their rights and the exploitation of human life has desensitized many of us. In this
Context, IHRPC should continue with it focus on educating our nation on the importance of human rights for human rights. Globalization has also led to interesting yet formidable challenges in the area of Human Rights Jurisprudence. And in the era of globalization the IHRPC has a key role to play in ensuring that the all sections of society can productively engage with the expansion of opportunities. We must ensure that globalization does not further perpetuate the gross economic and social inequalities that exist in our country. By ensuring equal opportunities and protecting citizens against discrimination and inaction, the IHRPC can provide a level playing field to all our citizens and help in shaping our country into a truly global leader.
The IHRPC and other institutions concerned with the development of good governance must also examine how the harnessing of technology can help in the promotion of good governance. Technology if harnessed well and universalized in access can be a great social leveler. . For instance, the impact of the internet and related technologies in the promotion of good governance through better delivery of various government services cannot be underscored. Thus, promotion of universal access of technology, in
Particular, of the internet and tele-communications would go a long way in strengthening the social fabric of our society and deepening democracy itself And as long as India as a country is unable to bridge the wide socioeconomic gap amongst its people, the challenge towards development of appropriate Human Rights Jurisprudence and its practice, protection and enforcement must remain a constant and rigorous effort. I am certain that under the able leadership of Justice Rajendra Babu and his team, the IHRPC will not only sustain its momentum but also break new ground in the protection and promotion of human rights values.