(Study Material for IPS LCE) Socio Economic Development in India: Human Rights & The Role of Judiciary

Important Materials on Socio Economic Development in
India for IPS LCE
Human Rights & The Role of Judiciary

Courtesy: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
publication division

The principle of universality of human rights is the
cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first
emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, has been
reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and
resolutions. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, for example,
noted that it is the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and
fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural

All states have ratified at least one, and 80% of states have
ratified four or more, of the core human rights treaties, reflecting their
consent, which creates legal obligations for them, giving concrete expression to
universality. Some fundamental human rights enjoy universal protection by
customary international law across all boundaries and civilizations.

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings,
whatever their nationality, place of residence, sex, ethnic origin, colour,
religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our
human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated,
interdependent and indivisible.

Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by
law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles
and other sources of international law. International human rights laws lay down
obligations for governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain
acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of
individuals or groups Non-discrimination is a cross-cutting principle in
international human rights law. The principle is present in all the major human
rights treaties and provides the central theme of some international human
rights conventions such as the International Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination against Women.

The principle applies to everyone in relation to all human
rights and freedoms and it prohibits discrimination on the basis of a list of
non-exhaustive categories such as sex, race, colour and so on. The principle of
non-discrimination is complemented by the principle of equality, as stated in
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are
born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Human rights & Indian Constitution

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by United
Nation had a great impact on the constitution of the newly independent India. A
separate chapter on fundamental rights has been included in the Constitution
which is similar to the Declaration of Human Rights. Independent India has no
history of movement for Human Rights as the provision has been already made in
the Constitution in the form of fundamental rights. The doctrine of human rights
contains equality, justice, liberty and fraternity, which are also the basis of
fundamental rights. Article 21 of our Constitution provides all this with the
protection of Article 32 by which an individual can draw attention of Judiciary
towards any injustice done on the basis of sex, race, caste and religion. Our
constitution has provided a mechanism for implementation of such rights and

The Indian Judiciary has played a significant role in this
context and extended the scope and limit of human rights with the help of
Directive Principles. While widening the definition of Article 21, [Right to
live] judiciary has included subjects like health, education, medical aid, food
etc, which are basic requirements of human being. We know the importance of
human rights and our Constitution and judiciary are committed towards justice
for common people. We are also committed towards the declaration of Human Rights
for all made by United Nations.

Judicial Response towards Human Rights

Every legal system is based on three basic principles i.e.
justice, equity and rule of law. Every person possesses certain rights that may
be fundamental or natural, given to him by law. To protect these rights and to
make amends for wrong , we have established the judicial system. The Indian
judiciary has established several norms, laws and guidelines by delivering
several verdicts in the context of human rights and social justice.

In a recent case of honour killings of a young couple by the
Khap Panchayat in Haryana, for having married within the same gotra, the Karnal
Sessions Court passed a landmark order on 30.03.2010 awarding death penalty to
the five persons for the double murder. In Lata Singh v. State Of Uttar Pradesh
[AIR 2007 SC] the apex court held that “we sometimes hear of honour killings of
such persons who undergo intercaste or inter religious marriage of their own
free will. There is nothing honourable in such killings, in fact they are
nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal
minded persons who deserve harsh punishment. The right to live in peace is a
basic and essential right in the context of human rights and freedoms. Article
21 of the Constitution of India, provides that, “No person shall be deprived of
his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
‘Life’ in Article 21 of the Constitution has much wider meaning which includes
right to live with human dignity, right to livelihood, right to health, right to
pollution free air, etc. Right to life is fundamental to our very existence
without which we cannot live as human beings and includes all those aspects of
life which go to make a man’s life meaningful, complete and worth living. It is
the only article in the Constitution which has received the widest possible
interpretation. Supreme Court, through its various decisions has elaborated the
concept of Article 21.

In the Delhi Pollution Case, the Supreme Court held in 1989
that Article 21 of the Constitution guaranteeing the right to life must be
interpreted to include the “right to live in a healthy environment with minimum
disturbance of ecological balance,” and “without avoidable hazard to [the
people] and to their cattle, house and agricultural land, and undue affection of
air, water, and environment. The subsequent ruling in Charan Lal Sahu v. Union
of India expanded upon this decision when Justice Kuldip Singh described the
government’s role in the protection of fundamental rights: “ it is the
obligation of the State to assume such responsibility and protect its citizens.”
The Court held that the government’s obligation to protect fundamental rights
forces it to protect the environment.

In Francis Coralie Mullin v Administrator, Union Territory of
Delhi, the Honourable Supreme Court stated that, “ the right to life includes
the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it, namely,
the bare necessaries of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter
over the head and facilities for reading, writing and expressing oneself in
diverse forms, freely moving about and mixing and commingling with fellow human
beings.”Thus, the Supreme Court has interpreted Article 21 in a widest possible
manner and included within its ambit the right to live with human dignity.

Protection of Human Rights and PIL

The Indian judiciary played a very active role by
entertaining Public Interest Litigation which provides an opportunity to the
judiciary to examine the socio-economic and environmental conditions of the
oppressed, poor and the downtrodden people through PIL. Under the Article 32 of
the Constitution the Supreme Court has directed the government to implement the
fundamental right to life and liberty and execute protection measures in the
public interest. In the case of Chaitanya Vs. State of Karnataka [AIR,1986 SC
825] Supreme Court also invoked jurisdiction under article 226 of the
Constitution and has given authority to High court regarding PIL.
The Public Interest Litigation has become a safeguard to Human Rights. The
principle and practice of PIL has been followed by High Courts and the Supreme
Court in a number of cases. The famous cases where the court has issued
direction under PIL and protected the human rights of individuals are Bihar [Bhagalpur] under trail criminal case, the case of Bombay pavement dwellers , Bandhua Mukti
Morcha Vs. Union of India.etc. Chief Justice P.N. Bhagwati observed,” where a
legal wrong or legal injury is caused by a person to a determinate class of
persons, who by reasons of poverty, helplessness or disability, or socially and
economically disadvantaged position, is unable to approach the court for relief,
any member of the public can maintain an application for appropriate direction.”
[S.P. Gupta Vs.Union of India,SC 1982]

The first reported case of PIL in 1979 focused on the inhuman
conditions of prisons and under trial prisoners. In Hussainara Khatoon v. State
of Bihar, [AIR 1979 SC 1360] the PIL was filed by an advocate on the basis of
the news item published in the Indian Express, highlighting the plight of
thousands of under trial prisoners languishing in various jails in Bihar. These
proceedings led to the release of more than 40, 000 under trial prisoners. Right
to speedy justice emerged as a basic fundamental right which had been denied to
these prisoners. The same set pattern was adopted in subsequent cases. In 1981
the case of Anil Yadav v. State of Bihar, [AIR 1982 SC 1008] exposed the
brutalities of the police. Newspaper reports revealed that about 33 suspected
criminals were blinded by the police in Bihar by putting the acid into their
eyes. Through interim orders Supreme Court directed the state government to
bring the blinded men to Delhi for medical treatment. It also ordered speedy
prosecution of the guilty policemen. The court also read right to free legal aid
as a fundamental right of every accused.

Independence of the judiciary in India stems from the
separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary,
making it possible to constitute a system of checks and balances aimed at
preventing abuse of power. This separation and consequent independence is the
key to the judiciary’s effective functioning and upholding of the rule of law
and human rights. Without the rule of law, there can be no realization of human
rights. The role of the judiciary in any society must be to protect human rights
by way of due process and effective remedies. This role cannot be fulfilled
unless the judicial mechanism is functioning independently, with its decisions
based solely on the basis of legal principles and impartial reasoning.
In the end, it is the need of the hour to take human rights in a positive sense
and not allow its politicization. It has often been seen that human rights
movement start with great principles like morality, ethics, respect of human
beings etc, but soon become the instruments of power game. To prevent this, we
must educate the masses about -their rights and duties and help them fight for
the same.

Courtesy: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
publication division

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