State governments need to give more respect to the work of State Human Rights Commissions, says Justice Dalveer Bhandari, Member, International Court of Justice (17.02.2017)
New Delhi, 17th February, 2017
Mr. Justice Dalveer Bhandari, Member, International Court of Justice today said that there is not much appreciation of the work of the State Human Rights Commissions by the State governments and the NHRC should convene a meeting of Chief Ministers with the Chairpersons of SHRCs to ensure that they are effectively functioning towards promotion and protection of human rights. They need to be provided and strengthened with manpower, financial and infrastructural resources. He was addressing, as the Chief Guest, the inaugural session of the meeting of NHRC and SHRCs in New Delhi.
Lauding the work of the NHRC, Justice Bhandari said that it is unparalleled in the world with the number and types of complaints of human rights violations it handles and the amount of relief paid by the governments on its recommendations. However, he said that there are still some areas, where a lot needs to be done. These are: human trafficking, homeless people living on pavements, victims of terrorism, acute problem of air and water pollution. He said that New Delhi has the dubious distinction of being one of the worst polluted cities in the world leading to death of several people.
Justice Bhandari said that like the NHRC, the International Court of Justice also does not have contempt powers but by virtue of the respect it commands, most of its directions are accepted. And in this context, he underscored the significance of the judgment by the Allahabad High Court on the 8th April, 2016, wherein setting aside the challenge against the recommendation of the Commission in a case, the Government of Uttar Pradesh was told that the recommendations by the NHRC cannot be set aside with impunity merely on the ground that it is a recommendatory body.
Earlier, Mr. Justice H.L. Dattu, Chairperson, NHRC said that Human Rights Commissions were envisaged under the Protection of Human Rights Act with the understanding that government(s) would act on their recommendations on the complaints of human rights violations. But there are many hindrances, which, the SHRCs continue to face in discharging their mandate effectively. The most acute, perhaps is the lack of adequate infrastructural human as well financial resources for which each State needs to work proactively. So far, 26 States have established SHRCs. However, even in these States, a lot needs to be done, including filling up of vacant positions of Chairperson and Members, to ensure their functional autonomy.
He said that the geographical expanse of India, the diversity of its population, widespread poverty, illiteracy and lack of human right awareness among civil societies and public functionaries, make the realization of human rights an arduous endeavor. Social and economic deprivation, including lack of access to adequate healthcare, food, education and other social goods and services further exacerbate the human rights deficit in the country. These multiple challenges in the realization of human rights cannot be achieved without the cooperation of governments to the National and State Human Rights Commissions.
He said that the NHRC has sent its recommendations to then Chief Ministers of State Governments and Prime Minister of India about the minimum basic structure manpower and financial needs of SHRCs which it is following up.
The NHRC has also proposed to the Government of India for suitable amendments for the PHR Act, making the way for setting up of Human Rights Commissions in Union Territories also. It has also taken up the issue of changes in the Act for the setting up of human rights courts and their effective functions.
The meeting is divided into four sessions. These are: Amendment to PHR Act, 1993, Functional and Financial Autonomy, Issues regarding Human Rights Defenders, Training and Awareness Programmes, Complaint Management System and some other issues of common concern for the NHRC and SHRCs. Besides the NHRC member, Mr. Justice D. Murugesan and senior officers, Chairpersons, Members and senior officers of the SHRCs are participating in the discussions.