- Recently, the US State Department released a strong and critical report on human rights in India in 2021. The report is submitted each year to the US Congress which is retrospective and contains a country-wise discussion of the state of internationally recognised individual, civil, political and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements.
- In December 2021, data related to human rights violations in states was provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Rajya sabha.
What are the Key Highlights of the Report?
- Arbitrary Arrest and Detention: Indian law “prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention but both occurred during the year”, with police using “special security laws to postpone judicial reviews of arrests”. Pretrial detention was arbitrary and lengthy, sometimes exceeding the duration of the sentence given to those convicted.
- Violations of Privacy: Citing media reports on journalists being targeted for surveillance through the Pegasus malware, the report flagged violations of privacy by government authorities, “including the use of technology to arbitrarily or unlawfully surveil or interfere with the privacy of individuals”.
- Curbs on Free Expression and Media: The report highlighted instances in which the government or actors considered close to the government allegedly pressured or harassed media outlets critical of the government, including through online trolling. It detailed the government’s order of February, 2021 directing Twitter to block accounts of journalists covering protests against the three (later repealed) farm laws.
- On Freedom of Association: The report highlighted the cases of Amnesty International India, whose assets were frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, and the suspension of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) license of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) for alleged violations.
What are Human Rights?
- These are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. These include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Nelson Mandela had stated ‘To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity’.
Human Rights Related Provisions in India:
Enunciated in the Constitution:
- Fundamental Rights: Articles 12 to 35 of the Constitution. These include the Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right Against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Cultural & Educational Rights, Saving of Certain Laws and Right to Constitutional Remedies.
- Directive Principles of State Policy: Article 36 to 51 of the Constitution. These include ‘right to social security, right to work, to free choice of employment, and protection against unemployment, right to equal pay for equal work, right to existence worthy of human dignity, right to free & compulsory education, equal justice & free legal aid and the principles of policy to be followed by the State.’
- Statutory Provisions: Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 (as amended in 2019) provided for the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission at the Union level, which steers State Human Rights Commission in States and Human Rights Courts for better protection of Human Rights and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- Section 2(1)(d) of the PHRA defines Human Rights as 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. India took an active part in drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
These 30 rights and freedoms include civil and political rights, like the right to life, liberty, free speech and privacy and economic, social and cultural rights, like the right to social security, health and education, etc.