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NATION CONCEDING HUMAN RIGHTS: A QUAGMIRE OF JUDICIARY

Human Rights - Eshita Jain (1)

HISTORICAL SUPPRESSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Oppressed Indians, throughout ages, had struggled varied social movements to command over their rights, to rule their land, endeavoring in uplifting deprived sections of society, inclusive of women, children, and backward sections. These symbolic mechanisms stood as pillars to end the exploitation of humans by humans. Under the colonial rule by British Empire, the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity remained hidden. Basic rights in the form of individual rights got submerged. Indians lost their basic rights in the form of identity and self-determination, realizing which took ages to be hatched into the challenging of British prominence for the demand of recognition of the basic human rights, eventually articulating into the Independence struggle of 1947.

LEGISLATIVE ENDEAVOR OF RECOGNITION

Day of Independence emerged as a ray of hope in the life of oppressed Indians by written Constitution being a significant breakthrough by ensuring citizens protection of their human rights in the form of providing the Indian Judicial system the role of an independent guardian of the rights of people. Eventually, rights got ensured to all citizens on a non-discriminatory basis, weak and backward sections were provided due consideration, minorities’ rights were upheld and special provisions were made for the advancement of basic human rights. By way of Article 21, State became obliged to protect the life and liberty of citizens as well as non-citizens. Alongside Judiciary, even State can be viewed as having made a significant contribution by enacting legislation like The Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 and promoting varied specialized national institutions like National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for women, National Minority Commission, SC/ST Commission and alike, for the protection against infringement of basic human rights of life and dignity by either State or any individual.

ACTIONS AGAINST VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

In the light of varied steps adopted by the Judiciary for promoting and protecting human rights, one of the significant innovations introduced by the top Court in guarding the basic human rights is Public Interest Litigation, thereby directly taking into cognizance the plea of aggrieved oppressed people facing difficulty in judicial access. This apart, many major contributions by the Indian Judicial System against violation of human rights include expansion of the meaning of Fundamental Rights in terms of Equality, dignity, life, and personal Liberty, by judicially monitoring the administration and management of varied State institutions, like mental asylums, prisons, juvenile homes, women’s protective homes and alike, by appointing various commissions of inquiry and judicial committees for an investigation into the truth and by the issuance of writs to State and private institutions to catch hold of violations of rights perpetrated by them.

In the wake of increased awareness by the public for their rights, several new issues popped up for consideration before the judicial system in the realm of human rights. The wide gamut of violation of human rights brought forth, Dalits’ struggle for life with dignity, women’s movement for rights recognition, and tribal protest against displacement. Indian judicial system had on all such occasions backed and settled the demands of the public by providing necessary judicial pronouncements for benefitting the public maximally.

JUDICIAL PRONOUNCEMENTS: A STEP TOWARDS RECOGNITION AND IMPLEMENTATION

Introducing to some of the major judicial pronouncements in the realm of upholding human rights renders clear the role of the judiciary in safeguarding it. In the cases concerning tribal community displacement whereby tribals were victimized by huge industrialization projects, displacing them from their motherland, the Judiciary by its decisions like Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India, NHRC v. State of Arunachal Pradesh reinforced its concern for the tribal community by disallowing its dislocation, thereby safeguarding their culture and identity. In the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, the Apex Court condemned the old preconceived notions and obliterated practices of untouchability, caste-system, bonded and forced labour, still being practiced in some parts of the country. The court observed that freedom was not the monopoly of a few but belonged to all the above. Each member of society is entitled along with others to participate in the fruits of freedom and development. In the issue concerning gender equality in India, the case of Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India stood as the pinnacle of recognizing women’s dignity. The Court observed that the human rights for women are an inalienable, integral, and indivisible part of universal human rights. The full development of personality and fundamental freedoms and equal participation by women in political, social, economic, and cultural life are concomitant for national development, social and family stability, and cultural, social, and economic growth. All forms of discrimination on grounds of gender are violative of fundamental freedom and human rights. The case of D.K. Basu v. State of W.B. emerged as a landmark against custodial torture to prisoners. The Court by making a landmark decision remarked that the third-degree methods to get information from the accused in custody are impermissible. It involves not only physical suffering but also mental agony. It also proceeded to set out specific directions to be necessarily followed during interrogation. Further, in the case of Sheela Barse v. the State of Maharashtra, the Court allowed assistance to prisoners in jail, the mandatory requirement. Moreover, the right of the accused in preventive detention to be informed about his right to represent as per law is guaranteed by the Constitution of India under Article 22(5).

EPILOGUE

The role of the judiciary can be seen from the above as safeguarding the interests and welfare of humans. It is acting like that of a savior in protection against infringement of rights by the State authorities or individuals in the occasion of failure to observe the same by the legislature and the executive. Though the judicial system is fulfilling its role with utmost sincerity it cannot stand as a reminder on every occasion, seeking sincerity and efficiency by enforcement agencies. Ensuring just treatment is not the job of the judicial system alone, but all the organs of the state must collaborate in making India democratic in its true sense.

Author(s) Name: Eshita Jain (Himachal Pradesh National Law University, Shimla)

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Reference(s):

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