New Delhi: From highlighting custodial deaths to putting a spotlight on poor fire safety compliance in hospitals, the NHRC championed the upholding of human rights in 2016 and is looking ahead with a hope to earn more teeth to enforce its orders on violations.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), since its inception, has impacted human lives and striven for justice, liberty and equality for all, with some landmark cases punctuating its eventful journey of over 20 years.
Chairperson of the rights panel Justice H L Dattu has pitched for vesting NHRC with “more power”, and as it clocks another year, the Commission would be looking forward to move in that direction.
“Everyone wants to have more power. We (NHRC) also want to have more power,” he had said on its Foundation Day celebrations in October.
Dattu had termed NHRC a “toothless tiger” that needed some teeth to enforce its orders on remedial measures in cases relating to any violations.
“In many cases, due to our active intervention, we have addressed human rights issues… And, with more power, it (NHRC) should roar like a tiger,” he had told PTI.
Since its inception in 1993, the NHRC has come a long way by addressing several issues of human rights violations as well as giving inputs on key legislations impacting human rights, he said.
“Whenever an issue of human rights violation comes to the notice of the NHRC, it has to take cognisance without bothering for the permutations and combinations of electoral politics or caste and creed equations,” Dattu said.
And, indeed the rights panel has taken up a whole gamut of issues, and highlighted cases of human rights violations with timely intervention.
According to NHRC, Uttar Pradesh registered highest number of cases of custodial deaths in the country between October 2015 and September 2016, with as many as 401 deaths taking place in judicial custody and 27 in policy custody.
Between October 2015 and September 2016, the NHRC has registered 1,05,664 cases on the basis of complaints, intimation from police and prison authorities etc, and on suo motu basis.
The Commission, in the wake of a devastating fire at a hospital in Bhubaneswar in October, had also issued notice to the Odisha government, while pointing out that only three of the state’s 568 hospitals have fire safety clearance.
And, while the NHRC had faced criticism from a section of civil society and NGOs for its report on the on-spot inquiry of migration issue in Kairana in Uttar Pradesh, the panel has time and again emphasised on upholding of right to life and right to dignity for citizens as enjoined in the Constitution.
The panel’s chairperson in his message on the Human Rights Day on December 10 emphasised that “any well intended action, policy or law, purportedly for the betterment of the country, will render itself meaningless, if implemented without a humane face and people’s co-operation.”
Lending the Commission with more power has also been proposed from other quarters, including legal luminaries.
Justice P Sathasivam, Governor of Kerala and former Chief Justice of India, had on the Human Rights Day function said, “The Commission should consider approaching Parliament through the government to seek an amendment in the Protection of Human Rights Act to make its recommendation effective. It should be able to execute its recommendations.”
He had also said that “excesses of laws, lack of awareness about them and inadequacies of the legal system and and the lack of sufficient support from the legal services authorities need to be focused on to ensure protection of human rights in the country.”
The Supreme Court had accepted the NHRC’s recommendations, like in the encounter cases of Manipur and the incident of silicosis in a state.
When asked what action the Commission takes in case a party to which a notice has been served by it does not respond within the stipulated time, Dattu said, “In case they don’t, we give them one more opportunity, and even then if they don’t respond, then we issue them a conditional summon to appear before us and submit the report.”