It is a matter of pleasure for me to be here among you on the inauguration of your newly-formed society for spreading human rights literacy. The initiative taken by your institute is certainly a good beginning and a laudable step in right direction for the protection and realisation of human rights. The involvement of the educational authorities, institutes like yours and the students in the propagation of human rights’ education and values in the masses and the various sections of society is of paramount importance.
2. When we talk about human rights, it needs to be remembered that these are derived from the principle of natural law. They are not derived from the social order or conferred upon an individual by the society; they are inherent in the individual human beings, independent of and even prior to his participation in the society. The history of origin and development of human rights is very long and fascinating. But briefly, while the western scholars trace the origin back to the times of the ancient Greeks, the orientals consider the Vedas the most ancient or perhaps the first religious exposition of mankind in this regard. It was at the end of the World War-I when some serious attempts were initiated through the Treaty of Versailles which tended to promote and universalise human rights. But these did not meet with any success. However, since the judicial conscience of the civilised world was very much in favour of safeguarding the rights of the individual against violations by the States, it was felt and consistently realised that the rights must be universalized and safeguarded against such violations. It was finally after the end of World War II in 1945, in which more than 20 million people were killed in the war or exterminated in the Nazi concentration camps, in gas chambers or through firing squads, that human rights were finally universalised. The culmination came in 1948 when the first U.N. document ‘ Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ was adopted. This Declaration covers the range of human rights in 30 clear and concise articles. The first two articles lay the universal foundation of human rights: human beings are equal because of their shared essence of human dignity; human rights are universal, not because of any State or international organisation, but because they belong to all of humanity. The two articles assure that human rights are the birthright of everyone, not privileges of a select few, nor privileges to be granted or denied. This document has thenceforth served as a fountainhead and foundation for all subsequent efforts at global level for the protection of the human rights, followed by a number of similar instruments such as ‘ Convention on the political rights of women’, ‘Declaration on the elimination of violence against women’, ‘Declaration on the rights of the child’, ‘Convention on the rights of the child’, ‘ Declaration on the rights of disabled persons’, ‘Declaration on the elimination of discrimination against women – and many more, the list is quite long’ there are more than 60 such instruments and declarations. This reflects the increasing global concern of the United Nations for the protection of the human rights.
3. The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, under which the National and State Human Rights Commissions have been set up, defines ‘ human rights’ as rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual, guaranteed by the constitution, or embodied in the international covenants, enforceable by courts in India. The international covenants included in the mandate are the ‘ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ and the ‘International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’, adopted by the United Nations. The establishment and strengthening of National Human Rights Institutions is perhaps the single most important component in the United Nations Technical Cooperation Programme. These institutions are the primary mechanisms for translating international concepts and norms into a local culture of human rights. Our NHRC was the first National Human Rights Institution to be established in the South Asian Region. It has completed more than ten years and has made its presence felt on a number of occasions and has come to be known as the sole national protector of the human rights of the people and has effectively demonstrated that protection of human rights does not have to rely entirely on the courts. It has thus gradually become the locus of the human rights’ awareness at the national level. The State Human Rights Commissions are following in the footsteps of the NHRC and are carrying out similar functions in the states, where these are working.
4. I would also like you to know that the functions, powers and the constitution of the NHRC and the State Commissions are governed and regulated by the same Act. Almost all the functions, barring one or two, are common to the commissions, both at the National and the State level. While the State Commissions are attending to the complaints of human rights’ violations as their everyday functions on the lines and pattern of the Hon’ble High Court, they are also required to perform some more statutory and important functions which include visiting jails and other institutions under the control of the State Government, where persons are detained or lodged for purposes of treatment, reformation or protection in order to study the living conditions of the inmates and make recommendations accordingly; reviewing the safeguards provided under the Constitution or any law for the protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation; reviewing the factors including acts of terrorism that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures; undertaking and promoting research in the field of human rights, spreading human rights literacy among various sections of society and promoting awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other available means; and encourage the efforts of the NGOs and institutions working in the field of human rights.
5. Protection and realization of human rights of the suffering humanity is indeed a tremendous job, but our Commission has successfully come up to the expectations of the people. We had received only 90 complaints in the beginning when the Commission was established in the year 1997, but the number had crossed the figure of 15,000 even before the year passed out in December last. This reflects the positive effects of our literacy and awareness programmes / campaigns, as also the faith of the people in the cheaper, quicker, impartial and unbiased nature of justice being administered.
6. Our Commission aims at
wiping out the very causes of human rights’ violations from the soil of the
7. In the end, I hope the modest initiative of the students of this college will be emulated and followed by other institutes with equal zeal and ardour. As the saying goes ‘ many a mickle makes a muckle’. All such modest efforts, put together, will make it a force to reckon with, some day and provide necessary antidote and challenge against all human rights violations.