December 10, is ‘Human Rights Day’. We should try to make an endeavour to know how it came to be known as such. But before that, let us be clear about the term ‘ Human Rights’ we are referring to in this article and the growth of the culture about protection and preservation of these rights at the international and national levels. ‘Human Rights’ are those rights which are inherent in every human being by virtue of being a member of the human family. These are nothing but what had been traditionally known as ‘natural rights’ and ‘rights’ bestowed upon the human beings by nature. Human Rights are based on mankind’s increasing demand for decent civilized life in which inherent dignity of human being is well respected and protected. ‘Human Rights’ are fundamental to our very existence without which we cannot live as human beings. They are not the gift, benediction or bounty bestowed by any benefactor or well- wisher nor do they accrue through our effort or hard work. They occur and flow ‘naturally’ which means that they can neither be earned nor denied on the basis of race, colour, ethnicity, gender or any other consideration. They are often advanced as legal rights and are protected by the rule of law but are also quite distinct from and prior to law and can be used as standards for formulating or criticizing both local and international law. The conduct of the State, its armed forces including the paramilitary forces and law-enforcing agencies must comply with and conform to these standards.
2. Violation of human rights is not confined to a particular region, country or community. There is a strange and persisting history regarding protection and propagation of the ideals of human rights and our fight against their violation at global level inspite of ratification of the U.N. Resolutions, Conventions and Instruments by almost all countries. The area of violations extends all over the world from domestic violence to international conflicts; from a small village quarrel to a full scale world war inspite of national legislations and international covenants and resolutions. This is because society has never been perfect as also the humans inhabiting it and the human nature so unpredictable and volatile as ever. The rights have been transgressed in the past by co-humans and will continue to be violated in future as well because negative traits are also inherent and intrinsic to man along with all the goodness and nobility he has and can boast of. The violations may arise out of one’s personal lack of tolerance; indignation at the offensive and provoking behaviour hurting his or her ego; injuring the so-called self respect or due to extra-territorial ambitions of a not-too-friendly neighboring country. The malaise is ubiquitous and incurable as it appears to have persisted all along over centuries. It looks like to have come down to the humanity as a legacy as the rights continue being violated by individuals, the State, the law-enforcing authorities and others alike, as ever before. Let us hope we do not hand it down the same way to the posterity.
above mentioned being basic philosophy behind the creation of a common human
rights culture at the world level, it was in the aftermath of World War II that
50 nations, including
would be relevant to know a little about the Drafting Committee. This
committee, chaired by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, comprising of eight members
prepared the preliminary text of the ‘Declaration’. The committee agreed on the affirmation of
universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the
principals of non-discrimination and civil and political rights, as well as
social, cultural and economic rights. The text was drafted in about two years,
between January 1947, when the Commission on Human Rights first met to prepare
an International Bill of Human Rights, and December 1948, when the General
Assembly adopted the ‘Declaration’. The Commission modified the draft
declaration in the light of replies from the Member States, before submitting
it to the General Assembly. The General Assembly approved the document after
numerous debates in which 58 Member States voted a total of 1,400 times on
practically every word and clause of the text. On
5. While human rights are not always interpreted similarly across societies, the norms of the various ‘basic’ rights that cannot be violated under any circumstances, are set forth in the international human rights documents, the Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which articulate the common refrain of various cultures of the societies across the world. Ratification of the international human rights agreements by most of the countries is indicative of the collective global concern for the protection of human rights values. Such norms constitute a standard for the conduct of the government and can be used as “universal, non-discriminatory standards” for formulating or criticising law and also serve as guidelines for proper conduct. While protecting all human rights, the United Nations, has somehow promoted civil and political rights much more than other rights as eighteen out of the thirty articles deal with civil and political rights, while only six concern cultural, social and economic rights. The United Nations has, tried to take care of this imbalance by giving the other rights the same priority through a new framework based on a unifying set of standards.
7. Our NHRC was the first National Human Rights Institution to be established in the South Asian Region. It has taken tough and independent stance on several occasions and has come to be known as the most effective protector of human rights of the people. 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. They are playing a very important role in securing and ensuring the protection of the rights of the people and are engaged in disseminating human rights literacy among various sections of the society and promoting awareness of the safeguards for protection of these rights. Ours is the largest democracy in the world and besides that it is a hugely populous country. It is, indeed, a tremendous task to secure the rights of the people in such a diversified society. Taken collectively, it is really a gargantuan job. But the Punjab State Human Rights Commission has successfully come up to the expectations of the people. This is borne out from the fact that we had received only 90 complaints in the year 1997 when it was established, but the number had crossed the figure of 15,800 from January, 2005 upto November 30th , this year. This reflects the faith of the people in the cheaper, quicker and unbiased nature of justice being administered by this institution.
commission aims at wiping out the very causes of human rights violation from
the soil of the state of
9. There is no ‘ better religion than protection of human rights of a human being by a human being’. There is ‘no better service to mankind than respecting the human rights of a human being’. Therefore, let all of us take a pledge on this ‘Human Rights Day’ to honour and respect each other’s human rights without any violation.
N. C. Jain