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Headless rights body, uncaring govt

The failure of the Karnataka government to appoint a chairperson for the state human rights commission for five years speaks eloquently of the government's indifference and lack of concern for human rights. In fact, keeping the post vacant for as long as five years cannot be the result of just indifference and lack of concern. It means an active refusal to fill the post, and this can only be deliberate. The term of Justice S R Nayak, the commission's first chairman, ended in 2012. It has been headless ever since. Though there was a move to appoint a chairman about three years ago, it did not happen. The terms of an acting chairperson and a member ended last year. The commission is a two-member body. So, in the real sense, there is no human rights commission in the state now. Ironically, an Inspector General of Police, holds charge of the body.

The Congress is very eloquent about human rights and always flaunts its commitment to them. But the Siddaramaiah government has not cared to do so and does not seem to have any plans. All parties are vocal about human rights when they are in the opposition but go silent about them when they come to power. This is easily explained, because most complaints about human rights violations are against the police, which the government controls. So, it is no surprise that governments find human rights commissions inconvenient. Opposition parties criticise governments for human rights violations but they also do not actually want an active and fully functional commission. The leader of the opposition is also involved in the appointment of the chairperson and other members. The Siddaramaiah government has not had to face any strong criticism from the opposition parties for its attitude to the commission.

It is reported that there are about 5,000 complaints of rights violations pending for scrutiny and action in the commission. They are the common citizens' complaints and grievances, which need to be listened to and redressed. There are frequent reports of rights violations. In the absence of the chairperson and the commission, there is none to attend to them. Even when a commission exists and works, it has many limitations, but at least some problems are solved, many grievances are looked into, and public awareness about human rights is enhanced. The fact that there is an institutional forum to safeguard the rights of people is important. It is the right of the people to have a body to protect their rights, as prescribed by the law. The state government still has time to put in place a full-fledged human rights commission before the elections.

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