Lack of awareness about human rights courts

'Protection of Human Rights Act, a paper tiger', allege activists

While some victims of violation of human rights can seek justice as the violations are criminal in nature, for some other victims, justice is either little or non-existent. This is due to some anomalies in The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, which experts and human right activists feel has to be addressed to ensure that human rights are safeguarded.

One of the recommendations made in the Act was to set up district human right courts under Principal Sessions and District judge (PDJ) in every district. “Even though there is a notification regarding setting up human right courts, people are not aware that such courts exists and what type of cases can be heard at the court,” human rights activist, R Manohar said.

Ambiguities

The major problem in ensuring that human rights are not violated lies in the Act itself, as the Act defines human rights as right to life, liberty, equality and dignity of a human being. “But, there is no clarity on the list of violations, which has to be tried at the human rights court, unlike the SC/ST Atrocities Act, which lists 22 different kinds of atrocities,” he said.

Prasanna, district convenor of South India Cell for Human Rights, Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), said that the lack of awareness about the courts and the ambiguities in the Human Rights Act has caused delays in several cases, especially with respect to violations of Forest Rights Act and cases of police atrocity. 

“Due to efforts of activists, several cases are being brought to the notice of State Human Rights Commission. However, since State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has only powers to recommend action against the erring parties, progress with regard to human rights violations are very slow,” he said. 

Quoting an incident where a woman, hailing from Edakola in Mysore district suffered fractures in her hand after illegal detention at Mysore Rural Police Station, three years ago, he said that an active district human rights court would have ensured speedy disposal of the case. 

But, since the case is taken up in a normal court, along with other cases of crime, there has been considerable delay in providing justice for the woman in question, he said.

Chargesheets

Speaking to Deccan Herald, C G Hunagund, member of SHRC said that human rights courts were under PDJ in all districts, and PDJs are at liberty to take cognisance of human right violations. “In all criminal cases, there are human rights violations. For the judge to take one particular case as a human rights violation, the same must be alleged in the charge sheet,” he said. 

He added that it would not be enough to merely designate a court as a human right court and stressed that an ‘evolution’ of the Act was necessary. Though about 600-700 cases of human right violations are lodged with SHRC every month, SHRC can only recommend disciplinary action and it was not empowered with prosecutory powers.

Manohar said that the Act was a ‘paper tiger’ and said that there were several recommendations to strengthen the Act and Human Right Commissions. Despite several recommendations, nothing much has been done to empower either the Commissions or the Act itself, he said. 

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