Justice Pritam Pal*
THE rights of man have been the concern of all civilizations from time immemorial. The people of earlier age were familiar with human rights. The concept of human rights is not new for us too.
Indian history is warranted by the fact that human rights jurisprudence has always progressed smoothly though a historical path and never lost its link with the past. The philosophers of Vedic Age opine that human rights, earlier called as “natural rights”, are inherent in our nature without which we cannot live as human beings.
A lot needs to be done for a just, peaceful and humane society where human rights of every individual are respected. Unfortunately, human rights abuses continue unabated. These include
· Extra judicial killings
· Fake encounters
· Custodial deaths in Police Lock-ups
· Excessive use of force by security forces in disturbed areas
· Arbitrary arrests and continued detention,
· Prolonged detention while undergoing trial
· Occasional limits on freedom of press and freedom of movement
· Harassment and arrest of human rights monitors
· Extensive societal violence against women
· Female bondage
· Forced prostitution and female infanticide and
· Discrimination against those with disabilities.
Human rights and fundamental freedoms allow us to develop fully and use our human qualities, our intelligence, our talents and our conscience and to satisfy our spiritual and other needs. They are based on mankind’s increasing demand for a life in which the inherent dignity and worth of each human being will receive respect and protection.
It is time to analyse the scope and sphere of human rights.. What are the actual limits of human rights, the extent of practice, what to ignore and what should be given due importance? A lot is being done in this field today.
Yet there is the flip side too. The term is being misused by many which is unfair and immoral. An adequate system of checks and balances might help solve this problem.
India has seen a lot of development in human rights. The Constituent Assembly tried to make the Constitution which would enable Indians to “wiper every tear from every eye” and free the country from ignorance, hunger, poverty, squalor, exploitation and discrimination. The Supreme Court has left no stone unturned to keep us the standards and promises made in the Constitution.
The latest judicial trend reveals that Indian courts are enthusiastic in using the law as a tool of social revolution. The process of social change through law involves not only the legislature but law courts also interact and react through interpretative device.
Former Chief Justice, P.N.Bhagwati highlighted the new swing and significance of the judicial process. The theatre of the law is fast changing and the problems of the poor are coming to the forefront. The court has to innovate new methods and devise new strategies for bringing justice to those who are denied their basic human rights and to whom, freedom and liberty has no meaning.
A study of notable cases of the Supreme Court proves that Indian judiciary has echoed strong sentiments in favour of the rights of the downtrodden, poor, women and children. The scope of Article 21 of the Constitution has been widened in the light of changing values of Indian society. The new interpretation of Article 21 has brought about a vital change in human rights jurisprudence.
Though a lot has been done, we find the picture as a mix of many successes with occasion failure due to strange conditions in the country. India is proud of its successful national movement against the foreign rule, but it is shameful that we are facing internal failures in creating just social order beyond the burden of caste and gender deprivation despite 60 years of Independence.
The United Nations’ first Secretary General, U.Thant once said, “The establishment of human rights provides the foundations upon which rests the political structure of human freedom; the achievement of human freedom generates the will as well as the capacity for economic and social progress; the attainment of economic and social progress provides the basic for true peace.” He rightly saw in the promotion and protection of human rights in the “ascending spiral “, as he called it, of human freedom and progress, prosperity and peace.
We still have to go a long way to inculcate a human rights culture to get rid of the unjust society which denies the masses their right to be human. We must not let the concept of human rights get corrupted just because some of us want to take undue advantage of the same.
We should have caring and sensitive society, a society which does not pay lip service only to human rights but sees to it that they are available to all classes, castes and sections in the society, fulfilling the ethose of our Indian Vedic culture denoting Sarve Bhavantu Sukhkhina (Happiness for all).
· The writer is Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court , Chandigarh (India)
(Source: Article published in the Sunday Tribune of 11th January, 2009)