Domestic Implementation of Human Rights


KAUSHIK DHAR

1. UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND INDIAN CONSTITUTION

India was a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Indian constitution was adopted by the constituent Assembly on Dec 26, 1949, which came into force from Jan 26, 1950. Our Indian constitution was greatly influenced by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. Provisions of Part III which stands for Fundamental Rights and Part IV for Directive Principles of State Policy bear a close resemblance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a result, a number of fundamental rights guaranteed in Part III of the Indian Constitution are similar to the provision of Declaration.

Name of the Rights Universal Declaration Indian Constitution

Equality before law Art. 7 Art. 14

Prohibition of discrimination Art. 7 Art. 15(1)

Equality of opportunity Art 21(2) Art. 16(1)

Freedom of speech and expression Art. 19 Art.19(1)(a)

Freedom of peaceful assembly Art. 20(1) Art. 19(1)(b)

Right to form association or unions Art. 23(4) Art. 19(1)(c)

Freedom of movement within the border Art. 13(1) Art19(1)(d)

Protection in respect of conviction for offencesArt.11(2) Art. 20(1)

Protection of life and personal liberty Art. 9 Art. 21

Protection of slavery and forced labour Art. 4 Art. 23

Freedom of conscience and religion Art. 18 Art. 25(1)

Freedom of enforcement of rights Art. 8 Art. 32

The above chart shows that the Universal Declaration which was adopted just before the Indian Constitution widely held to have provided the model for Indian Constitution human rights guarantees. It appears that the founders of the Constitution were conscious about the contents of the Declaration and therefore they gave due recognition to its provisions.

In Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala (AIR 1973 SC 1461), the Supreme Court observed that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights may not be a legally binding instrument but it shows how India understood the nature of the Human Rights at the time the Constitution was adopted. Thus, although the Supreme Court has stated that the Declaration cannot create a binding set of rules and even international treaties may at best inform judicial institutions and inspire legislative action, constitutional interpretation in India has been strongly influenced by the Declaration.

In Chairman, Railway Board and others v Mrs. Chandrima Das (AIR 2000 SC 988), the Supreme Court observed that the Declaration has the international recognition as the “Moral code of Conduct” having been adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. In a number of cases the Declaration has been referred to in the decisions of the Supreme Court and High Courts.

DOMESTIC IMPLEMENTATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

India has ratified the International covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on March 27, 1979. By ratification it has established on the international plane its consent to be bound by them. It has an obligation to provide to the individuals the rights contained in the two Covenants.

3. COVENANT ON CIVIL & POLITICAL RIGHTS AND THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION

The Indian constitution provides a number of rights which are called ‘fundamental rights’. The expression ‘fundamental rights’ denotes that these rights are inherent in all human beings and they are required for blossoming of the human personality and soul. These rights have been given a place of pride in the Constitution. These rights are therefore necessary to protect the dignity of individual and to create conditions in which a person can develop to the fullest extent.

In A.D.M., Jabalpur v Shukla (AIR 1976 SC 1207), Beg J. Observed that the object of making certain rights as fundamental as to guarantee them from the illegal invasion by executive, legislature and judicial organ of the state. The Supreme Court of India has recognised these fundamental rights as ‘natural rights’ or ‘human rights’.

Fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution may be divided for the sake of convenience in two categories, i.e. specified fundamental rights and other fundamental rights. The specified fundamental rights are those rights which are there in the Covenant as well as these rights are specifically enumerated in the Indian constitution. This division is helpful in order to make them comparable with the human rights guaranteed to the individuals under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Name of the Rights Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Indian Constitution

Forced Labour Art. 8(3) Art. 23

Equality before law Art.14(1) Art. 14

Prohibition of discrimination Art. 26 Art. 15(1)

Equality of opportunity Art. 25(c) Art. 16(1)

Freedom of speech and expression Art. 19(1) & (2) Art. 19(1)(a)

Freedom of peaceful assembly Art. 21 Art. 19(1)(b)

Right of freedom of association Art. 23(4) Art. 19(1)(c)

Right to life and liberty Art. 6(1) &9(1) Art. 21

Freedom of conscience and religion Art. 18(1) Art. 25

However, there are a number of rights which, though are not specified in Part III of the Constitution by name as fundamental rights have been regarded as fundamental by the Supreme Court by enlarging the meaning and scope of the fundamental rights.

Although in A.D.M., Jabalpur v Shukla (AIR 1976 SC 1207), the Supreme Court held by a majority of 4:1 that the Constitution of India did not recognise any natural or common law rights other than that expressly conferred in the Constitution, the trend of the Supreme Court has changed especially after 1978. The Courts on many occasions, by accepting the rule of judicial construction, that regards must be paid to international conventions and norms for constructing domestic law, held that the rights which are not specifically mentioned in the constitution may be regarded as fundamental rights if it is integral part of the fundamental right.

The following are the rights which are contained in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are available to the citizens of India in spite of their not being specifically mentioned in the Constitution.

1.1. Right to privacy

By the expression right to privacy we mean the right to be left alone to live one’ s own life with minimum degree of interference. The right to privacy is stipulated in the Covenant on Civil and political Rights under Art. 17(1) which says that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation. But this right is not guaranteed in the constitution.

However, in Kharak Sing v State of U.P., [(1964) 1 SCR 33] it was held by the Supreme Court that the domiciliary visits is an infringement of the right to privacy and is violative of the citizen’ s fundamental right guaranteed under Art.21 of the Indian Constitution.

In Govind v State of Madhya Pradesh [1996 (0) MPLJ 649] the right to privacy was assumed to be a part of the personal liberty guaranteed under Art. 21 of the Constitution, by stating that although the right to privacy is not explicitly provided in the Constitution, it is ingrained in the fundamental right of life and personal liberty.

In People’s Union for Civil Liberties v Union of India [1997 AIR (SC) 568], commonly known as telephone tapping case, the Supreme Court held that right to life and personal liberty includes telephone conversation in the office or home and thus telephone tapping is violative of Art. 21.

1.2. Right to travel abroad

The right to travel abroad is a guaranteed right under Art.12 Para 2 of the Covenant; however it is not specifically recognised under Part III of the Constitution as a fundamental right. The Supreme Court in Satwant Sing v Asst. Passport Officer, New Delhi [AIR 1967 SC 1836] held that the right to go abroad is a part of the person’ s personal liberty within the meaning of Art. 21.

In Maneka Gandhi v Union of India [AIR 1978 SC 597] the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Satwant Sing’s case.

1.3. Right to speedy trial

The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights laid down under Art. 9 Para (3) that anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought before judge….and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. But the Constitution has got no provision for a person to be tried without undue delay.

In Hussainara Khatun v Home Secretary, State of Bihar(no.1) [(1980) 1 SCC 98] it was held by the Supreme Court that though the right to speedy trial is not directly mentioned in the fundamental right but is implicit in the broad sweep of Art.21 which deals with right of life and personal liberty.

In the case Raj Deo Sharma v State of Bihar [(1998) 7 SCC 507] the Supreme Court after having recognised that the speedy trial is the right of the accused, issued certain directions for effective enforcement of this right. The Court directed that in cases where the trial is for an offence punishable with imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years and if the offence of the under trial is punishable with a period exceeding 7 years, the court shall close prosecution evidence on completion of 3 years from the date of recording of the plea or framing of the charge. The whole idea was to speed up the trial in criminal case to prevent the prosecution from becoming a persecution (harassment).

1.4. Right to provide legal assistant

The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides under Para 3(d) of Article 14 that everyone shall be entitled to be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through his legal assistance of his own choosing, to be informed, if he does not have legal assistance assigned to him, of this right; and to have legal assistance assigned to him, in any case where the interest of justice so requires, and without payment by him in any such case if he has no sufficient means to pay for it.

In M.H. Hoskot v State of Maharashtra [(1978) 3 SCC 544] that the right to free legal service is an essential ingredients of reasonable, fair and just procedure for a person accused of an offence and is implicit in Art.21 of the Constitution.

In Khatri v State of Bihar [AIR 1981 SC 928] the Supreme Court directed the state of Bihar that it cannot avoid the constitutional obligations to provide free legal services to a poor by pleading feeding financial and administrative inability.

1.5. Right of prisoners to be treated with humanity

Article 10 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights under Para (1) lays all person deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. But the Indian Constitution there is no such provision in Part III which can safeguard the brutal treatment given to the prisoners.

However, the Supreme Court in Charles Shobraj v Suerintendent, Central Jail, Tihar, New Delhi recognised that ‘right to life’ is more than mere animal existence. Even iin prison person is required to be treated with dignity and enjoy all those right mentioned in Art.19 and 21.

In Francis Coralie Mullin v The Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi [(1981) 2 SCR 516], it was again observed by the Supreme Court that even a convict is entitled to the protection of the precious right guaranteed by the Art 21 of the Constitution.

In Sunil Batra v Delhi Administration (no 1) [1979 SCR (1) 392], the practice of keeping under trials with convicts in jail was regarded by the Supreme Court as inhuman and violation of Art 21.

In Bandhua Mukti Morcha [1992 AIR SC 38] case, the Supreme Court held that the right to life guaranteed by Art. 21 included the right to live with human dignity free from exploitation.

In D.K. Basu v State of West Bengal [AIR 1997 SC 610], the Supreme Court held that the precious right guaranteed by the Constitution of India cannot be denied to convicts, under trials, detenues and other prisoners in custody except according to the procedure established by law.

1.6. Right to compensation

The Covenant on Civil and Political Right under Art 9 Para 5 laid down that ‘anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.’ This right has not been specifically guaranteed by the Constitution but the court ruled that a suit for compensation against the state is maintainable and the state has no right to take any action which may deprive the citizen of the basic fundamental rights except in accordance with the law which is reasonable, just and fair.

In Rudal Shah v State of Bihar [AIR 1983 SC 1086] the Supreme Court held that Art 21 which says about right to life will be denuded of its significant content if the power of this court were limited to passing orders of release from illegal detention.

1.7. Right to information

The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights laid down under Art 19, Para 2 that everyone shall have the right to freedom f speech and expression. The Indian constitution under Art 19(1) (a) guarantees the right to free speech and expression as fundamental right, the right to information is not specifically mentioned in Part III of the Constitution.

In S.P.Gupta v Union of India [AIR 19S2 SC 149], Justice Bhagwati stated that the concept of open government is the direct emanation from the right to free speech and expression. Therefore disclosures of information in regard to the functioning of government must be the rule and secrecy an exception justified only where the strictest requirement of public interest is required.

Therefore it may be concluded that a number of rights which are not specifically provided in the Constitution in Part III as ‘fundamental rights’ have been regarded as fundamental and are available to the individual because of the bold interpretation given by the Supreme Court of those rights which are specifically provided in the Constitution. We can say the judiciary has been a zealous guardian of the human rights.

4. COVENANT ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS AND INDIAN CONSTITUTION

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of human beings are contained in the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Covenant has significant feature which makes it different from the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights the states are under an obligation to respect and to ensure to all the individual the rights stipulated therein, but under the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights the states are not bound to do so. Rights stipulated in the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights do not find place in Part III of the Constitution but they are provided in Part IV of the Constitution which stands for the Directive Principles of State Policy. This Part contains a list of directives and instructions to be followed by the present and future governments irrespective of their political complexion. The directive principles are fundamental in governance of the Country. Thus Part IV cast upon the states the duties which they are required to follow. The directive principles which broadly incorporate the economic and social rights are as much as a part of human rights. Many rights enshrined in the Covenant on

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are incorporated in the directive principles.

Thus we can see that all rights like right to equal pay for equal work for both men and women, the right to protect the childhood of work and for maternity work, the right to work, right to adequate standard of living, etc are recognised in the Covenant as well as in our Indian Constitution. However, these rights being stated in Part IV of the Constitution are not enforceable in the court of law. But recently some of these rights are considered as fundamental by the Supreme Court by enlarging the scope of the ‘fundamental rights’ stipulated in Part III of the constitution. This has done by broadening the ambit of the ‘right to life’ under Art.21 of the Constitution. Some of these rights are as follows:

4.1. Equal pay for equal work

The Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights under Art 7(a) lays down that fair wages and equal remuneration fro work of equal value without distinction of any kind in particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men. Under the Indian constitution clause (d) of Art.39 of the Directive Principles of State Policy states about the equal pay for equal work for both men and women.

In Randhir Sing v Union of India [1982 AIR 879], the Supreme Court held that the principle of equal pay for equal work though not a fundamental right is certainly a Constitutional gaol and capable through enforcement through Constitutional remedies available under art 32 of the Constitution.

4.2. Right of workmen to medical benefits

‘Safe and healthy working conditions and the creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness’ are the rights which are stated in Art.7, Para (b) and Article 12, Para 2(d) under the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Right to workmen to medical benefits under the Indian Constitution finds place under Art.38 and Art.39 which is not enforceable. But the Supreme Court in the Regional Director, ESI, Corporation and another v Francis De Costa and another [1996(6) SCC 1] held that under Art. 21 read with Art. 38 and 39 the right to medical and disability benefit to workmen is his fundamental right.

4.3. Right to livelihood

Art. 6 of the Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights says right to work including the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right. The right to livelihood has been incorporated in Art 39(a) and Art 41 of the Indian Constitution.

The Supreme Court in Olga Tellis v Bombay Municipal Corporation [(1985) 3 SCC 545], popularly known as the pavement dwellers, held that right to livelihood is an integral facet of the right to life guaranteed under Art 21 of the Constitution.

4.4. Right to shelter

The Covenant on the Economic, social and Cultural Rights under Art 7 Para (a)(ii) lays down that the States parties recognise the right of everyone for decent living for themselves and their families and Art. 11 they recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family including housing. It shows that right to shelter finds a place in the Covenant but it has not been enumerated specifically in the Indian Constitution. However, the Supreme Court in Chameli Sing v State of U.P. [AIR 1996 SC 1051] it was held that by the Supreme Court that the right to live includes the right to food, water, decent environment, education, medical care and shelter. As of right to shelter is concerned the court held that it includes adequate living space, safe and decent structure, clean and decent surroundings, sufficient light, pure air and water, electricity and other civil amenities like roads, etc.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

i. Prof. M.P.Jain, INDIAN CONTITUTIONAL LAW, Fifth edition reprint 2009, LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa, Butterworths Wadhwa, Nagpur

ii. Prof. Narendra Kumar, CONTITUTIONAL LAW OF INDIA, 5th edition, 2006, Allahabad Law Agency

iii. V. Para Brahma Sastri, RIGHT TO LIFE AND PERSONAL LIBERTY(COMMENTARY AND CASE MATERIALS), 1st edition, 2005, Asia Law House, Hyderabad

 


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