What is universal human rights law? Patrick Macklem notes that international human rights law applies to safeguarding fundamental human characteristics from the exercise of sovereign power. He further states that human rights have legal significance internationally. Universal human rights law had not been a common subject in textbooks on international law until the Second World War. Learned writers on international law held their vows by strictly adhering only to the conventional topic of international law while carrying out themes for their various works. Therefore, apart from the sources of international law as well as the relationships between municipal and international law, scholarly writers have been concerned with classical issues such as territorial sovereignty, territorial integrity, sea law etc.
Yet now this is shifting. Though historically limited to relations between States alone, international law has warmed up human rights over the years. It took years, of course, for international law to change direction and to begin to respect human rights but it is changing.
The outbreak of World War II and the massacres that happened during the war were the main reasons for the behavioral change. During the war millions of civilians were killed as the international community stood by, except for the few Western powers. On the basis of the general principle that human rights have no international law standing, States have viewed the systematic infringement of the human rights of the victims of the Second World War as none of their business. Even the Western powers that interfered did so not simply to defend the Western powers that interfered, for the sake of defending human rights, but because the war challenged the international legal order.
But it was primarily because of the massacres of World War II that the world leaders served as a ‘wake-up call’ to start thinking that the international legal order of the pre-war era required fundamental reform to keep international peace and stability together in re-war. The creation of the United Nations (UN) in 1945 is therefore a significant turning point in the history of international law from mere ‘country laws’ to accepting such issues as human rights. After the adoption of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) shortly afterwards, international law has come to resolve non-classical concerns like human rights, environmental rights, trade and development concerns etc. The UDHR is the first authoritative international footprint on the way to the international community’s collective recognition of the human being’s superiority over its man-made institutions.
Human Rights in India
Human rights are the modern and secular interpretation of natural rights which is fundamental to all human beings as members of society. All human beings, being born equal, have equal rights with no distinction of birth, sex, ethnicity, status, faith, language or nationality. Standing on capitalistic or communist philosophies, Human Rights reveals the need for democracy, prosperity and peace.
The movements for national awakening and social change were for freedom, democracy and social development. During the free movement, the Indian people fought for their rights and liberties against colonial rule. Freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak proclaimed, “Swaraj is my birthright and I will have it.” The demand for fundamental rights was always at the forefront throughout the struggle for freedom.
At its Madras session in December 1927, the Indian National Congress agreed to draft a “Swaraj Constitution for India, on the thinking of the Declaration of Rights,” and in 1928, All-Party Conference of Indian political party members proposed constitutional changes for India. Demanding the status of sovereignty and universal suffrage elections, they called for assurances of freedoms considered essential, equality of religious and ethnic minorities, and limits on the powers of government.
Pursuant to this, in its report in August 1928, the Motilal Nehru Committee set out 19 Fundamental Rights and affirmed that “Our first case should be to have our Fundamental Rights guaranteed in a manner that can not under any circumstances permit their removal.”In 1931, at its Karachi session, the Indian National Congress adopted resolutions specifying, among other things, its contribution to the protection of fundamental civil rights, including socio-economic rights such as employment, the abolition of intouchability and servitude. The members of the Congress Party, committed to socialism in 1936, took details from the Soviet constitution that recognizes citizens’ fundamental duties as a form of collective, patriotic responsibility.
The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019
Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019, this bill amends Human Rights Protection Act, 1993. This Act provides for the National Commission on Human Rights (NHRC), State Commissions on Human Rights (SHRC), and Court of Human Rights.
NityanandRai on The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019
State Minister for Home Affairs NityanandRai said the government is responsive to human rights and committed to improving the country’s Human Rights Commission. He rejected the accusation that India’s Human Rights Commission had lost its good ranking, and told the international agency that it was granted ‘A’ grade.
Saying that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who suggested that the participation of civil society in the Commission, the minister underlined that representation has now been provided from every segment of the society.
He added that they are not for the human rights of terrorists and sex crime suspects but for the victims. He stressed that the amendment has increased consistency in selecting Chairman and Commission members, and would help fill all vacancies. The rights of the OBCs and minorities, he added, were secured by the Government.
The minister said the applicants in Union Territories would now apply to neighboring states in the Human Rights Commission instead of coming to Delhi all the way.
The Bill amends the 1993 Protection of Human Rights Act contains the provision that even a SC Judge may be the chairman of the NHRC apart from CJI.
Likewise, the bill proposes an amendment at the state level that any person who has been a High Court judge may be the SHRC chairman.
The bill restricts the term of office of NHRC and SHRC chairpersons and members to three years or until the age of 70, whichever is earlier. In addition, the Act provides for the reappointment of NHRC and SHRC members for five years.
It used to be five years or till the age of 70, whichever is earlier. It also provides for the reappointment of NHRC and SHRC chairmen
Power of Secretary General
Earlier in this act the NHRC and SHRC Secretary-General will use their delegated powers. After the amendment, according to the jurisdiction of the respective chairperson, it requires the Secretary General and the President to use all administrative and financial powers except the judicial powers.
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Author: Avi Shrivastava,
Jagran Lakecity University 1st Year BA.LLB(HONS)