Human Rights and Role of Indian Judiciary

Human Rights and Role of Indian Judiciary

  • The objective of the human rights Jurisprudence is to humanize state agencies and to make state accountable to the use of power only for public good. In 1610 Coke, C.J. in Bonham’s case held that the collective end of the constitution of government is the promotion of a good quality of life and it is the role of the judiciary to ensure this end .
  • Human rights demand recognition and respect for the inherent dignity to ensure that everyone is protected against abuses which undermine their dignity. Human rights belong to everyone, everywhere, regardless of nationality, sexuality, gender, race, religion or age. The foundation of modern human rights is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The 30 articles of the Declaration were adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly, and over time these have been integrated into national laws and international treaties.
  • Human rights are the rights a person has simply because he or she is a human being. Kant said that human beings have an intrinsic value absent in inanimate objects. To violate a human right would therefore be a failure to recognize the worth of human life. Most societies have had traditions similar to the "golden rule" of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Hindu Vedas, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, the Bible, the Quran (Koran), and the Analects of Confucius are five of the oldest written sources which address questions of people’s duties, rights, and responsibilities.

However the efficacy of the mechanisms in place today has been questioned in the light of blatant human rights violations and disregard for basic human dignity in nearly all countries in one or more forms. In many cases, those who are to blame cannot be brought to book because of political considerations, power equations etc. When such violations are allowed to go unchecked, they often increase in frequency and intensity usually because perpetrators feel that they enjoy immunity from punishment .

  • It is constitutional mandate of judiciary to protect human rights of the citizens. Supreme Court and High Courts are empowered to take action to enforce these rights. Machinery for redress is provided under Articles 32 and 226 of the constitution. An aggrieved person can directly approach the Supreme Court or High Court of the concerned state for the protection of his/her fundamental rights, redress of grievances and enjoyment of fundamental rights. In such cases Court are empowered to issue appropriate order, directions and writs in the nature of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Quo-Warranto and Certiorari .
  • Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India interpreted the right to life and to widen its scope and deduced un-enumerated right such as “right to live with human dignity”. Supreme Court propounded the theory of “emanation” to make the existence of the fundamental right meaningful and active. Thereafter, in many cases court such as People's Union for Civil Liberties and another v. State of Maharashtra and others, Francis Coralie Mullin v. The Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi held that right to life includes right to live with human dignity. Therefore, through the judicial interpretations various rights have been recognized though they are not specifically provided in Part III of the Constitution .

The rule of locus standi, i.e. right to move to the court, whereby only aggrieved person can approach the court for redress of his grievances has been relaxed by the judiciary. Now court through public interest litigation permits public spirited persons to file a writ petition for the enforcement of rights of any other person or a class, if they are unable to invoke the jurisdiction of the Court due to poverty or any social and economic disability. In S.P. Gupta v. Union of India and others, Supreme Court held that any member of the public can approach the court for enforcing the Constitutional or legal rights of those, who cannot go to the court because of poverty or any other disabilities. Person can even write letter to the court for making complaints of violation of rights. Public interest litigation is an opportunity to make basic human rights meaningful to the deprived and vulnerable sections of the community .

  • There are various instances where judiciary intervened and the rights of children. In the case of Labourers working on Salal project v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, Supreme Court held that child below the age of 14 years cannot be employed and allowed to work in construction process. Court has issued various directions related to child labour .

Mumbai High Court in Public at large v. State of Maharashtra rescued children from flesh trade and passed order for checking sexual slavery of children and for their rehabilitation. Children are not only prone to sexual abuse but they are also sometimes kept as bonded labourers as was in the case of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) v. Union of India where the Supreme Court released child labourers and also ordered for grant of compensation to them. Concern of the Supreme Court about the protection of rights of children does not ended here it reiterated the importance of compulsory primary education vis-a-vis eradication of child labour in the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India .

Therefore, Judiciary is playing a crucial role in the protection of the human rights of the people from time and again by expanding the scope of the rights and recognizing new rights with the need of time. Judiciary has expanded the scope of right to life to include entitlements which are vital for the enjoyment of right to life with dignity. Courts have protected right of the people in numerous cases whether it is a right against violence in custody, to live in a pollution free environment, right to health, right to adequate wages of the workers, safety of the women at workplace and compensation to rape victim.

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Mr. Hitesh Ashiya, Assistant Professor
Faculty of Law
Madhav University