A strong Indian state must be humane too

Source: The Hindu 

Relevance: This article highlights the importance of upholding human rights.

Synopsis:

The recent death of Father (Fr.) Stan Swamy has attracted global criticism and questioned India’s credibility and will for protecting human rights. The situation calls for establishing an audit system to review such cases that would prevent gross violation of justice and uphold human rights.

Background:

Issue of Bail under UAPA

Global Criticism:
  • The international experts and societies expressed deep grief over the demise of Fr. Swamy. They condemned Indian authorities for his inhuman treatment.
    • He was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, bilateral hearing loss, back pain and “generalised weakness” but still not given bail.
    • The jail authorities took over a month to provide a straw, sipper and winter clothes to Fr. Swamy, as Parkinson’s disease made it difficult for him to hold cups or glasses.
  • Mary Lawlor, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, plainly made the accusation that he was arrested on “false charges of terrorism”.
  • The United States State Department expressed sadness at his death and called him a “Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist.
Way Ahead:
  • Such opinion cannot be given primacy over India’s core security interests. However, diplomacy requires engagement with international liberal opinion, not wooden and inflexible assertions of general principles only.
  • The Indian state should keep in mind the humane principles that it adopted at the time of independence. 
    • The country pledged to achieve development not through an authoritarian polity but a democratic and liberal one, despite the obstacles and challenges that lay in the way.
  • The application of special laws should be duly audited by the superior judiciary. There should be very strong evidence to substantiate charges under them, as jail is the rule and bail is the exception for those charged under special laws.
    • Fr. Stan Swamy’s case should provide an impetus to put such an audit machinery in place that would reassure international opinion that India is a responsive state.
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