State of Human Rights in India -Explained, Pointwise


The US State Department released the “2020 Human Rights Report” or the “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices”.  It is a retrospective report that contains a country-wise discussion on the state of human rights. The 2020 Human Rights report severely criticised the state of Human Rights in India.

Similarly, the report also mentions several human rights issues in India. This includes issues such as harassment and detention of journalists, government request for user data from internet companies, etc. In this article, we will analyze the situation of Human Rights in India.

About the US “Human Rights Report 2020”

It is an annual report and the 2020 report is its 45th edition. Each year the US State Department submits the report to the US Congress. The report is based on the rights listed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR).

Key Findings of the report regarding India

The 2020 report mentioned some improvement in the situation of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir. At the same time, the report also mentioned more than a dozen significant issues regarding Human Rights in India. These are,

  1. Prevalent of Unlawful and arbitrary killings;
  2. Restrictions on freedom of expression and the press. It includes using violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists;
  3. Restrictions on political participation
  4. Widespread corruption at all levels in the government;
  5. Low tolerance of violations of religious freedom
  6. Crimes involving violence and discrimination targeting members of minority groups including women based on religious affiliation or social status.
  7. Requests for Data from Social Media Companies: The government’s requests for user data from Internet companies increased dramatically. In 2019, the Government made 49,382 user data requests from Facebook, a 32% increase from 2018. Over the same period, Google requests increased by 69% while Twitter requests saw a 68% increase.
What are Human Rights?

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights(OHCHR), these are the rights that exist to humans simply because we are human beings. Further, The OHCHR also mentions that Human Rights are not granted by any state. Instead, these are inherent to all of us, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status.

Human Rights range from the most fundamental – the right to life – to rights that make life worth living. Such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty, etc.

About International Human Rights Conventions and Bodies

There are many prominent Human Rights conventions and International bodies. Few significant of them are,

  1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
    1. This includes 30 civil and political rights and freedoms. These 30 rights cover a wide gamut of Human rights including the social, economic and cultural rights to the individual.
    2. India took active participation during the formation of UDHR.
    3. UDHR is not a treaty. So, there is no legal obligation for signatory countries to follow the provisions of UDHR.
  2. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
    1. The ICCPR is a key international human rights treaty. The ICCPR also covers a wide range of civil and political rights.
    2. The countries ratifying the ICCPR have to take the necessary steps to protect and preserve basic human rights.
    3. The UN Human Rights Committee is tasked with monitoring the implementation of ICCPR
    4. The Covenant was adopted by the UNGA in 1966. It came into force in 1976.
    5. 173 countries including India have ratified the ICCPR.
  3. Other Convention on Human rights
    1. Apart from the above two, there are other few major Conventions. These include.
      • The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948)
      • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)
      •  The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
      • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006)
    2. India is a party to all the above-mentioned conventions.
  4. United Nation Human Rights Council(UNHRC)
    1. It is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system. Further,  It is made up of 47 United Nations Member States which are elected by the UN General Assembly.
    2. It conducts a Universal Periodic Review of all the UN members once in four years.
    3. The OHCHR is the secretariat of UNHRC.

NOTE: The ICCPR, UDHR, and the  International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights together considered as the International Bill of Human Rights.

About Human Rights in India
  1. Human Rights in the Constitution: India always respected Human Rights, this is reflected in the Constitution itself. The inclusion of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy are the enumeration of UDHR principles only.
  2. Protection of Human Rights Act 1993: This established the National Human Rights Commission in India. The commission is the watchdog of human rights in the country. It is an independent statutory body to look into the Human Rights issues and violation in India.
Status of Human Rights in India and its violation

The US Human Rights Report 2020 and the Freedom in the world report 2020 criticised Human Rights violation in India. But the credibility of these violations can be doubted. But India can observe the Human Rights violation internally from issues such as,

  1. Custodial Torture still exists in India. The recent Sathankulam case in Tamil Nadu is proof of custodial torture.
  2. Right to Work and Labour Rights are still not complete. The government is still taking measures to improve them. The recent labour codes are also a step in that direction only.
  3. Extrajudicial Killings like fake encounters, mob lynching, etc. have not stopped in India.
  4. Arbitrary Arrest and Detention are still common. Both the NHRC and SHRC both have failed to control them due to their lack of powers. This is seen as the criminalisation of government critics.
  5. Manual Scavenging is also prevalent in India. According to the 2011 Census, there are more than 26 Lakh insanitary latrines in the country. Even though the government enacted a law and NHRC given its recommendations, the practice still exists in India
  6. Violence and discrimination against Women, Children like rape, murder, sexual abuse are also prevalent in India.
Suggestions to improve Human Rights in India
  1. Proper enforcement of Law: The government has enacted numerous laws, rules, and regulations to protect Human rights in India. But, the misuse of laws by law enforcing agencies is the root cause of human rights violations.
    So, the government has to change the provisions if they run contrary to human rights. The weakness of laws has to be tackled through either amendment or repeal if necessary.
  2. The government has to strengthen the NHRC and SHRC. The government has to make the decisions of NHRC enforceable. Further, the government has to review the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
  3. Enacting a National Action Plan on Human Rights(NAPHR)The Universal Periodic review of UNHRC mandated the enactment of the National Plan. India has to fast pace the task force and also have to properly follow the action plan after enactment.
  4. Adopting the Parent-Child approach when the government faces criticisms. The Madras High court advocated this approach in May 2020.

    Parent-Child approach: The state must act like it is the parent of all its citizens. Despite the insult (sedition or criminal defamation) by children (citizens), parents don’t discard their children quite easily. Like that State also accept the fact that public figures must face criticism.

    John F Kennedy once said that “The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened“. So the government has to understand that and ensure proper enforcement of Human Rights. After all, denying human rights is a challenge to humanity itself.

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