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Human Right : Meaning, Framework and Enforcement in India

The evolution of human rights from a social and moral concept to a legal and universally recognized framework reflects significant changes in global attitudes and practices regarding individual dignity and equality.

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Human Rights

Evoution of Human Right

The evolution of human rights from historical, social, and moral concepts to a legally recognized universal framework marks a significant shift in the global approach to individual dignity and equality:

  1. Historical Context: Initially, rights were often linked to an individual's social status or class, with widespread human rights violations occurring during wars.

  2. From Moral to Legal: The transformation to a legal framework began post-World War II, driven by the need to address the war's atrocities, including the Holocaust.

  3. Influence of Natural Law Theory: The ideology of human rights has its roots in natural law theory, which posits inherent rights based on human nature, understandable through reason.

  4. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): The 1948 adoption of the UDHR was a pivotal moment, establishing a comprehensive set of universally protected rights.

  5. Development of International Human Rights Law: Post-UDHR, a robust legal framework for human rights protection emerged, with numerous treaties and conventions.

  6. Global Recognition and Enforcement: Today, human rights are integral to international relations, with global consensus on the necessity of international action for their protection.

Charecteristics of Human rights

Human Rights possess several distinctive characteristics that set them apart from other types of rights. These characteristics underscore their significance and guide their implementation and protection globally:

  1. Universality: Human rights are universally applicable. They belong to every individual, regardless of nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. This universality is a fundamental aspect of human rights, enshrined in international documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It asserts that all humans are entitled to these rights simply by virtue of being human.

  2. Inalienability: Human rights are inalienable. They should not be taken away, except in specific situations and according to due process. For instance, the right to liberty may be restricted if a person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law. However, fundamental rights like the right to life and freedom from torture or inhuman treatment cannot be suspended.

  3. Indivisibility and Interdependence: Human rights encompass civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights. They are all equally important and interdependent. The fulfillment of one right often depends, wholly or in part, upon the fulfillment of others. For example, the realization of the right to health may depend on the right to education or the right to information.

Principles of Human Right

The fundamental principles of human rights – interdependency, indivisibility, and inalienability – form the cornerstone of international human rights law, reflecting the holistic and inherent nature of these rights.

  1. Interdependence of Human Rights: This principle asserts that all human rights are interconnected and dependent on each other. The realization of one right often depends on the realization of others. For instance, the right to life is closely linked to rights such as the right to health, education, and an adequate standard of living. In essence, violating or neglecting one right can impact the enjoyment of others, highlighting the need for a comprehensive approach to human rights protection and promotion.

  2. Indivisibility of Human Rights: Human rights are indivisible and form a unified set of norms that cannot be arbitrarily divided or prioritized. This principle rejects the notion of a hierarchy among different types of rights – be they civil, political, economic, social, or cultural. It emphasizes that all categories of rights are equally important and essential for the dignity and freedom of individuals. The indivisibility principle challenges the practice of selectively respecting certain rights while neglecting others.

  3. Inalienability of Human Rights: This principle underlines that human rights are inherent to all individuals by virtue of their humanity. These rights are not granted by any authority and therefore cannot be legitimately taken away. The inalienability of human rights asserts that every person possesses these rights, regardless of legal, social, or political status. This inherent nature of human rights serves as a fundamental safeguard against abuses and discrimination, ensuring that all individuals are entitled to these rights simply because they are human.

Generational Human Rights

Based on the origin, development and usage amongst people in the international arena generational human rights have been further classified as follows:

  • First Generational Human Rights: Civil and Political Rights are included under this category.

  • Second Generational Human Rights: These include Economic and Social Rights.

  • Third Generational Human Rights: Environmental Protection and Right to Economic Development have been put under this eategory.

  • Fourth Generational Human Rights: Rights of the Child and the Woman have come under this.

National Human Right in India: Framework

In India, the historical trajectory of human rights has been complex, particularly during the medieval period, which was marked by invasions from Muslim rulers. During this era, policies that discriminated against Hindus were prevalent, setting back the progress of human rights in the region.

Human right in india

In contemporary times, India continues to face significant challenges in terms of human rights, especially regarding social and economic inequality. Despite substantial economic growth and social reforms, disparities and discrimination based on caste, religion, gender, and economic status persist.

Pre-Independence Efforts:

  • Medieval Period Setback: During the medieval period, with the invasion of Muslim rulers, the concept of human rights in India faced challenges, particularly with policies discriminating against Hindus.

  • Ashoka's Practices: Emperor Ashoka’s practices, including non-violence towards living creatures, respect for elders and teachers, and ethical expenditure, are early instances of a rights-oriented approach.

  • Indian National Congress Initiatives: The Congress, as the forefront of the freedom struggle, advocated for fundamental freedoms and rights from the late 19th century. The Home Rule Document of 1895 and subsequent demands in 1918 and the Delhi Declaration emphasized civil, political, and economic rights.

Post-Independence Developments: Human Right in India

Constitution of India, 1950 and Human Right in India:

The Constitution of India, which came into force in 1950, represents a cornerstone in the country's human rights journey. Reflecting India's diverse cultural and religious heritage, the Constitution embeds fundamental rights that, while not explicitly labeled as 'human rights', encompass their essence of Human Right in India:

  1. Preamble: It sets the tone for the Constitution, emphasizing justice (social, economic, and political), liberty (of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship), equality (of status and opportunity), and fraternity, ensuring the dignity of every individual.

  2. Fundamental Rights (Articles 14 to 32): These articles enshrine various rights that form the bedrock of human rights in India.

  • Equality Before Law: Articles 14 and 15 ensure equality before the law and prohibit discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.

  • Abolition of Untouchability: Article 17 abolishes untouchability, a significant step in addressing historical social injustices.

  • Freedom of Speech and Expression: Article 19 grants citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association, movement, residence, and profession. These freedoms are subject to reasonable restrictions for public order, morality, and the sovereignty and integrity of India.

  • Right to Life and Personal Liberty: Articles 20, 21, and 22 provide the foundation for the legal system’s treatment of liberty and security of the person.

  • Prohibition of Trafficking and Child Labor: Articles 23 and 24 direct the state to prohibit human trafficking, begar (forced labor), and child labor.

  • Freedom of Religion: Articles 25 to 28 ensure freedom of religion and religious practice.

  • Cultural and Educational Rights of Minorities: Articles 29 and 30 protect the rights of minorities to preserve their language, script, and culture, and manage their own educational institutions.

Human Rights Act, 1993

The Human Rights Act of 1993 in India represents a significant legislative step in strengthening the framework for human rights protection in the country. This Act was enacted in response to India's ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), aligning domestic law with these international commitments.

Key aspects of the Human Rights Act, 1993, include:

  1. Definition of Human Rights: The Act defines human rights as those relating to life, liberty, equality, and the dignity of the individual, as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and the international covenants. This definition acknowledges both constitutional and international dimensions of human rights.

  2. Establishment of Human Rights Commissions: One of the Act's most significant provisions is the authorization for the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and State Human Rights Commissions. These commissions are tasked with the promotion and protection of human rights at the national and state levels, respectively.

  3. Functions and Powers of Commissions: The Act outlines the functions and powers of these commissions, which include inquiring into violations of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant, reviewing factors that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights, and recommending measures for their effective implementation. The Commission may take any of the following steps upon the completion

  4. Composition: The Act provides for the composition of these commissions, ensuring they are comprised of members with significant experience and knowledge in the field of human rights.

  5. Enforcement by Courts: Human rights as defined under the Act are enforceable by the courts in India, providing a legal mechanism to seek redress for violations.

Overall, the trajectory of human rights in India reflects a gradual shift from a class or status-based approach to a more inclusive, legally enshrined set of rights, aligning with international norms and standards.

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