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Almost everyday there are chilling instances of violence, ethnic cleansing, heinous torture, child abuse, man slaughter and several other human rights violations. Despite the adoption of the Universal Declaration Human Rights (1948) and special covenants provided for the rights of children, women and disabled, crimes continue unhindered and unabated. The soul-searching question is... 'Has humanity been relinquished?'
In India, various mechanisms such as the National Human Rights Commission, State Human Rights Commissions, and Women's Commissions have been constituted at the Centre and in the states, for upholding human rights causes. Legislative safeguards i.e. The Constitution of India, which is supreme a lex (the law of the land) and multifarious laws such as The Human Rights Act, 1997 are in existence but in vain. Human rights violations are the order of the day and the above 'law- enforcement' arsenals fall short of implementation. Rights are merely enumerated on paper and hence remain a dead letter.
Poverty as a causative:Poverty is a ruthless task master; it exacts an exorbitant price in terms of denial of basic human rights i.e. food, shelter, clothing, education, healthcare etc which in turn constitute basic necessities of life. An analysis of constitutional and other safeguards becomes pertinent to gauge the efficacy of the law in relation to the millions who have no other recourse but the arsenal of justice. Article 21 is the Magna Carta of the Constitution of India. It reads as follows- No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
It is noteworthy to mention that the fundamental right to life and personal liberty is inherent and is not conferred upon us by the Constitution. These are primary personal rights without which civil and political rights are rendered meaningless.
The Court has held that 'the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes with it, namely the bare necessities of life such as adequate nutrition clothing and shelter1 inter alia.
In Bandhua Mukti Morcha, where the question of bondage and rehabilitation of some laborers was involved, Bhagwati, J held that the fundamental right to live with human dignity is congruous with the right to life and derives its life breath from the Directive Principles of State Policy, and particularly clauses (e) and (f) of Articles 39,41,42.
Again, in the Olga Tellis case the court held that the ' Right to livelihood is included in the right to life' as " no person can live without the means of living".
However these rights has no meaning to those who are living below the poverty line (31% of the Indian population lives below the poverty line). The noble ideals of Social, Economic and Political justice as embodied in the Preamble and other parts of the Constitution remain an unrealized dream for millions of our fellow citizens.
The fact remains that India has the largest population in the world that goes to bed without any food, the largest population who has no clothes to wear and the largest number of beggars.
India is not shining on 750 million of its people who have no basic toilet facilities; on 510 million humans with no access to essential drugs; on 300 million illiterate adults with no schooling; on its 60 million destitute and widows without a roof; on nearly seven million suffering from AIDS and on the largest number of children suffering from malnutrition. Ironically 50 million tones of food grains lie idle in the FCI go downs, only to be nibbled at by rodents. The States have not successfully accomplished the implementation of mid-day meal schemes directive given by the Supreme Court in this matter. Death is hence comes as a salvation for these poor and helpless people who have absolutely no recourse. This is just a minuscule impact of poverty.
Denial of educationIn Unni Krishnan v.State of A.P, the Supreme Court has recognized a fundamental right to education in the right to life under Article 21. Taking the aid of Articles 41 and 45 it has held that ' every child/citizen of this country has a right to free education until he completes fourteen years of age.'
It differed from Mohini Jain's case in the sense that the right to education is subject to the limits of economic capacity and development of the state. Even after the Unni Krishnan case improvement in the situation has been frugal. Consequently, the government enacted the Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, 2002 by virtue of which Article 21A has been provided for. It reads as follows- " The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the state may, by law, determine".
The reality however is hard- hitting. The question arises as to the implementation of this gigantic task. Poverty breeds poverty. The vicious circle of poverty denies to lakhs of children the right to education, despite the fundamental right that children below 14 years of age shall be given access to primary education. A country's progress depends upon the development of its populace. Education is an arsenal to achieve the same. However in our country, widespread illiteracy still continues to persist .the government does not have adequacy of funds to run its own educational institutions. Education is undergoing privatization. The resultant is that schools have become centers for exploitation due to colossal fees charged and the common man is deterred by the affordability factor.
The relevant reasons are lack of infrastructure, absence of relevant education, low attendance, high- drop -out rates etc. Even after five decades of independence, 50% of the children are dropouts. Sex is one of the significant differentials of illiteracy that is characterized by a strong patriarchic value system. The level of literacy is about 64% for males and about 39% for females.
India's failure to achieve universal literacy even after fifty-six years of independence is shocking. At the present rate, it would take another 50 years to achieve total literacy. Education is the sign of a civilized society and the lack of it is one of the primary reasons for the commission of unpardonable crimes and intolerance.
Subjugation of womenIn India women constitute nearly fifty percent of our population. Women are denied human rights from the cradle to the grave. Infanticide is rampant in certain parts of the country where the birth of a girl child is not welcome. Nearly forty-one percent of the women abroad play an active role in the production process. In India the situation leaves much to be desired. Sexual abuse and flesh trade are gnawing evils, which threaten the existence of women as independent entities.
Dowry is the greatest crime against women. 'Are our daughters and sisters for sale? Women are virtually sold into the marriage market. Huge dowries are still demanded even when the girl can supplement the man's income. In such a milieu, a woman enjoys no rights because she is a woman. Rape is a weapon to subjugate women. The woman is safe nowhere. Justice prides herself on being blind to everything but the truth - yet as far as rape is concerned, the facts paint a different picture. In the Mathura Case. - The judgment did not distinguish between consent and forcible submission. Correspondingly the judgments in Bhanwari Devi and a few other cases were unjust and in favor of the accused. In a significant judgment of Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan, the Supreme Court laid down exhaustive guidelines for preventing sexual harassment of working women in their place of work until a legislation is enacted for this purpose.
Bias in the law: Negates effective implementation# As a whole, the process of law is biased against the victim. If the victim is a minor, the onus is on the accused to prove his innocence. But if the victim is a major, it is up to her to prove her charge.
# Also, in rape cases, unless the woman is examined medically within 24 hours, it becomes difficult forensically to prove that rape has occurred.
# The laws too are discriminatory in nature. According to Section 155 (4) of Indian Evidence Act, "When a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix (victim) was of generally immoral character."
# Section 54 of Indian Evidence Act says, "In criminal proceedings (including rape) the fact that the accused person has a bad character is irrelevant, unless evidence has been given (by him) that he has a good character, in which case it becomes relevant"
# Forced cohabitation, molestations and sexual harassment is the norm. Justice is rarely meted out to such victims who either do not lodge a complaint for the fear of a social stigma.
# Moreover the accused gets acquitted due to a poor prosecution, hostile witnesses and the like. In India the rate of conviction is about 2-3%.
Thousands of widows and elderly people are left to fend for themselves. Insensitivity, non- action and a lack of desire to come forward are responsible factors. 'Do we mean to say that are daughters, mothers, sisters have no rights'?
State as the violator of Human rightsAccording to Mr J.S Verma, the former Chairman of NHRC, a startling revelation is that " It is often the State which is the violator of human rights in maximum cases in the country". Paradox
The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org / Print This Article
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