Human Rights Issues

Sep, 15, 2018

Bengal scheme to combat human trafficking


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Swayangsiddha Initiative

Mains level: The Swayangsiddha is robust measure against Human Trafficking. Such an initiative can be implemented at pan India level.



  1. In an attempt to combat human trafficking, the West Bengal government has rolled out a scheme, Swayangsiddha, in its different districts.
  2. As the per the NCRB data West Bengal has highest recorded case of trafficking among the States.

Swayangsiddha Initiative

  1. Swayangsiddha, which means self-reliance, will be executed by the West Bengal Police.
  2. The scheme aims to empower young boys and girls to make informed choices so that they are less vulnerable to trafficking and child marriage.
  3. Swayangsiddha Groups have been formed in schools and colleges with interested students.
  4. These groups were formed with students between the age group of 12 to 21 years.
  5. Particulars of the Mission-
  • Raising awareness on human, gender and child rights and strengthening prevention of human trafficking and child marriage using a converging approach.
  • Engaging youth from different schools and colleges to combat human trafficking and child marriage
  • Strengthening response mechanism in collaboration with Police and child protection committees to build safe community
  • Strengthening access to schemes and entitlements on education, training, livelihood and food security for vulnerable groups.
Sep, 01, 2018

[op-ed snap] The crackdown on civil society


Mains Paper 2: Governnance | The role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups & associations, donors, charities, institutional & other stakeholders

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Need for civil society organizations in the flourishing of democracy


Recent incidents of authoritarian governance

  1. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the modern democratic state, armed with technologies of surveillance and control, possesses the kind of power that has never ever been exercised by any other state in history
  2. There is no one more vulnerable and more helpless than our rights-bearing citizen if the, otherwise, the democratic state decides to terrorise, kill and drill fear and trepidation in the mind of the body politic
  3. The only sphere that stands between the individual and the omnipresent and omnipotent state is civil society

The need for civil society organizations

  1. Civil society is a plural sphere, and all manners of associations find space for themselves here, from football clubs to reading groups to film fan societies
  2. Associations have the capacity to challenge the brute power of the state through petitions, protests, dharnas and ultimately judicial activism
  3. Given unresponsive political parties, citizens can access centres of power and privilege only through a vibrant civil society
  4. Civil liberty and human rights groups are an essential precondition for human well-being

Rise of civil society in India

  1. Every political revolution in the world has begun with the rights to life and liberty
  2. Some Indian citizens were randomly and arbitrarily imprisoned during the Emergency (1975-77) and the fundamental rights of others were truncated
  3. In the aftermath of the Emergency, the civil liberties movement made a dramatic appearance on to the scene of Indian politics
  4. The movement which developed into, or acted in concert with, the human rights movement took on an extremely significant task, that of protecting the fundamental right to life and liberty granted by the Indian Constitution

Role played by civil society

  1. Human rights groups have become the custodian of the Fundamental Rights chapter of the Indian Constitution
  2. They have investigated cases of arbitrary imprisonment, custodial deaths, deadly encounters and coercion of any citizen who dares to speak up against the state or dominant groups
  3. These organisations have carefully documented the causes and the triggers of communal and caste violence and established an excellent archive on the abuse of power by governments
  4. They have protected the rights of vulnerable sections of society i.e. Adivasis, the Dalits and Muslims

Are all civil society organizations good?

  1. Not all civil society groups are involved in good work
  2. Some are in the sole business of getting funds from the state or others
  3. Today there are few organisations that articulate the right not to be lynched, or who struggle for the right to life and liberty

Way Forward

  1. The well-known Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci, jailed by the Mussolini government in the 1920s, set out to answer a crucial question that ‘Why had a revolution occurred in semi-feudal Tsarist Russia, and not in the Western capitalist world as predicted by Marx?’
  2. He concluded that revolutions only happen when the government directly and unashamedly exercises brute power, as in Russia
  3. They do not happen in countries which possess civil societies, for here projects of domination and resistance can be played out
Aug, 24, 2018

[op-ed snap] Another step in the battle against leprosy


Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018

Mains level: Discrimination being faced by leprosy patients in the society & how inaction from the government’s end has helped in increasing its effect


Discrimination against leprosy patients

  1. Over 110 Central and State laws discriminate against leprosy patients
  2. The biased provisions in these statutes were introduced prior to medical advancements but now, modern medicine (specifically, multi-drug therapy) completely cures the disease
  3. These laws stigmatise and isolate leprosy patients and, coupled with age-old beliefs about leprosy, cause the patients untold suffering

Proposed changes

  1. The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, seeks to make a start in amending these statutes
  2. It attempts to end the discrimination against leprosy persons in various central laws: the Divorce Act, 1869; the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939; the Special Marriage Act, 1954; the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act of 1956
  3. The Bill eliminates leprosy as a ground for dissolution of marriage or divorce
  4. The Bill is meant to provide for the integration of leprosy patients into the mainstream

How the law took shape?

  1. The proposed law follows a National Human Rights Commission recommendation a decade ago to introduce amendments in personal laws and other statutes
  2. The Rajya Sabha Committee on Petitions, in its 131st Report on ‘Petition praying for integration and empowerment of leprosy-affected persons’, had examined various statutes and desired that concerned Ministries and State governments urgently wipe clean the anachronistic and discriminatory provisions in prevalent statutes
  3. The Law Commission of India, in its 256th Report, ‘Eliminating discrimination against persons affected by leprosy’, had also recommended removing the discriminatory provisions in various statutes against leprosy patients

In line with UN resolution

  1. This is in keeping with the UN General Assembly Resolution of 2010 on the ‘Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members’
  2. India has signed and ratified the Resolution
Aug, 13, 2018

[op-ed snap] Undoing a legacy of injustice


Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Various colonial era provisions still in force and need to remove them for better governance


Delhi HC strikes down the beggar act

  1. Last week, in a remarkable, landmark and long overdue judgment, the Delhi High Court struck it down as inconsistent with the Constitution
  2. In its judgment in Harsh Mander v. Union of India and Karnika Sawhney v. Union of India, Delhi HC held that the Begging Act violated Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution

Inhuman provisions of the Begging Act

  1. The Begging Act was passed in 1959 by the State of Bombay, and has continued to exist in as many as 20 States and two Union Territories
  2. Begging Act criminalises begging
  3. It gives the police the power to arrest individuals without a warrant
  4. It gives magistrates the power to commit them to a “certified institution” (read: a detention centre) for up to three years on the commission of the first “offence”, and up to 10 years upon the second “offence”
  5. It strips the people of their privacy and dignity by compelling them to allow themselves to be fingerprinted
  6. The Act also authorises the detention of people “dependent” upon the “beggar” (read: family), and the separation of children over the age of five
  7. Certified institutions have absolute power over detainees, including the power of punishment, and the power to exact “manual work”
  8. Disobeying the rules of the institution can land an individual in jail

Less help and more harassment

  1. From its first word to the last, the Begging Act reflects a vicious logic
  2. There is the definition of “begging” which has a pointed reference to “singing, dancing, fortune telling, performing or offering any article for sale”
  3. This makes it clear that the purpose of the Act is not simply to criminalise the act of begging (as commonly understood), but to target groups and communities whose itinerant patterns of life do not fit within mainstream stereotypes of the sedentary, law-abiding citizen with a settled job
  4. The reference to “no visible means of subsistence and wandering about” punishes people for the crime of looking poor
  5. These vague definitions not only give unchecked power to the police to harass citizens but they also reveal the prejudices underlying the law

Transforamtive Constitution

  1. The Delhi High Court order striking down the Begging Act heeds the Constitution’s transformative nature
  2. It marks a crucial step forward in dismantling one of the most vicious and enduring legacies of colonialism
  3. A judgment delivered by the same court more than nine years ago, decriminalised homosexuality (Naz Foundation v. NCT of Delhi)
  4. Both Naz Foundation and Harsh Mander recognise that our Constitution is a transformative Constitution, which seeks to undo legacies of injustice and lift up all individuals and communities to the plane of equal citizenship

Way Forward

  1. It is important to remember one thing: a court can strike down an unconstitutional law, but it cannot reform society
  2. Poverty is a systemic and structural problem
  3. It is now the task of the Legislative Assembly and the government to replace the punitive structure of the (now defunct) Begging Act with a new set of measures that genuinely focusses on the rehabilitation and integration of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our society
Aug, 10, 2018

[op-ed snap] The anti-trafficking Bill is necessary


Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Slavery Index

Mains level: Various laws against trafficking and their effectiveness in curbing it


Human trafficking in India

  1. According to the Global Slavery Index, India has more than seven million victims of modern slavery
  2. It is an alarmingly high number, even for a large country like India

Why increase in trafficking?

  1. The cases of trafficking that enter the criminal justice system are just the tip of the iceberg
  2. The number of victims is increasing each year, while the conviction rate of perpetrators continues to be abysmally low
  3. Traffickers are not scared of being penalized for the brutality and violence they subject their victims to
  4. The natural outcome of all this is that trafficking is one of the lowest risk crimes, not just in India, but all over the world

India’s steps towards curbing trafficking

  1. The Lok Sabha has recently passed a new Bill for countering human trafficking
  2. Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code defines trafficking and penalizes offenders
  3. There exists the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1956, which deals with cases of sex trafficking, and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, which deals with offences of forced labour

Problems with current provisions

  1. Except for certain provisions of the ITPA, no law has provided any relief or rehabilitation to the victims of the offence
  2. With no witness/victim protection mechanism and no rehabilitation schemes, prosecutions suffer for lack of evidence
  3. This handicaps the criminal justice system’s efforts to secure convictions

Changes in the new bill

  1. The new Bill has been drafted with a victim-centric approach
  2. The new law focuses solely on the trafficked persons
  3. The focus is on the protection and rehabilitation of the victims
  4. It does not encourage the institutionalization of victims. Rather, it encourages reintegration, with provisions to ensure the protection of vulnerable survivors and that they are not re-trafficked
  5. The new Bill has a robust framework in place to ensure the human agency of trafficking survivors is not snatched away; their dignity has been given prime importance
  6. The Bill also calls for the creation of specialized units within the criminal justice system
  7. This is a proven method worldwide when it comes to increasing the efficiency of efforts to combat crimes like human trafficking

Socioeconomic causes behind crimes

  1. Most crimes have their roots in socioeconomic problems
  2. Poverty and unemployment make people vulnerable to being trafficked

Way forward

  1. Human trafficking is an extremely serious offence
  2. Its enormity calls for a stringent mechanism to counter it
  3. New Anti-trafficking law is not a perfect law, but it certainly is a better law than before
Jul, 25, 2018

[op-ed snap] Anti-trafficking Bill may lead to censorship

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of the vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Section 36 and 39, Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability.

Mains level: The newscard discusses major issues with errors in draft Anti-Trafficking Bill.



  1. The govt introduced the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, in the Lok Sabha.
  2. The intention of the Union government is to “make India a leader among South Asian countries to combat trafficking” through the passage of this Bill.
  3. Good intentions aside, there are a few problematic provisions in the proposed legislation, which may severely impact freedom of expression.

Drafting error

  1. It proposes a minimum three-year sentence for producing, publishing, broadcasting or distributing any type of material that promotes trafficking or exploitation
  2. A/c to Section 36 “any propaganda material that promotes trafficking of person or exploitation of a trafficked person in any manner” has wide amplitude as Bill does not define what constitutes “promotion”.
  3. For example, in moralistic eyes, any sexual content online could be seen as promoting prurient interests, and thus also promoting trafficking.

Fouled Censorship experiments of the past

  1. In June 2016, the Union government banned 240 escort sites for obscenity even though it cannot do that under Section 69A or Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, or Section 8 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
  2. In July 2015, the government asked internet service providers (ISPs) to block 857 pornography websites sites on grounds of outraging “morality” and “decency”, but later rescinded the order after widespread criticism.
  3. If historical record is any indication, Section 36 in this present Bill will legitimize such acts of censorship.

The excessive scope of the bill

  1. Section 39 proposes a weaker standard for criminal acts by proposing that any act of publishing or advertising “which may lead to the trafficking of a person shall be punished” (emphasis added) with imprisonment for 5-10 years.
  2. In effect, the provision mandates punishment for vaguely defined actions that may not actually be connected to the trafficking of a person at all.
  3. The excessive scope of this provision is prone to severe abuse since, without any burden of showing a causal connection, it could be argued that anything “may lead” to the trafficking of a person.

Another scope of ambiguity

  1. Another by-product of passing the proposed legislation would be a dramatic shift in India’s landscape of intermediary liability laws, i.e., rules which determine the liability of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and messaging services like WhatsApp for hosting or distributing unlawful content.
  2. Provisions in the Bill that criminalize the “publication” and “distribution” of content, ignore that modern electronic communication requires third-party intermediaries to store and distribute content.
  3. Under the proposed legislation, the fact that human traffickers used WhatsApp to communicate about their activities could be used to hold the messaging service criminally liable.

Comparing the bill with global standards

  1. The Bill is in direct conflict with the internationally recognized Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability.
  2. It is also in dissonance with existing principles of Indian law, flowing from the Information Technology Act, 2000, that identify online platforms as “safe harbours” as long as they act as mere conduits.
  3. From the perspective of intermediaries, monitoring content is unfeasible, and sometimes technologically impossible as in the case of Whatsapp, which facilitates end-to-end encrypted messaging.

Way forward

  1. The proposed changes will invariably lead to a chilling effect on speech on online platforms.
  2. Considering these problematic provisions, it will be a wise move to send the Bill to a select committee in Parliament.
  3. The relevant stakeholders can engage with the lawmakers to arrive at a revised Bill, hopefully, one which prevents human trafficking without threatening the Constitutional right of free speech.
Jul, 19, 2018

[op-ed snap] The mob that hates


Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Salient features of Indian Society

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Rise in lynching incidents across India and reasons behind them


SC directive on anti-lynching law

  1. The court has asked Parliament to consider passing a special law on lynching
  2. As the grim threat of lynching casts a terrifying shadow over large swathes of the country, directions from India’s Supreme Court to all governments to take steps to prevent what it described as “horrendous acts of mobocracy” can only be welcomed
  3. This is essential to protect citizens and ensure that the “pluralistic social fabric” of the country holds against mob violence

Lynching as a crime in India

  1. Lynching is not officially a crime in India
  2. But if state administrations choose to clamp down, the Indian Penal Code already punishes all the criminalities perpetrated by lynch mobs
  3. Section 223(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure also enables a group of people involved in the same offence to be tried together

Defining lynching

  1. Lynching is not just “mobocracy”; it is a collective hate crime
  2. Lynching may be sparked variously by disputes over allegations of cow smuggling or slaughter, or wild rumours of cattle theft or child kidnapping, or something even as trivial as a seat in an unreserved train compartment
  3. Whatever the ostensible trigger, murderous mobs gather to lynch people of hated identities with gratuitous cruelty

Minorities & disabled are easy targets

  1. IndiaSpend found that 86 per cent of persons killed in cow-related lynching were Muslim, and 8 per cent Dalit
  2. The recent spate of mob killings on rumours of child kidnapping target strangers and mentally challenged persons

Reasons for rise in lynchings

  1. These hate crimes flourish most of all because of the enabling climate for hate speech and violence which is fostered and legitimised from above
  2. This frees people to act out their prejudices, and the impunity assured by state administrations to the perpetrators
  3. Senior ministers and elected representatives frequently come out in open defence of the attackers, charging the victims with provoking the attacks
  4. The members of the lynch mob in most incidents of lynching video-tape the act and upload the videotapes
  5. To record one’s crimes and display these on the social media reflects a brazen confidence that you will not be punished for your crime, and even if you are nabbed, you will be a hero for the ruling establishment

Role of police

  1. There is a recurring pattern in police action too. If present, even as the slaughter of innocents unfolds, they don’t act, pleading later that they were outnumbered
  2. In most cases, they come in too late to save lives, and very often they register crimes against the victims and drag their feet to charge and arrest the attackers
  3. After the lynching, police often tries to record the incident as a crime of cow smuggling, animal cruelty, rash driving and road rage
  4. In its investigations, the police never cordon off the site of the lynch attacks: Even hours after the crime, people walk over the ground still splattered with blood or burned flesh
  5. This is not a shoddy investigation. It is deliberate (and criminal) destruction of evidence which could have been used against the killers
  6. The police in almost every case, instead, registers crimes against the victims

Just a moral failure?

  1. For people in political authority, uniform and magistrates to take sides in hate battles is a profound crime against humanity
  2. Yet this still is recognised at best as a moral failure, not a punishable crime

Way forward

  1. If there is any new law we need to prevent the spread like an epidemic of this new scourge of targeted hate crime, of lynch mobs, it requires only one law, and this is the creation of a crime of dereliction of duty and communal partisanship by public officials
  2. The challenge, ultimately, is not of law, but of our collective morality and our collective humanity
Jul, 18, 2018

President clears Assam Bill against witch-hunt


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mission Birubala

Mains level: Curbing atrocities in the name of superstitious witchcraft hunting.


Mission Birubala

  1. President Kovind has given his assent to the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015 against witch-hunting that the Assam Assembly passed three years ago.
  2. Birubala Rabha has been campaigning against witch-hunting after a quack almost killed her son in 1996.
  3. She stood her ground despite the threat of excommunication by the local shaman and went on to rescue over 50 women from being branded as witches before launching Mission Birubala against the menace.

Provisions of the Bill

  1. The legislation has made every offence a cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.
  2. The Act prescribes a prison term of up to seven years and up to ₹5 lakh in fine for calling a person witch.
  3. It also has provisions to come with Section 302 of the IPC (punishment for murder) if someone is killed after being branded a witch.
  4. The punishment for leading a person to suicide may be extended to life imprisonment and up to ₹5 lakh in fine.
Jul, 14, 2018

Coming home to jail: on the Repatriation of Prisoners Act, 2003


Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963, UN Model Agreement on the Transfer of Foreign Prisoners and Recommendations on the Treatment of Foreign Prisoners 1985, Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad, Council of Europe’s Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Repatriation of Prisoners Act 2003

Mains level: Repatriation status of Indian nationals in various countries and mechanism available for it


Problems faced in the repatriation of Indian nationals

  1. Two cases of repatriation of Indian nationals, the first being 52-year-old Ismail Samma of Gujarat, and the second, of a sick 21-year-old, Jetendaera Arjanwara of Madhya Pradesh, highlights the tribulations of being imprisoned in a foreign prison
  2. Ismail’s imprisonment in Karachi, Pakistan, came to light last January after being given up for dead for nine years by his family
  3. Jetendaera’s case became known in May after five years of detention
  4. Both men had accidentally crossed the border with Pakistan and were sentenced for illegal entry
  5. They were detained well past their terms as a result of delayed consular attention and nationality verification

Global conventions related to repatriation

  1. The right to return to one’s home country is assured under Article 12(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  2. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963, provides for information to consulate, consular protection and consultation upon arrest, detention and during trial in a foreign country including entitlement to travel documents
  3. Similarly, the UN Model Agreement on the Transfer of Foreign Prisoners and Recommendations on the Treatment of Foreign Prisoners 1985, lays emphasis on the social rehabilitation of foreign prisoners through early repatriation to their home countries to serve their remaining sentence
  4. The legacy of transfer of sentenced prisoners lies in the post-war humanitarian exchange of prisoners of war and in two UN Conventions of 2004 (against transnational organised crime and against corruption) which have laid emphasis on the issue of inter-country transfer of prisoners
  5. Both anticipate, under Articles 17 and 45, respectively, that state parties may consider entering into bilateral or multilateral agreements for transfer to their territory of persons sentenced to imprisonment or other forms of deprivation of liberty for completion of their sentences

Repatriation of Prisoners Act

  1. In consonance with these international humanitarian commitments, most countries have legislated on a Repatriation of Prisoners Act
  2. The transfer framework under the Act is premised on the principles that an offence committed abroad is also an offence in the home country and the sentence implemented upon transfer shall not be aggravated
  3. India legislated its Repatriation of Prisoners Act in 2003, which came into force on January 1, 2004
  4. The first part deals with the transfer of sentenced foreign national prisoners from India, while the second deals with the transfer of sentenced Indian nationals into India
  5. It explains the eligibility for transfer, the transfer process and obligations upon the transferring and receiving states with regard to consent, communication and custody of a prisoner
  6. Every sentenced foreign prisoner in an Indian prison and every Indian national in a prison abroad is technically eligible for repatriation to a prison in their home country under these conditions:
  • they are willing
  • have no pending appeals
  • the offence is not an offence under military law
  • the sentence is not a death sentence
  • they have at least six months of their sentence still left to serve, and
  • their transfer has the consent of both treaty countries

Importance of act for India

  1. The Act is significant for India which sees considerable outflow and inflow annually by blue- and white-collar workers, fishermen, students, stateless persons and other groups
  2. Several come into conflict with the law
  3. More than 2,095 Indian nationals (2017) were known to be sentenced abroad
  4. They would be eligible for repatriation subject to nationality verification

Implementation by India

  1. India has taken steps for reciprocal transfers under the Act
  2. It has developed a Standard Draft Agreement and signed 30 bilateral transfer agreements
  3. It also entered into transfer arrangements with signatories of the Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad and the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons

Status of repatriation

  1. Between 2003 and March 2018, only 63 of 171 prisoner applicants abroad have been transferred to India

Way Forward

  1. Effecting transfers under the Repatriation of Prisoners Act presents a win-win situation for India as it need not spend unduly on the housing of foreign national prisoners
  2. It can also save the cost of providing consular services abroad by bringing back Indian prisoners
  3. It can simultaneously satisfy the public expectation of bringing nationals home and the meeting of international humanitarian commitments
Jul, 11, 2018

[op-ed snap] Rhetoric and reality: on the UNHRC and human rights


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nations Human Rights Council

Mains level: Impact of tampered  and biased HR violation reports on India


Should India withdraw from UNHRC?

  1. The withdrawal of the U.S. from the UNHRC in June this year sent shock waves through the international community, foreign-policy think-tanks and human rights non-governmental organisations.
  2. However, some feel this was the right decision and are now advocating withdrawal by other countries; this includes those in India.
  3. The main criticism against it is that it is made up of states not known for their human rights records; that many are in fact egregious violators of human rights. C
  4. Current members include Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom — a few of the 47 states elected by the General Assembly, based on geographic quotas.

All states under scrutiny

  1. The ‘Universal Periodic Review’ process, where all states are scrutinised, is currently in its third cycle (2017-2021).
  2. No state is exempt from this process, including Security Council members.
  3. Politics is unavoidable, with states using the opportunity to highlight the records of other states.

Problem of monitoring

  1. An overly simplistic reading of the HRC paints this as purely partisan theatre, which is not the entire picture.
  2. What gets lost in all the rhetoric regarding the HRC is the actual track record — the overt manner in which a human rights agenda and the evolution of human rights norms are facilitated.
  3. Resolutions adopted have highlighted egregious violations despite efforts to the contrary by some members of the HRC such as Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and North Korea.

But it is still important

  1. Subject areas that have been the source of much controversy have been addressed at the HRC, including LGBTIQ rights and discrimination on the basis of religion.
  2. The HRC is also a forum to monitor international obligations of a state based on international law that states themselves have undertaken.

UNHRC is different from United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

  1. It is also worth pointing out that the role of the Office of the OHCHR is often confused with the HRC.
  2. It is a separate institution which presents reports independent of the HRC, the recent report on Kashmir being an example (which has turned out to be tampered on facts).
  3. Hence, there are multiple strands in the monitoring functions of human rights by UN institutions, one of which is the HRC. In the promotion of human rights, all these play a critical role.

US withdrawal is a foul cry

  1. The factor that precipitated US withdrawal is the alleged targeting of Israel by the HRC.
  2. Discussions and reform proposals are already in the works, with engagement by states and human rights organisations indicating a consensus building approach.
  3. However, while committing to reform, the impatience of the current U.S. administration and its disdain for multilateralism has resulted in the impetuous decision to withdraw.
  4. By ceding a role at the HRC, a state reduces its ability to influence the agenda, and if it is so inclined, a genuine engagement in the monitoring of human rights.

Way Forward

  1. Withdrawal is not a feasible option.
  2. Not just states but also individuals who are in need of a more robust defence of their rights stand to lose much.
  3. It is worth instead contemplating the need to reduce rhetoric and, rather, increase substantive engagement with issues concerning the rights of individuals.


United Nations Human Rights Commission

  1. The UNHRC was established in 2006, as part of the UN’s reform process, replacing the Commission on Human Rights.
  2. Council members are elected by the General Assembly with three-year terms, with a maximum of two consecutive terms.
  3. The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland
  4. The members of the General Assembly elect the members who occupy the UNHRC’s 47 seats. The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms
  5. The General Assembly can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership
  6. The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities
Jul, 05, 2018

[pib] National Commission for Safai Karamcharis


Mains Paper 2: Indian Polity | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NCSK

Mains level: Welfare of Safai Karmacharis


  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the creation of one post each of Vice-Chairperson and Member in the National Commission for Safai Karmacharis.
  2. The decision is intended to optimize the functioning of the Commission and for fulfilling desired objectives of welfare and development of the target group.

National Commission for Safai Karmacharis (NCSK)

  1. The NCSK is a statutory body that looks into matters concerning the Safai Karamcharis’ welfare and makes recommendations to the government.
  2. For the first time, NCSK was constituted as a statutory body under the NCSK ACT, 1993.
  3. This commission continued till February 2004, when the relevant Act expired. Thereafter, the tenure of the commission has been extended from time to time, as a non-statutory body, the last such extension being up to 31 March 2016.
  4. It is working for the welfare of both Safai Karamcharis and Manual Scavengers.
  5. It is mandated to work towards the elimination of inequalities in status facilities and opportunities for Safai Karamcharis and has an important role to ensure rehabilitation of all the identified manual scavengers on a time-bound basis.
  6. Under Section 31 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, the Commission is to perform functions namely:
  • To monitor the implementation of the Act;
  • To inquire into complaints regarding contravention of provisions of the Act; and
  • To advice Central and State Governments for effective implementation of the Act.
Jun, 21, 2018

U.S. pulls out of United Nations Human Rights Council


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nations Human Rights Council

Mains level: Impact of ‘America First’ policy on various international institutions and their members


Another US withdrawal

  1. The United States has announced that it was leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council
  2. It was the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution
  3. The move extends a broader Trump administration pattern of stepping back from international agreements and forums under the president’s “America First” policy

Reason given for withdrawal

  1. There has been longstanding U.S. complaint that the 47-member council is biased against Israel
  2. The U.S. is Israel’s biggest defender at other U.N. organizations

Special mention of Israel at UNHRC

  1. Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for discussion at every council session, under “Item 7” on the agenda
  2. Item 7 on “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories” has been part of the council’s regular business almost as long as it has existed

Other major withdrawals

  1. Since January 2017, U.S. has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, left the U.N. educational and cultural organization and pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal

Ripple effects on China

  1. At the rights council, the United States has recently been the most unabashed critic of rights abuses in China


United Nations Human Rights Council

  1. UNHRC is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world
  2. The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis
  3. The UNHRC was established by the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006
  4. The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland
  5. The members of the General Assembly elect the members who occupy the UNHRC’s 47 seats. The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms
  6. The General Assembly can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership
  7. The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities
Mar, 28, 2018

Khaps cannot interfere in marriage of consenting adults, rules Supreme Court


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Fundamental right, Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, The Prohibition of Interference with Freedom of Matrimonial Alliance Bill

Mains level: Various social stigmas prevalent in India and how to reduce them


No interference permitted in consented marriages

  1. The Supreme Court has ruled that interference, harm or insult caused to consenting adults who fall in love and choose to marry is absolutely illegal
  2. The court said the fundamental right of two people who wish to get married to each other and live peacefully is absolute
  3. With this judgment, the court has filled the vacuum caused by the lack of a specific penal law against honour killings

Argument in favor of khap panchayats

  1. The objection of khaps about marriages between people from the same gotra is upheld in Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955
  2. The section said the “sapinda should be removed by five degrees from the father’s side and by three degrees from the mother’s side”

Proposed law against honour killing

  1. The Prohibition of Interference with Freedom of Matrimonial Alliance Bill — is still under circulation among the States
  2. The Centre recommended that the State governments should take responsibility for the lives of couples who fear retaliation
  3. They should be housed in special protection homes, away from danger
  4. The government said special cells should be formed in every district to receive complaints from couples who feared for their lives
Mar, 01, 2018

Draft Bill on human trafficking in, NIA to be nodal agency


Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, National Investigation Agency (NIA), Nirbhaya fund for safety of women

Mains level: Human trafficking in India and ways to stop it


Bill to stop human trafficking

  1. The Union Cabinet approved the draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018
  2. The proposed legislation addresses the issue of trafficking from the point of view of prevention, rescue and rehabilitation

Key Provisions 

  1. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) will act as the nodal authority for probing cases of human trafficking
  2. The bill also proposes a punishment of life imprisonment for repeat offenders
  3. Aggravated forms of trafficking, which includes trafficking for the purpose of forced labor, begging, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity would carry a jail term of seven to 10 years
  4. Trafficking of a woman or child for the purpose of marriage or under the pretext of marriage or after marriage would carry a punishment of at least 10 years in jail, which can be extended to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs 1 lakh
  5. The draft Bill also moots three years in jail for abetting, promoting and assisting trafficking

Relief measures

  1. The proposed legislation recommends a national anti-trafficking relief and rehabilitation committee which would be headed by Secretary, WCD Ministry
  2. The Bill provides for interim relief immediately to victims within 30 days to address their trauma and further appropriate relief within 60 days from the date of filing of chargesheet
  3. The NIA will receive financial aid under Nirbhaya fund for safety of women in order to set up a cell for investigating human trafficking


National Investigation Agency (NIA)

  1. National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a central agency established by the Indian Government to combat terror in India
  2. It acts as the Central Counter-Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency
  3. The agency is empowered to deal with terror-related crimes across states without special permission from the states
  4. The Agency came into existence with the enactment of the National Investigation Agency Act 2008 by the Parliament of India on 31 December 2008
  5. The Agency has been empowered to conduct investigation and prosecution of offenses under the Acts specified in the Schedule of the NIA Act
  6. Officers of the NIA who are drawn from the Indian Revenue Service, Indian Police Service, state police, Income Tax as well as officers from the Central Armed Police Forces, have all powers, privileges and liabilities which the police officers have in connection with investigation of any offense
  7. Various Special Courts have been notified by the Central Government of India for trial of the cases registered at various police stations of NIA under Section 11 and 22 of the NIA Act 2008
  8. The NIA Special Courts are empowered with all powers of the court of sessions under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for trial of any offense
Feb, 27, 2018

SC seeks details on over-crowded prisons


Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Legal Services Authority, Under Trial Review Committees (UTRCs)

Mains level: Human rights of convicts and deteriorating conditions of prisons


Over occupancy in prisons

  1. The Supreme Court has asked the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to provide details and figures of prisons where the occupancy rate is over 150% as on December 31, 2017
  2. SC has also asked to provide the number of posts lying vacant in major prisons across the country
  3. The top court is hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country

Procedure related to UTRCs

  1. SC agreed to hear issues related to standard operating procedure for Under Trial Review Committees (UTRCs) and the possibility of open jails
  2. The UTRCs, set up in every district, deliberates and recommends the release of undertrial prisoners and convicts who have completed their sentences or are entitled to be released from jail due to bail or remission granted to them
  3. Semi-open prisons or open prisons allow convicts to work outside the jail premises and earn a livelihood and return in the evening

SC support to open prisons

  1. On September 15, last year, a Supreme Court judgment had encouraged the need for open prisons
  2. It had urged for steps like the appointment of counsellors and support persons for prisoners, particularly first-time offenders
  3. The apex court had suggested steps like more family visits for prisoners and use of phones and video-conferencing not only between a prisoner and family but also his lawyers
Feb, 13, 2018

[op-ed snap] Rethinking trafficking

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, ‘Global estimates of modern slavery: forced labour and forced marriage’, wtc.

Mains level: The newscard discusses some issues related to the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016.


‘Global estimates of modern slavery: forced labour and forced marriage’

  1. It was a collaborative effort of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Walk Free Foundation, and the International Organisation for Migration
  2. It did not name countries, but the writing on the wall was clear as 17,000 interviews had been conducted in India, and 61.78% of the “modern slaves” were in Asia and the Pacific
  3. India protested against the release of a report

Complex structure of anti-trafficking laws in India

  1. It ranges from the Indian Penal Code and the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1986, to social welfare legislation on contract and bonded labour, and inter-state migrant work
  2. While criminal laws like the ITPA target ‘bad men’ traffickers, labour laws presume endemic exploitation in labour markets
  3. In India, a combination of penal, labour and contract laws are used to impose obligations for better working conditions
  4. Unfortunately, as the topic of trafficking gained international prominence, the government understood trafficking to be equivalent to sex trafficking and sex work

Issues with the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016

  1. The current definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the IPC is not limited to sex work; yet, the Trafficking Bill is patently neoabolitionist
  2. It pursues the classic raid-rescue-rehabilitation model, with stringent penalties for trafficking
  3. It creates a plethora of new institutions with unclear roles, capacious powers (including for surveillance) and no accountability
  4. There is no clarity on how the Bill relates to the ITPA and to labour laws

What should be done?

  1. Many scholars, activists and workers’ rights groups argued against extending a criminal law, raid-rescue-rehabilitation model beyond sex work to other labour sectors
  2. They called instead for
    (1) a multi-faceted legal and economic strategy;
    (2) robust implementation of labour laws; a universal social protection floor;
    (3) self-organisation of workers;
    (4) improved labour inspection,
    (5) including in the informal economy; and
    (6) corporate accountability for decent work conditions
  3. They also reiterated the need for systemic reforms to counter distress migration, end caste-based discrimination, enforce the rural employment guarantee legislation, avoid the indiscriminate rescue of voluntary sex workers, and protect migrants’ mobility and rights
  4. As the introduction of the Trafficking Bill in Parliament appears imminent, only a bold, holistic response to what is a socioeconomic problem of labour exploitation can help India realise SDG 8.7



  1. Neoabolitionist (or neo-abolitionist or new abolitionism) is a term used in historiography to characterize historians of race relations motivated by the spirit of racial equality typified by the abolitionists who fought to abolish slavery in the mid-19th century
  2. They write especially about African-American history, slavery, the American Civil War and the Reconstruction Era
  3. As abolitionists had worked in the 19th century to end slavery and provide equal rights under the US Constitution to blacks, the new activists worked to enforce constitutional rights for all citizens and restore equality under the law for African Americans, including suffrage and civil rights
  4. In the late 20th century some historians emphasized the worlds of African Americans in their own words, in their own communities, to recognize them as agents, not victims. Publishing in the mid-1960s and through the 20th century, a new generation of historians began to revise traditional accounts of slavery in the United States, reconstruction, racial segregation and Jim Crow laws
  5. Some major historians began to apply the term “neoabolitionist” to such historians, and some of this group identified as such.
Feb, 08, 2018

[op-ed snap] Khap menace: on interference in relationships between adults


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Rising cases of honour killings across India


SC observation on khap panchayats

  1. The Supreme court’s latest observations said that khap panchayats should not act as though they are conscience-keepers of society
  2. Also, that no one should interfere in relationships between adults
  3. This was said while it was hearing a writ petition seeking a ban on such community organisations and guidelines to put an end to “honour killings

Why do khap panchayats still prevail in modern society?

  1. The social milieu continues to be under the sway of the medieval-minded
  2. Parents and self-appointed guardians of social mores continue to use coercion and harassment, and even resort to murderous violence, as a means to enforce their exclusionary and feudal prejudices
  3. Families choose the penal consequences of violence over the perceived dishonour caused by an inter-religious relationship
  4. The popular narrative situates community pride as a source of unconscionable violence in rural India
  5. It is a reality in cities and among educated and presumably socially advanced sections too

Khap panchayats declared illegal

  1. In 2011, the highest court termed such khaps “kangaroo courts”, declared them illegal and wanted them stamped out ruthlessly
  2. The Law Commission in 2012 prepared a draft bill to prohibit interference in marriage alliances

Key provisions of draft bill

  1. Such informal groups would be treated as an ‘unlawful assembly’ 
  2. Decisions that amount to harassment, social boycott, discrimination or incitement to violence should be punishable with a minimum sentence

Way Forward

  1. Such views can only be eradicated with a change in social attitudes
  2. Legislative change with high-handed mediation or interference will help reduce such menace from society
Jan, 29, 2018

Acid attack victims to get quota in central govt jobs


Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, Intellectual disability

Mains level: Measures taken by government for disabled persons


Special quota for acid attack survivors

  1. People with autism, mental illnesses, intellectual disability and victims of acid attacks will now get quota in central government jobs
  2. In case of direct recruitment, four percent of the total number of vacancies, up from the existing three percent, in groups A, B and C shall be reserved for people with benchmark disabilities
  3. Benchmark disability means a person with not less than forty percent of a specified disability

New Reservation Quota

  1. One percent of each post shall be reserved for people with blindness and low vision; deaf and hard of hearing; locomotor disability including cerebral palsy, leprosy cured, dwarfism, acid attack victims and muscular dystrophy
  2. One percent posts each shall be also reserved for people suffering from autism, intellectual disability, specific learning disability and mental illness
  3. The move to enhance reservation quota for those with learning disability and acid attack victims comes after passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
  4. As per an earlier order of the DoPT, issued in 2005, three percent of the total posts were to be reserved for people with disabilities

Intellectual disability

  1. Intellectual disability is a condition characterised by significant limitations in intellectual functioning such as reasoning, learning and problem solving
  2. And in adaptive behaviour that covers a range of everyday skills

No adjustment in other quotas

  1. Provisions have been made to ensure that reservation for people with disabilities is not adjusted against the posts meant for those from Scheduled Caste and Other Backward Classes


Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

  1. The Act replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995
  2. It fulfils the obligations to the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory
  3. Additional benefits such as reservation in higher education (not less than 5%), government jobs (not less than 4 %), reservation in allocation of land, poverty alleviation schemes (5% allotment) etc. have been provided for persons with benchmark disabilities and those with high support needs
  4. Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education
  5. The Act provides for penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities and also violation of the provisions of the new law
  6. Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs
Jan, 19, 2018

[op-ed snap] The road from Tiruppur


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: POA Act 1989

Mains level: Legislations for protection of vulnerable groups and their implementation


Amendment to POA Act

  1. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2015 (POA Amend. Act) has begun to yield results
  2. The Act was enacted to comprehensively amend and strengthen the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 (POA Act 1989)

Provisions introduced via the amendment

  1. The act lays down a time limit of two months for completing trials
  2. Establish an exclusive special court
  3. Set up a high-powered “vigilance and monitoring committee”, with the chief minister as chairman and ministers of home, finance, and SC and ST departments, SC and ST MPs, MLAs and MLCs, senior bureaucrats, and local representatives of national commissions for SCs and STs as members
  4. This committee is required to meet every January and July and discharge functions listed in Rule 16
  5. The Act requires the two steps mentioned in points 2 and 3 to be taken by every state government

Recent judgment

  1. Tamil Nadu’s Tiruppur Principal District and Sessions Court has on December 12, 2017, convicted eight of the accused for the murder of V. Shankar, a B.Tech-educated Dalit youth, son of a labourer, as a punishment for the marriage between him and Kausalya, a non-Dalit, educated girl from a middle-class family
  2.  This case shows that the life of a young man with a promising career was snuffed out, the life of a young woman also with a promising career, blighted
  3.  This is an example of wholesale destruction caused by the caste system
  4. There have been a number of cases of the past where persons have been killed for Dalit and non-Dalit marriages and surviving wives and families are languishing

What should be done?

  1. Killings and other atrocities occur to the greatest extent in marriages between Dalits and non-Dalits
  2. This is a recent phenomenon, in addition to the atrocities on traditional grounds related to land, resistance to “untouchability”, etc.
  3. To cover such cases, it will be necessary to have a separate legislation with provisions for the effective protection, a deterrent death sentence, and total rehabilitation
  4. This is particularly important because inter-caste marriages are bound to take place and should become more frequent

Way forward

  1. The perils of the caste system, including its adverse consequences on the growth of employment opportunities for the youth of all communities, should be effectively impressed on the younger generation through the education system
Jan, 10, 2018

No viable alternative to hanging, Centre tells court

Image source


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization & functioning of the Executive & the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Lethal injections, Deena versus Union of India case, Bachan Singh case, Section 354 (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure

Mains level: Capital Punishment and issues related to it


SC seeks less painful means of execution

  1. The Centre told the Supreme Court that there is no viable method at present other than hanging to execute condemned prisoners
  2. Lethal injections are unworkable and often fail
  3. The government was responding to a query from the court on alternative modes of execution

SC view on hanging of convicts

  1. The court had previously said a condemned convict should die in peace and not in pain
  2. A human being is entitled to dignity even in death
  3. The court had asked the government to consider the “dynamic progress” made in modern science to adopt painless methods of causing death

Is death penalty unconstitutional?

  1. The court has already clarified that it is not questioning the constitutionality of death penalty
  2. It has been well-settled by the apex court, including in Deena versus Union of India and earlier in the Bachan Singh case reported in 1980
  3. Section 354 (5), which mandates death by hanging, of the Code of Criminal Procedure, has already been upheld

Lethal injections an alternative?

  1. Death by lethal injection is practised in the U.S., China, Thailand, Vietnam and few other countries
  2. The Law Commission of India had recommended lethal injection for death penalty
Jan, 08, 2018

[op-ed snap] Standing up for human rights

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Anti-torture law

Mains level: Complement this newscard with one(attached below) of our previous newcards on the same issue. The law is much needed in the current situation where there is a huge focus on Human Rights values.


India must hasten to bring in an anti-torture law

  1. This is because the torture of individuals in state custody remains a brazen human rights abuse that mocks our governance
  2. In our approach towards eliminating torture as an affront to human dignity, we have been caught between legislative apathy and judicial abdication
  3. The necessity to move the SC arose because even years after India became a signatory to the Convention Against Torture in 1997
  4. But we have not been able to ratify it or have in place a domestic legislation to effectuate the right to life with dignity read into Article 21 of the Constitution

Imperviousness of the SC

  1. Can’t force govt. to frame anti-torture law: SC
  2. And this is despite the 2010 recommendation of the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha supported by the National Human Rights Commission, the Law Commission of India and repeated assurances given on behalf of the Indian government at the UN Universal Periodic Review(in favor of the law)
  3. The court remained impervious to its own jurisprudence expounded in Puttaswamy and NALSA (2014)
  4. In the precedent the court said that “unless there is a manifest intent expressed to the contrary, domestic laws should be aligned with the international legal regime on the subject”
  5. It seemed legitimate to expect the highest constitutional court to inspire legislation that would vindicate the ethic of human rights as it has done so often in the past

How is it affecting India’s reputation?

  1.  Those facing criminal trials and extradition proceedings abroad including Abu Salem, Kim Davy, Jagtar Singh Johal and others have questioned the country’s investigative and criminal justice system
  2. in the absence of an effective and enforceable law against custodial torture

Government’s view on the law

  1. According to government’s representatives, it is seriously considering the October 2017 recommendation of the Law Commission in support of a standalone anti-torture law
  2. Parliamentarians who are privileged to represent the concerns of the people must keep faith and ensure the passage of a humanitarian law
Dec, 06, 2017

[op-ed snap] Stand up against torture

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The convention is related to Human Rights and it is a hot topic of discussion these days.


Background of the Convention Against Torture (CAT)

  1. CAT came into force in 1987 and India signed it in 1997
  2. Today, the CAT has 162 state parties; 83 are signatories
  3. In refusing to ratify the CAT, India is in the inglorious company of Angola, the Bahamas, Brunei, Gambia, Haiti, Palau, and Sudan

Delaying the ratification

  1. In 2011, desiring to be appointed on the HRC of the UN, India took the extraordinary step of voluntarily “pledging” to ratify the CAT
  2. In the 2012 review, once again countries overwhelmingly recommended that India “promptly” ratify the CAT
  3. Again this year, at the universal periodical review, India reiterated “its commitment to ratify the CAT”
  4. India has been making promises but doesn’t seem intent on keeping them

SC’s comment on alleged torture by the Police

  1. Torture cases have escalated in India
  2. The Supreme Court said it was “deeply disturbed by the diabolical recurrence of police torture”
  3. Also, it said that said that “torture is assuming alarming proportions… on account of the devilish devices adopted”

The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010

  1.  It was an excellent attempt by Parliament to draft new legislation
  2. Unlike Indian law, which focusses on murder and broken bones (grievous hurt), torture was expanded to include
    (i) food deprivation,
    (ii) forcible feeding,
    (iii) sleep deprivation,
    (iv) sound bombardment,
    (v) electric shocks,
    (vi) cigarette burning, and other forms
  3. The Indian police force uses these techniques
  4. The Select Committee noted that an overwhelming number of States and Union Territories were in favour of the Bill
  5. But Bill was allowed to lapse

PIL on the issue

  1. A petition was then filed in the Supreme Court in 2016, seeking a direction to the Union government to ratify the CAT
  2. Despite its numerous promises to the UN bodies, the government opposed the petition saying that the Law Commission of India was considering the issue

Undermining India’s Prestige

  1. In showing the world that India has no intention of combating the issues related to its own forces
  2. And of implementing its promises made to the UN, the government has undermined India’s prestige
  3. To be a world power, India must act like one
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