Human Rights Commissions, both at the Centre and in the states, must have “independent rights” to execute their orders, former Chief Justice of India and Kerala Governor P Sathasivam said on Saturday. Sathasivam pitched for necessary amendments in the Protection of Human Rights Act in this regard citing the trend of state governments moving the courts against orders of the Commission.
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“The Commission, both the national and in the states, must have independent rights to execute its orders. While summoning, it acts like a civil court. But civil courts have powers to implement its orders or decrees,” Sathasivam said in address at the Human Rights Day event here.
Sathasivam referred to the Hyderabad High Court’s decision to stay the proceedings of the NHRC over the alleged encounter of red sander smugglers in Andhra Pradesh last year in buttressing his point.
In his address on the occassion, NHRC Chairperson H L Dattu had referred to the Commission’s proceedings on this matter as one of the highlights of the year.
Magsaysay Award winner Bezwadsa Wilson, who was the guest of honour at the event, expressed concern over “shrinking space to express feelings” and flayed the tendency to tag any dissenting voice as “anti-national”.
Wilson, who leads the Safai Karamchari Andolan, referred to the usage of pellets in Kashmir and people losing eyesights due to that, wondering “which way is the country heading”.
He also refererd to deaths of manual scavengers despite Supreme Court’s orders to the states to put an end to the discriminatory practice and spate of caste-based violence.
“People did not let me forget my caste. Lakhs continue to clean other people’s toilets. Over 1,000 people died over the last one year while doing this. Where is the dignity? We don’t even bother and claim from our privileged positions that caste has disappeared,” Wilson said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s message was also read out at the event.
“At a time of multiplying conflicts, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us of the importance of the freedom, justice and peace in the life of human beings. He said that people must stand up for others’ rights,” Moon’s message said.
Dattu expressed confidence that by incorporating human rights as a way of life, a fundamental change can be brought about in to eradicate the scourge of poverty, ignorance, prejudices, and discrimination based on sex, caste, religion, disability and other forms.