Seventeen years after it was set up,the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) is going to get a quiet burial soon. Thanks to the present governments lack of interest in revamping it and its move of setting up of human rights courts in each of the districts.
In fact,West Bengal was one of the first few states to set up a human rights commission just two years after the Centre had passed the Protection of Human Rights Act,1993 in January,1994.
The commission has become defunct. It will be allowed to die a natural death since we have assigned one judge in each of the district courts the job of trying cases of human rights violation. This system will be more effective since earlier the SHRC could only recommend punishments,but this time,since they are law courts,they will be able to award punishment to a violator, Moloy Ghatak,minister for law and judicial affairs,told The Indian Express.
In fact,last week the commission sought a registrar for its office but the state government turned it down saying it would be totally unnecessary. While,according to the statute,the Commission should have five members,including the chairperson,at present the commission has two members,including its chairman (acting) Narayan Chandra Sil. The other member is S N Roy.
According to a response furnished by the state Home Department to a RTI query by The Indian Express,the commission deals with about 583 cases. But in the absence of a full bench and full time chairperson,cases are piling up which need investigation and subsequent recommendation for action.
Sil has just about another year in office till he attains the age of 70.
The move by the state government attracted severe criticism from various sections of legal experts,including those who were supporters of the Trinamool Congress. Many of them are saying that its a move to downgrade a system of redressal of cases of human rights violations since the commission had the right to start investigation in a case suo moto. District courts do not have such power. A person will get justice only if he or she moves a court.
For example,just last week,the Commission sought a report from the government on the growing incidence of farmers deaths,a subject that even Governor M. K. Narayanan expressed concern on.
Somnath Chatterjee,the former Speaker of Lok Sabha,slammed the government on this issue. The commission could take initiative in investigating a case suo moto,but a district court does not have the powers. To get justice,you will have to move the court,which is not possible in many of the cases. The move is very unfortunate, he told The Indian Express over phone.
Former Speaker Hasim Abdul Halim was also critical of the governments move. This government is out to do away with so many institutions, he lamented.