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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
Outlook.com

Mind The Gap

A smorgasbord of rights violations is aided by the dysfunctionality of legislatures. Dispiritingly, the Supreme Court is unable to enforce its own enlightened judgments in favour of individual rights against the state.

Mind The Gap
Art: Jahnobi Das
Mind The Gap
outlookindia.com
2021-01-06T10:27:29+05:30

In his book The Age of Rights, Prof. Louis Henkin, a celebrated scholar of international law, had claimed that “human rights is the idea of our time, the only political–moral idea that has received universal acceptance”. Viewed in the light of several international treaties and democratic constitutions which recognise the inviolability of human rights, the claim is valid. But whether democracies across the world have, in fact, delivered on the promise of a world order founded on human rights is another matter. An objective analysis of the situation in our country regrettably belies the lofty claim.

The disquieting conclusion flows from a distressing institutional response to the egregious infraction of human rights, raising a profoundly important question about the functioning of our democratic institutions in the advancement of constitutional goals. Repeated abuse of several stringent laws with punitive consequences, including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, is predicated on a reversal of the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused, declared by the Supreme Court as a human right in itself (Bhramajeet Singh Sharma, 2005). Demonstrated arbitrariness in investigative processes and failure of the Indian state to enact a comprehensive anti-custodial torture law despite the nation’s unequivocal international treaty and constitutional commitments, question our willingness to civilise ourselves in the use of state power. Denial of basic human rights to undertrials, poignantly exemplified in the refusal of a sipper to an 83-year-old undertrial priest suffering from Parkinson’s disease and refusal of jail guards to allow an incarcerated public intellectual access to a pair of spectacles must shame the nation. This, despite Krishna Iyer J.’s binding edict in Sunil Batra as early as 1978, that...

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