It is states’ duty to set up human rights commissions, says SC

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) The Supreme Court has said that it was the statutory duty of the state governments to set up state human rights commissions as their absence makes access to justice by the victims of the human rights violation an “illusion”.

“The power of the state governments under Section 21 to set up state human rights commission in their respective areas/territories is not a power simpliciter but a power coupled with the duty to exercise such power,” said a bench of Justice T.S.Thakur and Justice R. Banumathi in their judgment on Friday.

“It is a matter of regret that despite the National Human Rights Commission itself strongly and repeatedly recommending setting up of state commissions, the same have not been set up,” said Justice Thakur pronouncing the judgment.

The court directed Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Arunchal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland to set up human rights commissions as it noted the Delhi had the second highest number of complaints of human rights violations lodged with the National Human Rights Commission.

The court also noted the submission by senior counsel and amicus curiae Abhishek Manu Sighvi in the matter that the NHRC’s report on its 20th foundation day said that of the 94,985 fresh cases registered before it, the largest number – 46,187 – came from Uttar Pradesh followed by 7,988 from Delhi and 6,921 from Haryana.

“So also, it is not the case of the northeastern states where such commissions have not been set up that there are no violations of human rights in those states.

“The fact that most if not all the states are affected by ethnic and other violence and extremist activities calling for curbs affecting the people living in those areas resulting, at times, in the violation of their rights cannot be disputed,” the court said emphasizing the need for setting SHRCs in northeastern states.

“Such occurrence of violence and the state of affairs prevailing in most of the states cannot support the contention that no such commissions are required in those states as there are no human rights violations of any kind whatsoever,” the judgment said.

It brushed aside the plea of financial constraints in setting up the SHRCs saying “there is no real basis for the contention that financial constraints prevent these states from setting up their own commissions”.

The court’s directions on a PIL by Calcutta High Court’s former judge, Justice D.K.Basu seeking direction to prevent the violation of human rights. The court in a slew of directions has directed installing of CCTV cameras in prisons, setting of special human rights courts, positing of atleast two woman officers at every police stations and others.

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