International Human Rights Day is celebrated on 10 December every year to commemorate the day in 1948 when the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) under its historical Resolution 217 (III).
The formal inception of the Human Rights Day dates from 1950 after the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed its Resolution 423 (V) inviting all States and interested organisations to adopt 10 December as the International Human Rights Day.
When the UNGA adopted UDHR with 48 States in favour and eight abstentions, it proclaimed a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations” towards which individuals and societies should “strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance”.
The rights to life, liberty, equality and dignity are the four corner pillars of human rights foundation upon which the multi-storied citadel of human rights philosophy and jurisprudence was structured. There are two basic tenets of Human Rights: universality and indivisibility and the essence of Human Rights is Humanism.
What then is humanism after all? Humanism is that unique mental quality of a human being which has many colours and shades that create the prismatic exposures of the divine projection of existence of humane disposition in every individual. If we, especially those having power, either political, judicial, police, military, administrative, money and social positions, practice humanism everywhere in scores of our daily social, professional and individual transactions and make it our lifestyle, then the question of violating others’ human rights or trampling the dignity of others would not arise at all.
“The object of Human Rights jurisprudence is to humanise the State Agencies and make the State accountable to the use of power only for public good. If this limitation on State’s power is separated from its institutions, what emerges is a mere form of show of compliance with the law, while the very opposite – its violation becomes the substance.” – observed the eminent jurist, Mr Justice MN Venkatachaliah.
The police force of a democratically governed country plays the most vital role, both directly and indirectly, in terms of protecting and promoting the very principles, norms and the implementation of the functioning of Human Rights in the society. A ‘right’ is a “Liberty of doing or possessing something for the infringement of which there is legal sanction” – says Wharton’s Law Lexicon. Again, according to the Law Lexicon of Venkataramaiya, a right is an interest, which is recognised and protected by law.
As it can be protected by law, the possessor can enforce its enjoyment by an appropriate action initiated in a Court of Law through the humane handling by police in intervention-worthy cases (though not investigating a non-cognizable or civil matter without the Order of the Court). In the case of Shanti Kumar R. Canji v Home Insurance Co., it was further clarified that “a right is an averment of entitlement arising out of legal rules”. As such, a legal right may be conferred as an advantage or benefit conferred upon a person by a rule of law.
The existence of Human Rights pre-supposes the elements of Natural Justice and the operations of the Rule of Law, where justice is the key to the domain of all humanity. In the words of Hon’ble Dr. Justice A.S. Anand, former CJI: “Rule of law sustains democracy but it would be under a serious threat of erosion if scant respect is shown for Human Rights. Human Rights are inherent in all human beings and find expression in Constitution and legal systems throughout the world and in the international human rights instruments. In most of the democratic societies, fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms are more than mere paper aspirations. They form part of the law. Article 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantees right to life and liberty denuded of its significant content unless the violation of Human Rights can be reasonably prevented and the citizens are assured that they live in a country governed by the Rule of Law. The challenge of violation of Human Rights faces mankind in its stark nakedness. The challenge is global, the concern universal and the issue is basic.”
The greatest uniqueness of Human Rights lies in the fact that it is not only a legally supported and fortified international and national social order, but also an individual way of better life on the earth, a key to ultimate happiness and deliverance. It is the best religion of man, both for believers and non-believers.
It is a much superior system of peace and progress in a world society depending on the superior functioning of good governance all over, and for achieving the goal of establishing good governance, Human Rights Jurisprudence is solely concerned with the task of humanizing governments. That is why in violations of human rights cases, the accused are the concerned Governments and the cases are in the form of prerogative writs and not a common Tom V. Harry case.
In the post-colonial era countries, as in India and the sub-continent, the police forces were kept under the same conditions of administration and governing laws and regulations and most dangerously under the same ruler’s mindset in a multiple-tiered system of policing. The police leadership across the length and breadth of the country is on the verge of crashing down under the unscrupulous and diabolical pressures of political hegemony. The incredible spread of the epidemic of corruption and the mental vacuum between the higher and lower echelons of police administration is ever increasing.
We adopted our Constitution in 1950 wherein the entire Part-III was dedicated to Fundamental Rights which are an integral part of the enforceable human rights and then again we have embraced the Protection of Human Rights Act in 1993. Still, the maximum number of complaints received by the State or National Human Rights Commissions are against the police, whereas human rights envisages human-rights minded police forces in the society.
Unfortunately, we have an abjectly third-grade police force, that somehow compellingly carries on the inhuman colonial legacies at the behest of a bizarre sub-cultural political system, where a person totally bereft of the minimum humane dispositions can become a political leader, minister and legislator.
The human rights principles rightly and loudly demand a humanely conscious missionary police force. As Swami Vivekananda cried out for only a hundred men to be called ‘real men’, a mere hundred properly human rights-minded and educated ‘real police men’ can change the contaminated political environment of the country into a breathable humane atmosphere.
The need, therefore, is for immediately implementable human-rights centric appropriate police reforms. It would of course be a path of greatly difficult detours but may not be an impossible mission.
While dealing with the issues of uplifting or violating the Human Rights by police, an inevitably cardinal question comes up – do police officers possess any human rights of their own for protecting them from the scourge of injustice within and without? Of course, police officers do have all the basic and peripheral human rights being members of human society, but with reasonable restrictions.
The vulnerable nature of the police job always exposes booby traps, at times quite dangerous and fatal, for a policemen. Being improperly trained and equipped his human rights are continuously violated in the guise of duty and discipline. This is an obscure zone of human rights that needs proper research-based study and reporting for ushering in justified humane work conditions.
The writer is a former Assistant Commissioner of Kolkata Police and a Human Rights Officer of the United Nations International Police Task Force, currently working as a Senior Visiting Faculty in Human Rights at the Central Detective Training Institute, Govt. of India.