Are there no rights violations in Union Territories, SC asks Centre

Taking a call:Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur said there was no need for an amendment.File Photo

Taking a call:Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur said there was no need for an amendment.File Photo

The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that Delhi cannot have a State Human Rights Commission as it is a Union Territory and not a State.

It said that Delhi has to continue without an SHRC until Parliament amends the law.

The Centre’s stand prompted a Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur to ask whether this government nurtured a fancy that Union Territories are “Utopian ideals” where no human rights violations ever takes place.

“Do you fancy that Union Territories are Utopian ideals where there are no human rights violations... do you expect people from other territories like Daman and Diu, Puducherry to come all the way to Delhi to fight their case before the National Human Rights Commission?” Chief Justice Thakur asked Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre.

Chief Justice Thakur said there was no need for an amendment in the laws to be made by Parliament to set up a human rights commission for Delhi. “We will give a legal interpretation to the existing laws if necessary,” the Chief Justice said.

The Centre was responding to the Supreme Court's direction to explain the delay in the establishment of an SHRC in the national Capital despite recommendation being sent by the Delhi government to the Lieutenant-Governor.

Appearing for Indu Prakash Singh, who had filed a contempt petition, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves said the Centre’s response hardly make sense as there are other Delhi-centric state commissions for child rights and women.

In July 2015, the Supreme Court, in a judgment, had pulled up the Delhi government for not setting up an SHRC for its citizens and ordered it to establish one in the next six months.

The judgment, also by Chief Justice Thakur's Bench, had said that the Delhi government was not bothered to set up an SHRC even 22 years after Parliament enacted the Protection of Human Rights Act in 1993.

It had said the inaction on the part of the Delhi government was despite the national Capital accounting for the second largest human rights violation cases, after Uttar Pradesh, with the National Human Rights Commission.

“NHRC Curtain Raiser published on its 20th Foundation Day shows that out of 94,985 fresh cases registered in the NHRC, the largest number of cases (46,187) came from Uttar Pradesh, followed by Delhi, which reported 7,988 cases and Haryana, which reported 6,921 cases,” Chief Justice Thakur, who authored the judgment, had observed.

The judgment was based on a series of petitions filed for protection of human rights against police custody, torture. The apex court had agreed that custodial torture violates basic human dignity and ordered the State governments to strictly comply with the legislative intention behind the 1993 Human Rights Act.

Other than Delhi, the Supreme Court had directed the governments of Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland to set up SHRCs within the next six months.

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Printable version | May 24, 2022 7:00:10 am |