The Concept of human rights is as old as the ancient concept of natural rights based on natural law. The expression “human rights” is of recent origin emanating from international charters and conventions especially in the Post Second World War.

But these rights had been recognized and respected by all religions in the ancient India.

It could be found that the Rig Veda cites three rights as basic human rights, namely, Body, Dwelling place and Life. The Maha Bharata speaks about the importance of freedoms of individuals in a state. It also sanctions revolt against the king who is oppressive and fails to perform his functions of protection.

In Manu Sanghita, Manu developed three notions of Civil, Legal and Economic rights. Buddhism and Jainism emphasized the principles of equality and non-violence.

Muslim rulers even formulated rules for the protection of women and children during war. Emperor Akbar took certain measures for the protection of the rights of the citizens. However, the first serious move was initiated by the U N General Assembly in December 1948 to protect human rights by adopting “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. The declaration reaffirms that all persons must be able to enjoy their basic fundamental rights in all situations – during peace time, during emergency and in the times of armed conflicts. But this declaration was operated merely as a statement of pious ideals, not legally binding since it had no mechanism for its enforcement. This short coming was sought to be removed by adopting two more international instruments in December 1966 e.g. (i) The international covenant on Civil and Political rights (ii) The international covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights. An additional protocol was adopted in the former cases. The first instrument specified legally enforceable rights of the individual and the second one was directed to the states to implement them by legislations.

It is heartening to note that the Constitution of India contains all these rights as fundamental rights in Part iii and the rest could be found in Part iv.

When India enacted different pieces of legislations and initiated effective measures against the violators to protect and preserve human rights of the individuals, some NGOs, notably the Amnesty International, a UK based NGO, started hue and cry against such legislations and measures.

Hence, in order to stop this canard and adverse criticism of these NGOs and the growing concern in the country and abroad about issues relating to human rights and the nature of crime and violence committed by persons, the Government of India had begun reviewing the efficacy of the existing laws, procedures and system of administration of justice.

With a view to bringing about greater accountability and transparency and devising efficient and effective methods of dealing with the violation of human rights, after wide ranging discussions at various fora such as Chief Ministers’ Conference on “Human Rights, Seminars organized in various parts of the country and meetings with leaders of various political parties, the Bill on the Protection of Human Rights was brought before Parliament. This bill has eventually seen the light of the day on 8th January 1994 in the shape of “The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

Welcome to West Bengal Human Rights Commission