Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission issued notice to the Chief Secretary, Director General of Police and the Director-General of Prisons, Madhya Pradesh after taking suo motu cognizance about the allegations made by women on five cops for gang rape in lockup.

It is mentioned in the news report that a 20-year-old woman has levelled allegations that she was kept in lock-up for 10 days in the month of May this year and was subjected to rape by 5 police personnel including the Police Station Incharge and SDPO of Mangawan area of Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh. The woman, as mentioned in the news report, was an accused in a case of murder and presently she is lodged in judicial custody. The incident occurred in the month of May and it came to the knowledge of the District Judge after a period of five months. Even the prison warden did not have the courage to report the matter to the higher authorities.

It is further added that as alleged by the victim woman, she was subjected to rape between 09-05-2020 to 21-05-2020 while the police contradict, to be arrested on 21-05-2020. The female constable had protested at that time but she was rebuked by her seniors.

The Commission considered the vulnerable position of the victim. She was in police custody when she was allegedly subjected to utmost cruelty and sexual assault by the 5 police personnel. Even a protest made by a female police official went in vain. Very serious allegations have been levelled by the victim woman. Public servants from the law enforcement agencies, who are supposed to safeguard the citizens especially the women and the people from the vulnerable classes of the society have allegedly committed the heinous crime against a woman in their custody.

The Commission directs that the matter may be investigated by a senior police officer, not below the rank of the Deputy Inspector General of Police.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 19-10-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), viewing the unprecedented situation across the country and being deeply concerned about the rights of the vulnerable and marginalised sections of the society affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdowns, constituted a ‘Committee of Experts on Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Human Rights and Future Response’.

The Committee, included representatives from the civil society organizations, independent domain experts, and the representatives from the concerned ministries/ departments, and was tasked to assess the impact of the pandemic on realization of the rights of the people, especially the marginalised / vulnerable sections of the population which have been disproportionately impacted.

After due consideration of the impact assessment and recommendations made by the Committee of Experts, the Commission has now issued the ‘Human Rights Advisory for Protection of the Rights of LGBTQI+ community in the context of COVID-19 pandemic’, available on https://nhrc.nic.in/sites/default/files/Advisory_for_the_Protection_of_the_Rights_of_LGBTQI%2B_Community_0.pdf

The Commission has also requested to concerned Union Ministry and all States/UTs for implementation of the recommendations contained in the advisory and compliance the action taken report to the Commission.


NHRC 

Press Release dt. 19-10-2020

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), India viewing the unprecedented situation across the country and being deeply concerned about the rights of the vulnerable and marginalised sections of the society affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdowns, constituted a ‘Committee of Experts on Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Human Rights and Future Response’.

The Committee included representatives from the civil society organizations, independent domain experts, and the representatives from the concerned Ministries/ Departments, and was tasked to assess the impact of the pandemic on realization of the rights of the people, especially the marginalised / vulnerable sections of the population which have been disproportionately impacted.

After due consideration of the impact assessment and recommendations made by the Committee of Experts, the Commission issued the advisories on following human rights issues:

1. Human Rights Advisory on Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic: Human Rights of the Prisoners & Police Personnel and Future Response.

2. Human Rights Advisory on Human Rights of Informal Workers during COVID-19.

3. Human Rights Advisory on Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic: Businesses & Human Rights and Future Response.

The Commission has also requested to concerned Ministries/States/UTs to implement the recommendations made in the advisories and compliance with the action taken report to the Commission.


National Human Rights Commission

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: A Division Bench of N. Kirubakaran and P. Velmurugan, JJ., while addressing the present petition observed that, Court fails to ascertain how women consent to get married to life convicts.

The present petition was filed by the wife of the life convict who got married to him when he got married when he came out on parole. The petitioner sought leave for 30 days for her husband to make arrangements for the livelihood of her family members.

S.G. Vedha Priyadharshini, Counsel appeared for the Petitioner and R. Prathap Kumar, Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the Respondents.

Probation Officer in its report recommended 30 days’ leave to the convict which was sought by the petitioner.

Taking into consideration the above-stated report along with earlier orders of the Court, the bench is inclined to grant 30 days’ leave to the convict.

Accordingly, the life convict was directed to be released on 01-10-202 without a police escort and the Convict was directed to surrender before the prison authorities on 30-10-2020.

However, the petition was kept pending as the Court had impleaded National Commission for Women and the State Commission for Women to device a mechanism by which it is ascertained as to whether women are getting married to life convicts on their own accord or by force or coercion.

Hence, the Court raised the query:

“Whether the women marrying the life convicts are examined by the State Commission for Women or National Commission for Women to ascertain as to whether the willingness of the marriage or sign for the acceptance of the marriage has been obtained from the women?”

Bench noted that in many cases, women get married to the life convicts and this Court fails to find out as to how the consent of the women has been obtained. The rights of women have to be safeguarded. Usually, no girl will come forward to marry a life convict.

Nowadays, it is seen that it is difficult for a normal man to get married as modern girls are putting so many conditions for marriage. When that is so, it is unbelievable or surprising to see that a woman on her own volition giving consent to marry a convicted person for a life without husband’s companionship, love and care, which will amount to a violation of human rights.

National Commission for Women filed the response and the State Commission for Women’s response is still awaited. [Saibunisha v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 2733, decided on 30-09-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

The Commission took suo-motu cognizance of alleged suicide of 40 years old rape accused in police custody and directs issuance of notice to the Commissioner of Police, Delhi calling for a detailed report in the matter within two weeks. The Commission has noticed that this case of custodial death has not been reported by the authorities within 24 hours of its occurrence, the authorities are expected to explain the reasons.

All the reports, including the inquest and the post-mortem examination reports accompanying video CDs and medical report, of the deceased before being lodged in the lockup to be forwarded to the Commission. The Commission would also sought the details of the persons, who were put in the lockup in both the police stations for any reason, during the period the victim was lodged. It is expected that the magisterial enquiry in the matter will be completed without any further delay.

According to media report that the deceased was out on parole after being convicted in a case of robbery & murder and another of rape, a 40-year-old man allegedly raped a 14-year-old girl in an outer Delhi locality on 19th September,2020 and died allegedly by suicide hours later after being arrested for rape of minor.

It is also mentioned in the news report that the family members of the deceased saw policemen beating him in the police station. The Deputy Commissioner of Police, outer North District, Delhi, has stated history about deceased, being accused and convicted of robbery & murder and sexually assaulted a 10 years old boy. The deceased was released on parole on 02.02.2020 and later, his parole period was extended due to pandemic.

Also, the news report states that the single mother of rape victim was not at home when the incident took place. The deceased was arrested on the allegations of rape under POCSO Act and was kept in police custody. The nephew of the deceased has reportedly stated that when he reached the Swarup Nagar police station, he saw a group of policemen beating his uncle.

The next day, the family was informed about the incident of man hanging himself at Samaypur Badli police station. The Deputy Commissioner of Police has reportedly stated that the CCTV camera footage has been preserved and the guard on duty has been placed on suspension.

The police personnel have apparently failed to do their lawful duty at two stages, first when a person with a history of committing crime was out on parole; it was expected from the local police station to keep an eye on his activities through Beat Constable and other sources. Secondly, when such a person was kept in the police lock up, it was normal to be more vigilant to keep check on him during his stay inside the lock up.

The deceased was in the lawful custody of the police. “Right to life” of the deceased has been violated and the state cannot escape its liability. This is a case of violation of human rights.

Apart from this, considering the trauma suffered by the poor victim who is a minor girl, the Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi is directed to inform about her health condition as well as the relief, rehabilitation and counseling provided to her by the administration.


NHRC

[Press Release dt. 21-09-2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Allegations levelled by Amnesty International

National Human Rights Commission, India takes suo motu cognizance of the matter and directs issuance of the notice to the Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, New Delhi, calling for their comments on the allegations levelled by the Amnesty International as mentioned in the news report.

According to media reports that the complete freezing of its India bank accounts the Amnesty International Organization in India has reportedly halted all the work in which it has been engaged in the country.

In a statement, the organization has stated that it has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work.

It is alleged that this is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the Govt. of India over unfounded and motivated allegations.

The news report gives more details stating that on 22-10-19, Amnesty International testified at the US Congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia, with a specific focus on Jammu & Kashmir after the Indian Parliament on 5th August pushed through constitutional changes that divested Jammu & Kashmir of its special status and reorganized it into two Union Territories. On August, 28 the rights groups released an investigative brief on the complicity of the Delhi Police in the month of February, 2020. Amnesty International had claimed that 53 people had died in the riot while Delhi Police rebutted the claim saying that the report was lopsided, biased and malicious. Amnesty International has reportedly accused the government of suppressing the speech and demanded the release of activists Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Sudha Bhardwaj, Surendra Gadling and others who were arrested in connection with the January, 2018 caste clashes in Bhima-Koregaon near Pune in Maharashtra. It is also mentioned in the news report that this is the fifth time when Amnesty International is closing down its office in India.

The Union Home Ministry has reportedly mentioned in their statement that the stand taken by the Amnesty International is unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth. The organization has been accused of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violations, and “interference in domestic police debates” despite being funded by foreign donations.

The rights group has reportedly denied the financial violations charges and has stated that they have been in full compliance with all laws.

INVESTIGATION

It is further mentioned in the news report that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been investigating the rights group since October, 2018 when they raided its office in Bengaluru and the accounts of the organization were frozen. In the year 2019, the Income Tax Department wrote to the office bearers of the organization seeking their clarifications on the subject. It is also mentioned that in November, 2019, CBI has filed a case against Amnesty International alleging that it has received Rs. 36 crore in funding without the mandatory permission required under the FCRA. The Investigative Agencies have also reportedly alleged that the fundraising model of Amnesty International India was in violation of FCRA that amounts to money laundering. The organization has also been blamed for its activities which are in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws. The organization has reportedly stated that their harassment by the government is a result of their unequivocal calls for transparency in the government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi Police and the Government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in the Delhi riots and in Jammu & Kashmir. The charges of the organization have however been denied by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleging that the organization was raising funds from abroad in contravention of the Indian laws. They have also stated that there has been shifting money transfer to the companies and there is a suspected flow of money into the trust of Amnesty International.

The Commission has carefully examined the contents of the news report.

Amnesty International is a reputed non-governmental organization raising its voice globally whenever there is an incident of violation of the human rights of the people. The allegations levelled by the organization are serious in nature and have been strongly answered by the government agency. Any kind of difference of opinion may be a subject of investigation and decision by the competent court.

The Commission finds it necessary to go through the matter, analyse the facts and reach a conclusion in the interest of human rights friendly environment in the country.

The response is expected within six weeks.


NHRC

[Press Release dt. 30-09-2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Human Rights Commission, India takes suo motu cognizance of the matter over reported gang rape and brutality of 19-year-old women belonging to Scheduled Caste in Hathras district, UP.

According to media reports that a 19 year old woman belonging to Scheduled Caste went missing on 14.09.2020. She was found in a badly injured condition on 22.09.2020 and she was subjected to gang rape and brutality in Hathras District of Uttar Pradesh two weeks ago. She was shifted from the Aligarh Muslim University’s Jawaharlal Lal Nehru Medical College and Hospital on 28.09.2020 when her condition deteriorated and there were no signs of improvement in her health condition. The victim has reportedly died at Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi on 29.09.2020.

The District Magistrate, Hathras, Uttar Pradesh has reportedly stated that the accused have also been booked under the SC/ST(POA) Act and the family of the victim has been given compensation of Rs 10 Lakhs. He has also mentioned that a Fast Track Court will be set up to hear the case to punish the culprits at the earliest.

The Supdt. of Police, Hathras, U.P. has reportedly stated that the woman had suffered spinal injuries and he has denied the reports that the tongue of the victim was slit.

He has also mentioned in his statement the In-charge of the Hathras Kotwali PS has been removed for the alleged inaction in the case and the four accused have been arrested who will be booked for the murder. Further, he added that the first one Sandeep Singh was arrested the day when the woman was subjected to rape and later three more accused Lovkush Sikarwar, Ramu and Ravi were arrested when the woman named them in their statement before the Magistrate, on 22-09-2020.

The perpetrators reportedly tried to strangulate the victim when she tried to resist their attempts to rape her.

Another media report reveals that the family of the victim woman has alleged that the body of the deceased was forcibly taken away for cremation by the police personnel.

The body of the deceased had reportedly reached her village around mid-night and the cremation was done by 3.00 A.M., on 30.09.2020. It is mentioned in the news report that the villagers wanted to take the body of the woman to her house but the administration pressurized for cremation at the earliest.

The police authorities have however denied the allegation. It is reportedly stated by the SP, Hathras, that the cremation was done as usual, after the body reached Boolgarhi village in Hathras. He has also stated that the situation is calm and heavy police force has been deployed in the village.

The Commission has gone through the contents of the media reports which are very painful. A young woman belonging to SC community has been subjected to sexual harassment and brutality. It is apparent that the police was not able to take timely action to trace and save the victim girl due to which the young woman could not be saved from being subjected to grave cruelty. The way the perpetrators have acted shows that they had no fear of law in their mind. The family has suffered an irrevocable loss. A young and a precious human life has been lost.

Not only this, but there are also allegations made by the family that the police forcibly took away the body of the deceased for cremation have been revealed by the media. The incident has raised many questions about the law and order situation in the State. Many such incidents have occurred in the State of Uttar Pradesh where the members of the Scheduled Community have been subjected to discrimination and harassment by the people belonging to the upper caste. There have been a number of instances of leveling allegations of inaction against the police authorities and the administration. This is a serious issue of violation of human rights.

The Commission has further directed to the State Govt. to provide adequate protection to the family of the deceased keeping in view the gravity of the matter and aspect of the witness protection as there is an apparent rift between the two communities and there may be a danger to the family of the deceased.

The DGP, U.P. is expected to look personally into the matter to ensure a speedy trial so that the culprits could be punished by the competent court without any further delay. In the current scenario, it is necessary that the family of the deceased as well as other members of the SC Community residing in the village are provided proper protection by the police.

Both the authorities are expected to submit their report, within the stipulated time.

The Commission is expected the responses from the State Authorities within four weeks.


NHRC

Press Release dt. 30-09-2020

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Pankaj Mithal and Rajeev Singh, JJ., found itself dealing with an unusual set of facts whereby a petition has been dismissed on the ground that the petitioner has not approached the Court with clean hands.

The set of circumstances in the present matter which led to the above-stated dismissal is that while adjudicating the present petition, an objection was raised by the counsel on behalf of the respondent, J.N. Mathur that the petition is not in the nature of public interest litigation as it is already in the public domain, even before it was presented or officially filed in the Court. The petition is available on a legal news website www.livelaw.in.

The petitioner, Krishan Kanhaiya Pal, who happens to be a practising lawyer, submits that he has filed the petition by abiding by the due procedure and he’s oblivious as to how the petition entered the public domain.

Counsel for the respondent retorted by stating that a breach in the chain of service of notice can be ruled out as the notice if this petition was sent to the Assistant Solicitor General, S.B. Pandey via e-mail. There is no possibility of the petition escaping from his office or system as he is currently recuperating from Covid-19 in the hospital and did not access his e-mail account at all.

Upon careful perusal of the facts, circumstance and arguments advanced, the Court observed that it is evident that the petitioner has invoked writ jurisdiction in order to gain unwarranted publicity in the garb of public interest. The petition was publicised on social media in the pre-litigation stage with a concealed motive of hogging undue limelight.

The legal position in similar cases has been well settled through a catena of judicial pronouncements the crux of which is that the basic purpose behind public interest litigation is to advance human rights and equality or raise issues of broad public concern. It helps the cause of the minority and disadvantaged class of society. The petitioner does not belong to the deprived class and is not seeking any basic human rights through this petition.

The Court has also passed some enlightening remarks which are reproduced below-

“It is pertinent to note that it is becoming a practice to gain publicity by filing petitions on sensitive issues so that it becomes a topic of discussion in public knowing fully well the ultimate result. Thus, publishing of any material proposed to be brought before the courts before it is actually filed is not a healthy practice rather an abuse of the process. It unnecessarily at times may prejudice the minds of the Judges. The media is supposed to play a responsible role in undertaking any such pre litigation publication and ought to avoid it.”

The petitioner has not approached the Court with clean intentions in public interest rather for the oblique purpose of seeking cheap popularity and publicity.

Thus, basis the reasons stated above, the Court dismissed the petition finding no reason to entertain the petition for the purposes of publicity alone.[Krishan Kanhaiya Pal v. Union of India, PIL Civil No. 15130 of 2020, decided on 18-09-2020]


Yashvardhan Shrivastav, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Hot Off The PressNews

The stand taken and the statements made by Amnesty International are unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth.

The facts of the matter are as follows:

Amnesty International had received permission under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) only once and that too twenty years ago (19.12.2000). Since then Amnesty International, despite its repeated applications, has been denied FCRA approval by successive governments since as per law it is not eligible to get such an approval.

However, in order to circumvent the FCRA regulations, Amnesty UK remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). A significant amount of foreign money was also remitted to Amnesty (India) without MHA’s approval under FCRA. This mala fide rerouting of money was in contravention of extant legal provisions.

Owing to these illegal practices of Amnesty, the previous government had also rejected the repeated applications of Amnesty to receive funds from overseas. This had led Amnesty to suspend its India operations once during that period as well. This bipartisan and purely legal approach towards Amnesty, under different governments, makes it clear that the entire fault lies in the dubious processes adopted by Amnesty to secure funds for its operations.

All the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power are nothing but a ploy to divert attention from their activities which were in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws. Such statements are also an attempt to extraneously influence the course of investigations by multiple agencies into the irregularities and illegalities carried out over the last few years.

Amnesty is free to continue humanitarian work in India, as is being done by many other organizations. However, India, by settled law, does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations. This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well.

India has a rich and pluralistic democratic culture with a free press, independent judiciary and tradition of vibrant domestic debate. The people of India have placed unprecedented trust in the current government. Amnesty’s failure to comply with local regulations does not entitle them to make comments on the democratic and plural character of India.


Ministry of Home Affairs

[Press Release dt. 29-09-2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

The Commission takes suo-motu cognizance of the matter and directs the issuance of notice to the Director-General of Police, Uttar Pradesh calling for a detailed report in the matter within 4 weeks including the status of the investigation of the cases registered in connection with both the cases of murder.

The Commission also directs to issue a notice to the Chief Secretary to the Government of Uttar Pradesh calling for a report on whether any relief has been granted to the NOK of the deceased as the state has failed to secure the right to a fair trial of the victim. He is also expected to inform the status of any disciplinary action initiated against the delinquent officers/officials.

According to the police, the deceased man was from Gorakhpur and had come to the village, looking for a teacher named, Sudhir Kumar Singh. As soon as he saw Singh, he took out his father’s gun and killed the teacher, according to the police. After shooting the teacher, the man tried to escape but on spotting a crowd outside the house, he climbed the terrace, waved the gun and fired to keep the villagers at bay. A police team followed him to the terrace but the man escaped and was caught by a crowd, which set upon him. The videos relating to the incident emerged later, showed the man in police custody before the mob grabbed and attacked him.

According to the media reports, several policemen were present on the spot when the incident occurred. Some of the policemen were seen trying to control the crowd but the blows did not stop even when the man lay motionless. The police station in-charge of the area has been suspended for negligence. The victim’s head appeared to have been bashed in as the ground was splattered with blood.

The Commission has perused the contents that cruel high handedness by the villagers, taking law in their hands that too in the presence of police force, cannot be denied. A well-equipped police team was present on the spot when the victim was brutally attacked with sticks and stones.

The police personnel present at the time of the fateful incident and their in-charge definitely failed to do their lawful duty. Human life has been lost due to the apparent negligence of the public authority. This is a serious violation of human rights.


NHRC

Press Release dt. 08-09-2020

Law made Easy

[Disclaimer: This note is for general information only. It is NOT to be substituted for legal advice or taken as legal advice. The publishers of the blog shall not be liable for any act or omission based on this note]

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

 – Benjamin Franklin

Objective

It is written with an objective to reflect on the laws currently in force in India, to tackle the global menace of human trafficking and contemplate the journey ahead to reach towards elimination of this socio-politico-economic evil through legislative competence, executive efficiency and judicial courage.

Introduction

According to the definition of United Nations: “trafficking is any activity leading to recruitment, transportation, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or a position of vulnerability”. Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. This may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage or the extraction of organs or tissues, including for surrogacy and ovary removal. It can happen in any community and victims can be of any age, race, gender or nationality. Traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations. People can be trafficked and exploited in many forms, including being forced into sexual exploitation, labour, begging, crime (such as growing cannabis or dealing drugs), domestic servitude, marriage or organ removal. Human trafficking is an egregious human rights violation that occurs throughout the world. Due to its complex cross-border nature, human trafficking requires a coordinated, multi-disciplinary national and international response. Human trafficking is the third largest organised crime after drugs and the arms trade across the globe.

Legal Framework against Human Trafficking in India

At present the legal regime of trafficking in humans is explicitly and implicitly governed by the following statutes towards curbing the menace. The table containing relevant provisions is as follows:

Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

Section 3 – It provides for punishment to a person for keeping a brothel or allowing premises to be used as a brothel or who is in charge of any such premises either by himself or through a tenant, occupier, etc.


Section 4 – It provides for punishment to any person over 18 years of age, living on the earnings of prostitution of another person.


Section  5 – It provides for punishment to any person who is involved in procuring, inducing or taking another person for the sake of prostitution.


Section 6 – It provides for punishment to a person who detains another person with or without his consent in any brothel or any premises for prostitution with an intent that such detained person may have sexual intercourse with any person who is not the spouse of such detained person.


Section 7 – Any person who carries on prostitution and the person with whom such prostitution is carried on in any premises which is within close proximity to a public place, including a hospital, nursing home, place of religious worship, hostel, educational institution, or in an area notified under the provisions of the Act, can be punished with imprisonment for a term of three months.


Section 8 – Seducing or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution is also an offence and punishable with imprisonment up to six months or a fine up to Rs 500, in the case of a first conviction. In case of a subsequent conviction, the prison sentence can be extended up to one year including a fine of Rs 500. However, if the person soliciting is a man, the statute provides that he shall be punishable with not less than seven days imprisonment which may be extended to three months.


Section 18 – A Magistrate can order the immediate closure of a place that is being used as a brothel or as a place for prostitution and is within 200 meters of any “public place” as referred to in Section 7 above, and direct the eviction from the premises from where any person is ostensibly carrying out prostitution on receipt of information from the police or otherwise. The occupier is given only seven days notice for eviction from such premises.


Section 20 – It empowers a Magistrate, on receiving information that any person residing in or frequenting any place within the local limits of his jurisdiction is a prostitute, to issue notice to such person requiring him to appear before the Magistrate and show cause why he should not be removed from the place and be prohibited from re-entering it, and an order to be passed by the Magistrate effecting the same on merits, non- compliance of which will attract punishment in accordance with this section.


Section 21 – The State Government may in its discretion establish as many protective homes and corrective institutions under this Act as it thinks fit and such homes and institutions when established shall be maintained in such manner as may be prescribed. Whoever establishes or maintains a protective home or corrective institution except in accordance with the provisions given shall be punishable under this section.


Section 22-A – If the State Government is satisfied that it is necessary for the purpose of providing for speedy trial of offences under this Act in any district or metropolitan area, it may, by notification in the Official Gazette and after consultation with the High Court, establish one or more Courts of Judicial Magistrates of the First Class, or, as the case may be, Metropolitan Magistrate, in such district or metropolitan area.


Section 22-B – Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the State Government may, if it considers it necessary so to do, direct that offences under this Act shall be tried in a summary way by a Magistrate [including the presiding officer of a court established under sub-section (1) of Section 22-A] and the provisions of Sections 262 to 265 (both inclusive) of the said Code, shall, as far as may be, apply to such trial

Constitution of India

Article 23 –  It specifically prohibits “traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour”.


Article 39 – It states that men and women should have the right to an adequate means of livelihood and equal pay for equal work; that men, women and children should not be forced by economic necessity to enter unsuitable avocations; and that children and youth should be protected against exploitation. It is enshrined in the Constitution in the form of a directive to be followed while formulating policies for the State.


Article 39-A – It directs that the legal system should ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen because of economic or other disabilities.


 Note: Articles 14, 15, 21, 22 and 24 also emcompass certain provisions relating to human trafficking.

Penal Code, 1860

Penal Code, 1860 specifically deals with two kinds of kidnapping:
(a)  Section 360Kidnapping from India

(b) Section 361– Kidnapping from lawful guardianship


Section 362 – A trafficked person can also be subjected to an act of abduction covered under this section which involves using of deceitful means by another and thereby forcefully compelling this person to go from any place.


Section 363-A specifically punishes any person who kidnaps or maims a minor for purposes of begging.


Section 365 punishes any person who kidnaps or abducts another person with intent to secretly and wrongfully confine him/her.


Section 366 – punishes any person who kidnaps, abducts or induces woman to compel her marriage against her will, or be forced/seduced to have illicit intercourse.


Section 366-A punishes any person who by any means whatsoever induces any minor girl under the age of 18 years to go from any place or to do any act that such girl may be forced or seduced to have illicit intercourse with another person.


Section 370 – By the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, this section punishes all acts of trafficking in human beings and their exploitation.


Section 372 – If any person sells, lets to hire  or disposes of any other person who is a minor i.e. under the age of 18 years for purposes of prostitution, etc. shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine.


Section 373 – If any person buys, hires or obtains possession of  any other person who is a minor i.e. under the age of 18 years for purposes of prostitution, etc. shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine.


Sections 354, 354-A , 354-B , 354-C, and 354-D – These sections punish any person who assaults or uses criminal force on a woman intending to outrage modesty, disrobe her, or to commit an offence of voyeurism or stalking. Sections 354, 354-A, 354-B, 354-C, and 354-D were added by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.


Section 366-B – Any girl under age of 21 years being imported from a foreign country by a person with an intent that she will be forced or seduced to illicit intercourse with another person, the person so importing shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.


Sections 375 and 376 – These sections were added to make the justice-delivery system more responsive to the sexual offences against women. It explicitly deals with the definitions of rape, gang rape, repeatedly raped which is a major consequence of trafficking and also lays down punishments for such acts under the said sections.


Section 374 –The section defines that any person who compels another person to labour against his will shall be punished with imprisonment up to 1 year or fine or both. This section punishes those people who are involved in trafficking in humans with an intention to forced labour and grave exploitation.


Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976

[Read here]

An Act to provide for the abolition of bonded labour system with a view to preventing the economic and physical exploitation of the weaker sections of the people. The Act prohibits anyone from making any advance or compelling any person to render any bonded labour and states further that any agreement or custom requiring any person to do work as a bonded labour is void and provides for punishment for anyone who compels any person to render bonded labour or advance any bonded debt. Punishment in both cases is imprisonment up to 3 years and fine up to 2000 rupees. The bonded laborers are to be treated as victims and not as offenders.


Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986

[Read here]

An Act to prohibit the engagement of children in all occupations and to prohibit the engagement of adolescents in hazardous occupations and processes. It prohibits employment of children in hazardous industries and lays down safety measures and other requirements which shall be met irrespective of what is stated in other labour legislations.


Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

[Read here]

An Act to prevent the commission of offences related to atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, to provide for Special Courts and exclusive Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offences. Many victims are from marginalised groups because traffickers are targeting on vulnerable people in socially and economically backward areas. This Act provides an additional tool to safeguard women and young girls belonging to SC/ST and also creates greater burden on the trafficker to prove his lack of complicity in the crime. This can be effective if the offender knows the status of victim. It specifically covers certain forms of trafficking, forced or bonded labour and sexual exploitation of women. A minimum punishment of 6 months is provided that could extend up to 5 years in any offence covered under the Act regarding trafficking in humans.


 Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994

[Read here]

This Act deals with criminal responsibility in cases of harvesting of organs and trafficking of persons for this purpose. The perpetrator includes traffickers, procurers, brokers, intermediaries, hospital or nursing staff and medical laboratories and their technicians involved in the illegal transplant procedure. Section 11 declares prohibition of removal or transplantation of human organs for any purpose other than therapeutic purposes and Section 19 deals with commercial dealing in human organs and clarifies that it punishes those who seek willing people or offer to supply organs and such traffickers and alike shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to ten years and shall be liable to fine which shall not be less than twenty lakh rupees but may extend to one crore rupees.


Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012

[Read here]

It has been drafted to strengthen the legal provisions for the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation. For the first time, a special law has been passed to address the issue of sexual offences against children. Sexual offences are currently covered under different sections in Penal Code. However, Penal Code, 1860 does not provide for all types of sexual offences against children and, more importantly, does not distinguish between adult and child victims.


Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

[Read here]

Responsibility for providing compensation to trafficking victims is fragmented between the Central Government and individual States. This is largely the result of Section 357 and Section 357-A CrPC. When the punishment itself contemplates sentence or fine Section 357 CrPC provides that the fine can be passed on to the victim. Even if that is not so, Section 357-A CrPC have the fund — a State fund, which can be extended to the victims of any crime (not limited to trafficking) who have suffered loss or injury. However, it fails to note the form or degree of such compensation.


Evolution through Judicial Pronouncements

 What is Human Trafficking

It was clearly laid down as early as in 1953 in Raj Bahadur v. State of W.B., 1953 SCC OnLine Cal 129 that traffic in human beings mean to deal in men and women like goods, such as to sell or let or otherwise dispose of. It would include traffic in women and children for immoral or other purposes.

Heinous Nature of the Crime vis-à-vis Moral Culpability

The Court observed in Vishal Jeet v. Union of India, (1990) 3 SCC 318 that:

“The causes and evil effects of prostitution maligning the society are so notorious and frightful that none can gainsay it. It is highly deplorable and heartrending to note that many poverty stricken children and girls in the prime of youth are taken to ‘flesh market’ and forcibly pushed into the ‘flesh trade’ which is being carried on in utter violation of all cannons of morality, decency and dignity of humankind. There cannot be two opinions—indeed there is none—that this obnoxious and abominable crime committed with all kinds of unthinkable vulgarity should be eradicated at all levels by drastic steps.”

 Human Trafficking and Child Prostitution

In Vishal Jeet v. Union of India, (1990) 3 SCC 318  the Court laid down following directions in this regard:

  1. All the State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should direct their law enforcing authorities concerned to take appropriate and speedy action in eradicating child prostitution.
  2. The State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should set up a separate Advisory Committee within their respective zones to make suggestions regarding the measures to be taken and the social welfare programmes to be implemented for the children and girls rescued from the vices of prostitution.
  3. All the State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should take steps in providing adequate and rehabilitative homes manned by well-qualified trained social workers, psychiatrists and doctors.
  4. The Union Government should set up a committee of its own to evolve welfare programmes on the national level for the care, protection, rehabilitation, etc. of the young fallen victims and to make suggestions of amendments to the existing laws for the prevention of sexual exploitation of children.
  5. The Central Government and the Governments of States and Union Territories should devise a machinery of its own for ensuring the proper implementation of the suggestions that would be made by the respective committees.
  6. The Advisory Committee can also delve deep into devadasi system and jogin tradition and give their valuable advice and suggestions as to what best the Government could do in that regard.

Human Trafficking and Bonded Labour

The Supreme Court in Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, (1984) 3 SCC 161 has elucidated the rehabilitation of bonded labour and directed the Government to award compensation to released/rescued bonded labour under the provisions of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 after taking note of serious violation of fundamental and human rights:

“The rehabilitation of the released bonded labourers is a question of great importance, because if the bonded labourers who are identified and freed, are not rehabilitated, their condition would be much worse than what it was before during the period of their serfdom and they would become more exposed to exploitation and slide back once again into serfdom even in the absence of any coercion. The bonded labourer who is released would prefer slavery to hunger, a world of ‘bondage and illusory security’ as against a world of freedom and starvation.”

It may be pointed out that the concept of rehabilitation has the following four main features as addressed by the Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Government of India to the various States Governments:

  • Psychological rehabilitation must go side by side with physical and economic rehabilitation.
  • The physical and economic rehabilitation has 15 major components, namely, allotment of house sites and agricultural land, land development, provision of low cost dwelling units, agriculture, provision of credit, health medical care and sanitation, supply of essential commodities, education of children of bonded labourers and protection of civil rights, etc.
  • There is scope for bringing about an integration among the various central and State sponsored schemes for a more qualitative rehabilitation and to avoid duplication.
  • While drawing up any scheme/programme of rehabilitation of freed bonded labour, the latter must necessarily be given the choice between the various alternatives for their rehabilitation and such programme should be finally selected for execution as would meet the total requirements of the family of freed bonded labourers to enable them to cross the poverty line on the one hand and to prevent them from sliding back to debt bondage on the other.

The Supreme Court in PUCL v. State of T.N., (2013) 1 SCC 585 directed the District Magistrates to effectively implement Sections 10, 11 and 12 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and expected them to discharge their functions with due diligence, empathy and sensitivity, taking note of the fact that the Act is a welfare legislation.

Human Trafficking and Child Labour

In Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India, (1984) 2 SCC 244 P.N. Bhagwati, J., observed:

6. It is obvious that in a civilised society the importance of child welfare cannot be over-emphasised, because the welfare of the entire community, its growth and development, depend on the health and well-being of its children. Children are a ‘supremely important national asset’ and the future well-being of the nation depends on how its children grow and develop.”

The Supreme Court in M.C. Mehta v. State of T.N., (1996) 6 SCC 756 seeing the severe violation of fundamental rights in cases of child labour observed:

“… if there is at all a blueprint for tackling the problem of child labour, it is education. Even if it were to be so, the child of a poor parent would not receive education, if per force it has to earn to make the family meet both the ends. Therefore, unless the family is assured of income aliunde, problem of child labour would hardly get solved; and it is this vital question which has remained almost unattended.

… if employment of child below the age of 14 is a constitutional indiction insofar as work in any factory or mine is concerned, it has to be seen that all children are given education till the age of 14 years in view of this being a fundamental right now, and if the wish embodied in Article 39(e) that the tender age of children is not abused and citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocation unsuited to their age, and if children are to be given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and childhood is to be protected against exploitation as visualised by Article 39(f), it seems to us that the least we ought to do is see to the fulfilment of legislative intendment behind enactment of the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.”

 In view of the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 the offending employer must be asked to pay compensation for every child employed in contravention of the provisions of the Act a sum of Rs 20,000 which is to be deposited in Child Labour Rehabilitation-cum-Welfare Fund.

Constitution of Committee to Combat Trafficking in Humans

In Gaurav Jain v. Union of India, (1997) 8 SCC 114, the Supreme Court passed an order directing, inter alia, the constitution of a committee to make an in-depth study of the problems of prostitution, child prostitution, and children of prostitutes, to help evolve suitable schemes for their rescue and rehabilitation.

The Supreme Court observed:

27. … The ground realities should be tapped with meaningful action imperatives, apart from the administrative action which aims at arresting immoral traffic of women under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act through inter-State or Interpol arrangements and the nodal agency like the CBI is charged to investigate and prevent such crimes.”

The Central Government pursuant to the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Gaurav Jain case constituted a “Committee on the Prostitution, Child Prostitutes and Plan of Action to Combat  Trafficking and Commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children”.  

Vocational Trainings and Social Welfare Boards

The Supreme Court in Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of W.B., (2011) 11 SCC 538 had issued notice to all States while noting down the concern on the pathetic conditions of sex workers:

 “… we strongly feel that the Central and the State Governments through Social Welfare Boards should prepare schemes for rehabilitation all over the country for physically and sexually abused women commonly known as prostitutes as we are of the view that the prostitutes also have a right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India since they are also human beings and their problems also need to be addressed.

A woman is compelled to indulge in prostitution not for pleasure but because of abject poverty. If such a woman is granted opportunity to avail some technical or vocational training, she would be able to earn her livelihood by such vocational training and skill instead of by selling her body. Hence, we direct the Central and the State Governments to prepare schemes for giving technical/vocational training to sex workers and sexually abused women in all cities in India.”

Critical Analysis — Old Wine in a New Bottle

There need to be a comprehensive single legislation that will cover all forms of trafficking. Hence, the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Women and Child Development, Ms Maneka Gandhi on 18-7-2018 and passed in that House on 26-7-2018 which eventually lapsed later due to dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. The Bill provided for the prevention, rescue, and rehabilitation of trafficked persons. The present legislation/well intentioned but lapsed Bill ignored the factors that drive people to risky situations and failed to integrate the lessons learned by anti-trafficking stakeholders since the adoption of the United Nations Trafficking Protocol popularly known as “Palermo Protocol”. It adopted a belief that trafficking can be stopped through harsh punishments, rather than addressing root causes, and this indeed may have undermined, rather than protected, the human rights of trafficked persons. Implementing a rights-based approach that facilitates, and does not criminalise migration and one that promotes decent work is the most constructive approach to prevent human trafficking.  This is expected to be the litmus test while drafting the next Bill.

Conclusion

While the lapsed Bill was a well-timed and well-intentioned attempt by the Indian Government to enact a comprehensive legislation which will tackle human trafficking and its fundamental problems. However, the Government was supposed to adopt a broader perspective towards trafficking in accordance with Expert Committee recommendations. Ensuring effective legislation and its implementation will take time and patience but considering Modi Government has a clear majority in Parliament and that the Women and Child Development Ministry is fully devoted towards fighting this menace, it is hoped that any new Bill will bring all stakeholders on board to enact a people-centered social legislation which addresses some of the problems identified here and in line with the expert committee recommendations.

Thus, it may be concluded using the words of Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, without prejudice to any one gender,

“No nation, with all its boasts, and all its hopes, can ever morally be clean till all its women are really free — free to live without sale of their young flesh to lascivious wealth or commercialising their luscious figures….”

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Human Rights Commission India has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that a 5-year-old girl has allegedly died due to starvation and ill health as the family was not able to get food and medicinal care for her in Agra district of Uttar Pradesh.

The Commission has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary of Government of Uttar Pradesh calling for a detailed report within 4 weeks including the relief and rehabilitation provided to the family by the administration and the action taken against the delinquent officials. The Chief Secretary is also expected to issue instructions to all the district authorities to ensure that such incidents of cruelty and negligence should not recur in future.

The Commission has observed that a five-year-old innocent girl has apparently died due to starvation and illness while a number of social welfare schemes run by the Central and the State Government do exist. During the period of lockdown, the government agencies have specifically introduced number of schemes for the poor, migrant labourers and other vulnerable sections of the society. The State Government has made several statements that they are committed to ensure Right to Food, Shelter and Livelihood for the poor people and have been working on issues relating to labourers and labour laws but this heart-wrenching incident shows a different picture.

The Commission has further observed that it is not understandable what is the benefit of announcement of number of schemes when they do not reach the beneficiaries. A poor girl has lost her life, the breadwinner of the family is suffering from tuberculosis and is bedridden. The family is not only financially poor but also belongs to the Scheduled Caste for which special schemes have been announced by the Central and the State governments.

This is a serious issue of violation of human rights due to gross negligence by the local administration. It is for the local public servants to honestly implement the schemes, so that the poor and needy can avail the benefits which , apparently was not done in this case. Had the authorities been sincere and vigilant, loss of a precious human life could have been averted. The State cannot escape its liability and there is a need to fix the responsibility of the public servants who have not acted in accordance with the law to help the aggrieved family.

Reportedly, the girl was living with her parents and sister at Nagla Vidhichand village in Agra’s Baroli Ahir block. The family was without any work for about a month and in recent weeks the family went without food. Many families in the localities like them do not have a ration card. The five-year-old girl Sonia had become weak and had fever for three days. She could not bear the pain and succumbed to illness and hunger on Friday night.

The local authorities reportedly did nothing to help the family-like securing food in the lockdown-induced crisis. The District Administration has said it will find out where things went wrong and they have taken cognizance of the matter and an investigation has been ordered into the child’s death. Further, the District Administration said that the family has buried the body, which they should not have done as a postmortem would have ascertained the cause of death.

Reportedly, the District Magistrate has agreed that the families are suffering and he will ensure that all possible help is provided to the family.


National Human Rights Commission

Press Release dt. 23-08-2020

Experts CornerGUJCOST - GNLU

Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 27, Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[1]

Dampening economies, severe climatic conditions and depleting resources are changing the narrative of survival. As distress calls emerge from various countries, the collective conscience of humanity is being put to test. Domestically, rising woes of a weak economy are gradually taking form of a crises and it is time to contemplate alternate ways to sustainable productivity the benefits of which are accessible by a larger public. While development is imperative its
haphazardness must be contained now more than ever due to its impact on human rights.

What role does Intellectual Property (IP) play, one may wonder. To contextualise, World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) brought forth a rather well-timed announcement on the IP theme of the year 2020 — Innovate for a Green Future [2] stressing the need for collective action. This instantly brings me back to my interpretation[3] of the 11th Global Innovation Index (GII) released in 2018 that was themed Energising the World with Innovations. GII, 2018 studied the importance of green technology and increasing requirement of encouraging innovations along the line.

A key finding in the detailed GII Report was that imbalances in regional innovations continue to hurt economic conditions as well as human development, indicating that innovation, Intellectual Property Right (IPR) and human rights must go hand in hand for a sustained development. This finding raises a pertinent question — whether there exists a relationship between human rights and IPR. Opposing views emerge and I am of the opinion that existence of a relationship between these rights cannot be denied, the trick question is interpretation of its nature i.e. whether it is a positive or negative one. In the next sections, I briefly look at the contentious human rights-IP relationship from the international viewpoint.

Human Rights and IPRs: A Connect-Disconnect

The debate on linkage of human rights and IPR has continually attracted two extreme views — a conflict approach and a coexistence approach. There are a broad range of political, economic, social, practical and philosophical issues that straddle the intersection of human rights and IP. These fascinating and challenging issues are attracting increasing attention from Judges, government officials, attorneys and scholars, whose activities are mapping the contours of a rapidly changing legal landscape.[5]

As quoted at the beginning here, Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) enunciates an inherently strong connection between human rights and IPR. Following closely to Article 27, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Icescr), under Article 15(1) further validates rights to take part in cultural life; to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications and; to benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.[6]

Nearing the end of 20th century a critical movement began in the field of IPR when a host of nations made concerted demands for access to medicines, access to knowledge and protection of cultural and traditional knowledge systems thus demanding an IP regime that is respectful of the rights of indigenous communities as well as the diverse developmental levels. Although this idea was not new, it drew little attention until the formal internationalisation of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) through the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement. Professor Peter K. Yu in fact suggests a lack of interest from policymakers, scholars and activists that was due in part to the arcane, obscure, complex, and highly technical nature of intellectual property law and policy and in part to the ability of countries to retain substantial policy space for developing their own intellectual property systems[7]. After several negotiations when Trips was finally formalised the global outlook towards IPR underwent a massive transformation however developing and less-developed countries remained belligerent on the potential conflicts of the agreement vis-à-vis realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. Later, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) emphasised the flexibilities built into the Trips agreement and other international trade agreements in order to boost the potential coexistence of human rights and IPR.

The debate on the two rights’ systems was advanced by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Cescr) in 2006 through General Comment No. 17[8]. The comment provided authoritative interpretation of Article 15(1)(c) of the Icescr making clear that not all attributes of IPRs have human rights status[9]. To summarise, the comment differentiated between the two rights by linking human rights as safeguarding the personal link between authors and their creations and between communities and their collective cultural heritage whereas linking intellectual property regimes primarily to protection of business and corporate interests and investments. It further clarified that the scope of protection of the moral and material interests of the author provided for by Article 15(1)(c) does not necessarily coincide with what is referred to as IPR under national legislation or international agreements.

Coming back to the Trips agreement, the impact it has made is considered far-reaching than that of pre-existing international legal instruments. Taking stock of the post-Trips era, it is observed that some key elements of IP regime like subject-matter and scope of protection have expanded rapidly in treaties and in national laws — including the laws of developing countries in response to new online information technologies, the Trips and the adoption of maximalist IP protection standards and robust enforcement mechanisms in plurilateral, regional and bilateral “Trips Plus” treaties[10]. In the same timeline for assessing the trajectory of human rights regime, the changes include increased attention to indigenous peoples’ rights and traditional knowledge; the adverse consequences of expansive IP protection rules for economic, social and cultural rights; a growing awareness of the human rights responsibilities of multinational corporations; and attempts by those same corporations to invoke the human right of property as an alternative legal basis for protecting intangible knowledge assets[11].

Constantly changing global dynamics keep the debate between human rights and IPR alive. A persisting challenge in this environment is to strike the right balance between human rights and IPR. Often it is not easy to see how specific intellectual property norms interact with provisions of human rights instruments that are usually drafted in broader language[12]. Moreover, this challenge gets even bigger when there is not a one stop solution for all nations to abide given the differing rates of development.

Re-approaching the Discussion on Human Rights and IPRs

A considerable volume of literature subsists on the complex framework of human rights and IPR, however it is the need of the hour to reignite the discussion on how these rights fit together. A continued debate in resolving a complex inter-relationship between the two rights may generate solutions having a far-reaching impact on the growing concerns of sustainable development for all. I take cue from Professor Yu’s scholarly work to understand some global advancements that justify revisiting the human rights-IPR relationship[13].

First, the tendency of like-minded countries, mostly the developed ones coming together to set a higher benchmark through plurilateral agreements like the highly controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) or Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). For negotiations on ACTA no more than four per cent of the world’s developing countries were involved which raises questions on the genuity of stronger nations[14]. TPP contained controversial new protections for prescription drugs, including a new class of medications known as biologics[15]. It is pertinent to note during the Trips negotiations, developing nations voiced significant apprehensions on issues like transfer of technology, bio-piracy and reduction of traditional or indigenous communities’ control over their pool of genetic, natural and cultural resources and restrictions on access to medicines as a serious impediment to enjoyment of the right to health.

Second, the possibility that current enforcement measures run a risk of turning obsolete due to rapid development of disruptive technology alongside sophisticated networks of piracy and counterfeiting which in turn threatens human rights in many cases. For example, a producer’s lost opportunity of earning premium over his product registered as a geographical indication in India sold over the internet without his knowledge. How does the producer enforce his rights on cross-border online infringement? Must he lose out on his right to protect economic, creative and cultural aspects residing in his IP owing information asymmetry arising from an online platform where the consumer is unaware of the product origin and rights in it.

Third, a larger group of individuals are collectively participating in creative communities producing “user-generated content”, a term that has stormed the world of IP in recent times meaning thereby that the ability to create in today’s digitally advanced world is no longer limited to a specific class of intellectual workers or creative labourers. The growing community of creative individuals means the human rights to benefit from creations are getting more universal in nature.

Looking at the above reasons, we can safely deduce the gravity of issues like digital advancements and their broad implications (not necessarily deleterious). It is also safe to say the re-examination of the inter-relationship between intellectual property and human rights is justified. Research in this area can prove beneficial for necessary collective actions at the international platform.

Conclusion

Do human rights connect with the entirety of IPR? Are certain IPR attributes immune from the human rights purview? While analysing the inter-connection, which rights should be considered from the giant structure of human rights? The answers to these questions inevitably depend on one’s
worldview, basic assumptions,  ideological values and philosophical dispositions[16].

Challenging as it is but this relationship between human rights and IP rights needs renewed and collective attention. After thorough assessment of drastic changes threatening sustenance of several habitats around the globe, nations might want to explore the possibility of human rights framework existing within the contours of intellectual property regime in order to encourage innovations and creations towards a green globe that reach out to humanity as a whole. While individual goals and benefits matter it is certainly time to think of collective and sustainable development.


*Hetvi Trivedi is Research Associate, GNLU-GUJCOST Research Centre of Excellence in IP Laws, Policies & Practices, Gujarat National Law University and can be contacted at htrivedi@gnlu.ac.in.

[1] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10-12-1948

[2] World Intellectual Property Day — 26-4- 2020 Innovate for a Green Future, World Intellectual Property Organisation, available at <https://www.wipo.int/ip-outreach/en/ipday/>.

[3] Hetvi Trivedi, Moving Towards Better Integration of Energy Innovation and Intellectual Property, (2018) PL (IPR) September 89, available at <https://blog.scconline.com/post/category/experts_corner/gujcost-gnlu/>.

[4] Laurence R. Helfer, Mapping the Interface Between Human Rights and Intellectual Property, Research Handbook on Human Rights and Intellectual Property, Ed. Christophe Geiger, Edward Elgar (2015) 6-15, 6.

[5] Ibid

[6] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16-12-1966.

[7] Peter K. Yu, Intellectual Property and Human Rights in the Non-Multilateral Era, 64 Florida Law Review (2012) 1045- 1100, 1049.

[8] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 17: The Right of Everyone to Benefit from the Protection of the Moral and Material Interests Resulting from any Scientific, Literary or Artistic Production of Which He or She is the Author (Art. 15, Para. 1 (c) of the Covenant), 12-1-2006, E/C.12/GC/17, available at <http://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashxenc=4slQ6QSmlBEDzFEovLCuW1a0Szab0oXTdImnsJZZVQcMZjyZlUmZS43h49u0CNAuJIjwgfzCL8JQ1SHYTZH6jsZteqZOpBtECZh96hyNh%2F%2FHW6g3fYyiDXsSgaAmIP%2BP>.

[9] Id, 1.

[10] Supra note 4, at 7.

[11] Ibid

[12] Catherine Trautmann, Foreward, Research Handbook on Human Rights and Intellectual Property, Ed. Christophe Geiger, (Edward Elgar 2015) xii-xxiv, xii.

[13] Supra note 7, at 1055

[14] Supra note 7, at 1056

[15] James McBride, Andrew Chatzky, What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?, Council on Foreign Relations, available at <https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp>

[16] Supra note 7 at, 1100

Case BriefsCOVID 19Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

The National Human Rights Commission has filed an application for intervention and directions along with suo motu writ petition No. 6 of 2020 in the Supreme Court of India on the problems and miseries of migrant labourers, who had been stranded in different parts of the country after the nationwide lockdown.

The Court admitted the intervention application of the Commission. The Commission has sought directions from the Supreme Court for consideration of implementation of its proposed short term and long term measures in order to decrease the plight of the migrant workers and to ensure that the human rights of these poor labourers are not violated.

Short term measures include:

i. In order to estimate the in-flow of migrant workers, States should collect the data of migrant workers at the point of departure in the originating States as well on arrival in the destination States. This will help States to effectively plan quarantine and relief measures for the migrant workers.

ii. The Government of India and the State Governments must ensure proper implementation of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act,1979 so that the migrant workers are provided with a journey allowance.

iii. Menstrual hygiene products should be provided to migrant women and adolescent girls across the country.

iv. Each state should be directed to ensure proper functioning of shelter homes especially for the accommodation of pregnant women, lactating mothers, children, and elderly person. It should be ensured that medical facilities and nutritious food are available in these shelter homes.

v. Each State should be directed to identify the industry in which the migrant labour is working i.e. construction, agriculture, brick kiln, etc. This identification will aid the State in creating schemes for the migrant workers and in the preparation of a State-wide and Nation-wide database.

vi. States should be directed to take steps for the support of migrant workers, similar to the steps taken by the State of Odisha which has set up a toll-free Sharmik (labour force) Sahayata Helpline, Migrant Labour Help Desk, seasonal hostels for the children of migrant workers, and has strengthened Anti-Human Trafficking Units for migrant workers.

vii. States must ensure medical facilities for check-ups for migrants before and after the journey, as well was availability of food and medical care during the journey. For migrants who are walking or travelling on bicycles, food and water should be made available both at the originating and destination states, as well as en route.

viii. The originating States should take steps to identify the destitute among the migrant labour and provide some quantum of compensation to ensure that they do not resort to begging after reaching their destination.

ix. Railways in consultation with the respective State Governments should ensure that such delays do not take place and the trains do not reach wrong destinations. A mission similar to that of the dedicated Vande Bharat Mission should be started in a phased manner to help migrant workers reach their source destination.

x. A fund should be created for payment of ex-gratia relief by the concerned DM, which will provide fixed compensation to every migrant returning home.

Long term measures include:

i. A special provision to be inserted in the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 to deal with emergency situations like Covid-19, natural disasters etc.

ii. Appointment of a claim commissioner to look into recovery from employers who abandoned their labourers despite notification for continuity of wages by Central Govt.

iii. Allocation of funds to states to be allotted to gram panchayats in order to create employment opportunities in the home states of migrants.

iv. National portal for registration of migrants so that a nationwide database is created.

v. Compensation to family members of those who died while migrating to their respective states.

vi. Universal Ration Card to be granted to migrants

vii. Maximum benefits be extended to the migrant labour as provided for under the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008

viii. The government should implement its scheme, that it had announced to launch, for affordable rental housing complexes for migrant workers and urban poor as soon as possible.

ix. There should be a Nodal agency created under the Ministry of Labour for the resolution of Inter-State migrant labour issues. A study of best practices from other countries on issues concerning migrant labour could be commissioned.

x. Simplified registration process for ensuring the understanding capability of the migrant workers. In this context, the issue of giving a universal number / smart card with portability of migrant workers may be revisited.


NHRC

Press Release dt. 05-06-2020

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A furious bench of N V Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B R Gavai, JJ said that the Supreme Court was not hostage of government, after advocate Prashant Bhushan told the court that the government’s view is being blindly considered without verifying it, while fundamental rights of people especially migrant workers are not being enforced.

The Court questioned Bhushan, appearing for petitioners Jagdeep S Chhokar, former director in-charge of IIM, Ahmedabad, and lawyer Gaurav Jain, and said as to why should the court hear him, if he does not have faith in the system. It, however, sought reply from the Centre on a plea seeking direction to authorities to allow migrant workers across the country to return home after conducting coronavirus tests.

Here’s how the Courtroom drama unfolded:

Bhushan: This is an institution created by Constitution but the fundamental rights are being violated of these migrant workers and I am entitled to express my anguish.

Bench: You don’t have faith in judiciary. This institution is not hostage of government.

Bhushan: I never said I have no faith in this system. I could be wrong but similar opinion is expressed by some retired judges.

Bench: You claim to be practising in the Supreme court for past 30 years and then you must know that some orders are favourable and some are not and therefore you should not say such things.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre: You should not be under the impression that you are the only one who is concerned with enforcement of fundamental rights. The government is very much concerned with the issue and trying to provide all possible help to migrant workers.

Bhushan: If there was any objection with regard to my appearance as a lawyer in the case, then I am willing to withdraw from the matter and some other lawyer will appear.

Bench: We never asked you to withdraw from the matter.

Bhushan: Central government seems to have shut its eyes and should consider the distress situation faced by the migrant workers during the lockdown. More than 90% migrant workers have not received the ration or wages; they are in desperate situation and should be allowed to go to their native places.

Mehta: These are incorrect reports. Centre is consulting states on the issue as to how many of migrant workers have to be transported, how many have to be given help and what kind of help.

Bench: It means that Centre is in consultation with states and is ready to examine the issue.

Mehta: The government is examining everything but the ideas of petitioner are not required and urged the court to not keep the petition pending as there are already several pleas, which have similar prayers.

Bhushan: I urge you to  allow inter-state transportation of migrant workers.

Mehta: It is for the government to look into all aspects keeping the larger interest of people in mind. I request the court to not issue notice and give directions on the plea as it would send wrong message. I will file a reply within two weeks.

Bench:  We are giving one week time to Centre to respond whether there is any proposal on allowing inter-state transportation of migrant workers.

Meanwhile, the Court disposed of intervention applications filed by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava on the issue of stopping inter-state migration of workers and said that it is the Central government to look into the issue. The Court said that it is

“not the coordinating agency between the Centre and states, and the Union government has to take necessary action in this regard.”

Chhokar and Jain in their plea had said that in wake of the extension of the nationwide lockdown, the migrant workers who are among the worst affected category of people must be allowed to go back to their homes after being tested for COVID-19. It said that those migrant workers who test negative for COVID-19 must not be forcefully kept in shelters or away from their homes and families against their wishes.

It said that although the national lockdown has been necessitated because of the unprecedented pandemic of COVID-19 and its imposition is much needed, it is submitted by the petitioners that the fundamental right of the migrant workers enshrined under Article 19(1)(d) (right to move freely throughout India) and Article 19(1)(e) of the Constitution (right to reside and settle in any part of India) cannot be suspended for an indefinite period. It said that these migrant workers cannot be forced to stay away from their families and living in unpredictable and arduous conditions, as the same is an unreasonable restriction beyond what is envisaged under Article 19(5) of the Constitution. The petition said that necessary transport services may be provided by the state governments in abundance so that the purpose of ‘social distancing’ is not defeated.

(Source: PTI)

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has asked the Centre, through the Union Home Ministry, to issue suitable guidelines/advisory/Standard Operating Procedure to all the States and UTs emphasizing that while implementing Corona lock down guidelines, the public servants, including police personnel, should behave in a sensible manner with the people, particularly belonging to vulnerable sections, respecting human rights relating to their life, liberty and dignity. A response is expected at the earliest.

These directions have come after the Commission took cognizance of a communication from one of its Special Monitors and human rights activist, Ms Maja Daruwala alleging that in order to effectively implement the lock down guidelines, the public servants, including the police personnel, across the country, sometimes under tremendous pressure, tend to deal with the people, especially the ill-informed poor labourers, in a very harsh manner undermining their rights.

Issuing the directions, the Commission has observed that it appreciates that the Government agencies are sincerely working to deal with the unprecedented situation to fight the spread of COVID-19 virus, and it is apparently a tough challenge for the them as well as the general public. However, it found it appropriate to bring the issues raised by the complainant to the notice of the Central Government and send the same to it through the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.

The complainant has also said that police are doing many good things during the lock down; chopping of a policeman’s hand is unforgivable but those, among them, who are using this time to be cruel and harsh must be stopped. Allegedly, those who are illiterate and less informed mainly the poor labourers and daily wages workers etc, are facing extreme difficulties due to shortage of food and other facilities for themselves and their families. They can be asked to stay off the streets with some degree of compassion without being cruel and abusive using excessive force.

Recently, the Commission had also taken cognizance of a complaint raising the issue of alleged violation of human rights of the people suffering from mental illness during lock down.

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A bench headed by SA Bobde, CJ has granted four weeks time to states and Union Territories to respond on a plea alleging death by starvation of persons due to denial of ration over problems in Aadhaar linkage with ration cards. The Court noted that most of the States and Union Territories have not filed their response on the plea and asked them to submit their response. The court was informed that only Jharkhand, Nagaland, and Tamil Nadu have filed the reply in the case.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner, contended that Aadhaar linkage has resulted in 2.33 crore cancellation of ration cards between the years 2013 and 2016. Earlier, the Court had sought a response from the States on whether a person being denied rations over Aadhaar linkage.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a statement that 3 crores cards have been cancelled, Gonsalves argued, adding that 85 per cent cards were wrongly cancelled according to a recent survey. The petition was filed on behalf of the mother Koili Devi and sister Gudiya Devi of Santoshi, an 11-year-old girl from Simdega, Karimati in Jharkhand who died of starvation on September 28, 2017.

The petition highlighted that Santoshi’s death was due to the cancellation of her poor Dalit family’s ration card since it had not been linked to their Aadhaar card. Their rations had been stopped from March 2017, because of which, the entire family had been starving. On the day of Santoshi’s death, her mother served her some tea and salt – the only two things they had left. Later that night, Santoshi died, the plea said. Gonsalves has contended that in many states, the “notification is there but when tribals go to the centres there is no ration.”

(Source: ANI)

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The Court has asked the Centre to explain within two weeks why it has stopped the supply of ration to the Mizoram Bru refugees in seven relief camps in Tripura that led to starvation deaths.

“Take instructions and tell us in two weeks. Don’t do this, whatever is the reason. Don’t let people die in this manner,”

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves appearing for the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum apprised the Bench that 40,000 people in seven relief camps in Tripura are affected by the Centre’s decision.
The Centre had stopped the supply of ration from October this year and within one month four children had died, argued Gonsalves.

The petition seeks:

  • proper security and proper rehabilitation for the Brus, a scheduled tribe constituting the largest minority group in Mizoram, which was subjected to genocide by the militant Mizo organisation in 1995 and 1997, resulting in thousands of Brus fleeing to Tripura and setting up relief camps where 6,000 families reside today.
  • Direction to the Centre to double the quantity of the ration supply and improve its quality by including more diverse nutritious commodities such as pulses, oil, etc.
  • Direction to the State of Tripura to issue necessary orders for registration of FIRs in the six starvation deaths which have taken place amongst the Bru IDPs at Tripura since October 1 against the officers responsible for withholding the ration supply to the Bru IDPs.
  • Direction to constitute a special investigation team comprised of
    • officials from outside the State of Mizoram and Tripura, and not under any administrative control of the Union of India; and
    • an independent nutritional expert, to investigate the aforementioned six starvation deaths in a time-bound manner;
  • Release of compensation of Rs 1 crore each to the family of the six starvation death victims.

(Source: ANI)

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, JJ that it would accord final hearing in August on a batch of petitions challenging the Centre’s decision to deport illegal Rohingya Muslim immigrants to Myanmar.

The top court is also seized of petitions which support the government’s stand to deport over 40,000 Rohingyas, who fled to India after violence in the Western Rakhine State of Myanmar and are settled in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan.

The Court asked the counsel for parties to submit their written submissions in the meantime,

“Pleadings are complete. Parties are required file brief written submissions,”

Initially, two Rohingya immigrants — Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir, who are registered refugees under the United Nations High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR), had moved the Supreme Court in 2017 challenging the move to deport to Rohingyas on various grounds including that it violated international human right conventions.

“Proposed deportation is contrary to the constitutional protection of Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty) and Article 51(c) of the Constitution of India, which provides equal rights and liberty to every person. This act would also be in contradiction with the principle of ‘Non-Refoulement’, which has been widely recognised as a principle of Customary International Law,”

The plea had also sought a direction that Rohingyas be provided basic amenities to ensure that they can live in humane conditions as required by international law.

The Centre had questioned the bonafides and motives of the NGOs and individuals seeking facilities for the Rohingya refugees, and stated that there is no discrimination between Indians and outsiders in providing health and education facilities.

(Source: PTI)

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Sanjiv Khanna, J has asked the Chief Secretaries and DGPs of all the States and Union Territories to take strong and necessary measures to prevent attacks of Kashmiris and other minorities as an aftermath of the Pulwama Terror Attack. It directed:

“The chief secretaries, the DGPs and the Delhi Police Commissioner are directed to take prompt and necessary action to prevent incidents of threat, assault, social boycott etc against Kashmiris and other minorities.”

The bench sought responses from 10 State Governments, namely, are Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Punjab and Maharashtra.

Directing that the police officers who were appointed as nodal officers to deal with incidents of mob killings will now be responsible to deal with cases of alleged assault on Kashmiris, the Court directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to give wide publicity of the nodal officers’ contact details so that those who need help can approach them easily.

The matter will next be heard on February 27.

(Source: ANI)