PUCL Bulletin, October 2001

National Council Proceedings 2001
-- BY PUCL Gen. Sec., Y. P. Chhibbar

The first meeting of the newly constituted National Council after the Jaipur Convention April 24th and 25th on 1999 was held at Allahabad on August 18th and 19th 20001at the G.B Pant Social Science Institute. The following attended the meeting

President: K.G. Kannabiran; Vice Presidents: Amrik Singh, Prabhakar Sinha, RB Mehrotra; General Secretary: Y.P. Chhibbar; Organising Secretary: Ravi Kiran Jain; Former President: Rajindar Sachar; Andhra Pradesh: Ms. Jaya Vindhyala, N. Saida Rao (Observer); Bihar: Kishori Das, Surendra Kumar, Ramashraya Prasad Singh, Arvind Kumar, Vinay K. Kantha, S, Bhattacharjee, Ram Chandra Lal Das; Chhattisgarh: Binayak Sen; Delhi: T.K. John; Karnataka: Ramdas Rao (Observer), V. Lakshminarayana, P.B. D'Sa; Kerala: P.S. Balamani; Uttaranchal: Hem Gairola, R.P. Dhasmana; K.N. Bhatt (Observers); Uttar Pradesh: O.D. Singh, K.K. Roy, Chittaranjan Singh, Ashok Awasthi (Observer), Sayyed Ali Manzar (Observer).

The agenda of the meeting was the General Secretary's report - discussion on the report - action on the report; Election of the National Executive Committee in accordance with Clause 7 (3) of the Constitution; Chalking out a programme to mark the 25th year of the founding of the PUCL; Financial status of the PUCL; Any other item with the permission of the Chair.

Y.P. Chhibbar presented the General Secretary's report (see elsewhere). The General Secretary's report had suggested that the President and past Presidents should consider the auditors' suggestion to get the PUCL registered with the income tax department as a charitable institution so that an application be made to the appropriate authorities for exemption from income tax. It was decided that the President, the past Presidents, the vice Presidents in Delhi, and Sri Prabhakar Sinha should take decision on the matter.
The Executive Committee of the PUCL was declared elected consisting of V.M. Tarkunde.(Advisor); K.G. Kannabiran (President); Y.P. Chhibbar (General Secretary); Amrik Sing.(Vice-President); Dev Vrat N. Pathak (Vice-President); H.B. Shenoy.(Vice-President); Prabhakar Sinha.(Vice-President); R.B. Mehrotra (Vice-President); Yogesh V. Kamdar (Vice-President); D Jagannathan (Treasurer); S.A.A. Pinto (Treasurer); Kavita Srivastava (Organising Secretary); N. Kotishwar Singh (Organising Secretary); Rajni Iyer (Organising Secretary); Ravi Kiran Jain.(Organising Secretary); Rajindar Sachar (Former President); Rajni Kothari (Former President). The President and the General Secretary may nominate one or more members later on.
Regarding the observance of the completion of twenty five years of the PUCL it was decided that the meetings be held in every State capital, preferably on October 17. Wherever possible the district branches may also do so. K.G. Kannabiran suggested that efforts be made to bring out a compilation of all the PUCL reports and all important cases filed in the courts by the National PUCL and the State branches. The State branches may draw up their own programmes.

On the financial status of the PUCL, the General Secretary reminded that all the State branches have to contribute to the National office a minimum of Rs.1200/-per year and all the National Council members a minimum of Rs.1000/-per year. Kannabiran suggested that State branches should consider identifying 1000 persons who would donate Rs.10, 000/- each in this 25th year of the PUCL. U.P, Karnataka, and Bihar accepted the suggestion. Some other States assured their best efforts. Amrik Singh and Prabhakar Sinha suggested that the 'Bulletin make efforts for getting advertisements from suitable sources. State branches were exhorted to make serious efforts to strengthen the finances of the National PUCL. While PUCL avoids donations from the government or the business houses, it can mobilise money from professionals like lawyers, doctors, professors etc.

Kannabiran initiated the discussion exhorting members to reflect on how to commemorate the 25th anniversary and how to work in future. His own suggestion was that a selection from the PUCL Bulletin should be published on this occasion. He wondered if based on various enquiry reports a country report could be published. Regarding the current situation of violation of human rights, he drew attention to the change when, besides classical violations, other rights were being violated, sometimes tacitly supported by the State itself, by forces of reaction. Freedom of expression, through different media, has been under attack lately. PUCL has to decide how to intervene in such situations. PIL has been an effective device, which may hold. In any case, it would be better if National office is kept informed about all steps taken by the branches so that it can also lend support, wherever need be. Kannabiran warned that the situation in the country is likely to worsen rapidly and we should be prepared lest we are caught unawares.

Amrik Singh suggested that on this occasion lectures might be organised covering what has been happening during the last 25 years.
Ravi Kiran Jain reverted to the theme of worsening of the human rights scene in the country as pointed out by Kannabiran. He brought some conceptual issue pointing out that the PUCL has remained rather pre-occupied with civil rights issue even as it is well understood how that human rights comprise social, economic, and cultural issues as well or for that matter the whole question of development. Vienna Convention had also under lined the fact that all rights are interconnected. He went on to aver that in today's context corruption or insensitivity of judiciary is also relevant human rights issues. He drew attention to the threats of globalisation and argued that decentralisation of power, now sanctioned constitutionally by the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts was the only answer.

Kannabiran assured him that now human rights movement is campaigning against globalisation especially in respect of its impact on human rights in a big way. It is true that the rights of human collective were being denied, but to fight against that PUCL will have to join with other organisations. It is unlikely that PUCL itself becomes a mass organisation. Of course, courts cannot give us the needed solution to such problems.

Kannabiran made it clear in the afternoon session that units can organise programmes according to their own capacities and choice and the National office would be willing to support them.

The second day's session started with a discussion on two issues raised by Fr. TK John, Delhi. The first one was on the Government notification on obtaining prior permission from the government for the participation of foreign invitees to seminars, etc. Sachar clarified the issue by explaining the circular and the subsequent developments. PUCL had fled a writ before the Supreme Court, which was dismissed. So, initiatives are now needed at the State level, especially whenever there is a fresh cause for action. Prabhakar Sinha drew attention to a Home Ministry circular which required a citizen to immediately inform the police station if any foreign national (Their kith and kin included) stayed with him.

The second issue raised by Fr. John related to violations to rights in Kashmir and NE. Kannabiran and Rajindar Sachar described some initiatives on the two issues. However, as clarified by Kannabiran, the situation in these regions was much too complex to be understood and responses decided in a meeting like the present one. If possible, fact-finding committees can be constituted for touring the areas and undertaking in depth studies.

Vinay Kantha explained the dilemma of the PUCL in extending its agenda when it is unable to address adequately even the older issues. However, this was new to review the concept of human rights today and decide priority especially in the context of states.

Ramchandra Lal Das and Kishori Das described the horrifying State of human rights in Bihar as a result of the State abdicating its responsibility of protecting the life and personal liberty of the people. They mentioned the fact that Md. Shahabuddin (a RDD MP), a history sheeter was allowed to become a terror and a law unto himself owing to the open patronage of the State government.
Kannabiran asked them to send him details so that it could be examined whether the National PUCL could do something in the matter.

R.B. Mehrotra summed up the discussion on this issue that we all agree that right to development is a inalienable human right. In principle, there cannot be any disagreement on the people's right on their lives. However, conditions may vary from State to State, strategies will have to be chalked out, and priorities decided at the State level itself. The national body can possibly recommend no single strategy.

The setting up of the All India Citizens' Committee on Judicial Accountability at the initiative of AD Giri and Ravi Kiran Jain was welcomed. It was felt that the judiciary and the NHRC are powerful instruments and their healthy functioning was very necessary.

Ravi Kiran Jain picked up the threads of Kannabiran's remarks and suggested that the PUCL should now take up the social, economic, and cultural issues as well as the whole question of development. He also commented on the effects of the insensitivity of the judiciary on the Human Rights issues. He said that the 73rd and 74th amendment to the Constitution were very relevant in this respect. The National Council expressed its agreement with these points. Representatives from Uttaranchal, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand reported on the efforts for establishing branches in these new states.

P.S. Balamani (Kerala) pointed out that the lower Judiciary had failed to instill confidence in the hearts of the people. The PUCL should devise instruments to make Judiciary at these levels accountable so that an effort to exert political influence is frustrated. She also pointed out that the number of women members in the PUCL was very small. Attempts should be made to change gender composition of the PUCL.

Ashok Awasthi (UP) emphasised the necessity of Human Rights Courts in every district. Kannabiran proposed a resolution on this issue which was passed unanimously.

Kannabiran proposed a resolution that 'necessary amendment may be made in the Protection of Human Rights Act so that Human rights courts could be constituted without delay in the district'. He argued that then courts could be more effective than the SHRC. The resolution was passed unanimously.
The General Secretary thanked all the members of the National Council for having taken the trouble to attend the meeting. He expressed special thanks to the UP PUCL for organising the meeting and making comfortable arrangements for the stay of the members. Ravi Kiran Jain thanked the G.B. Pant Social Science Institute for allowing use of their campus for the meeting. He thanked Shri K. N. Bhatt for his untiring efforts to make all the arrangements smooth.
It was resolved to support the demand for 33% reservation for women in the Legislations.

Resolution passed:

  1. PUCL should focus more and more on the general question of social, economic, and cultural issues in the context of development and decentralisation of power in the right of 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution.

  2. PUCL supports the demand for 33% reservation for women in Legislatures.

  3. PUCL emphasises the necessity of amending the Protection of Human Rights Courts in the districts without any delay.

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