PUCL Bulletin, June 2001

NHRC News:
Commission calls for assistance for people displaced by land acquisitions

The Commission has taken the view that provisions relating to the resettlement and rehabilitation of persons displaced by land acquisition for developmental projects should form a part of the Land Acquisition Act itself (or an appropriate separate legislation) so that they are justiciable.

Concerned with the plight of persons displaced by Mega projects, the Commission has been perusing this matter with the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, seeking to ensure the early finalization of a draft policy on this subject.

A petition was received from the National Committee for Protection of Natural Resources (NCPNR), wherein it was mentioned that the Land acquisition Act, 1894, which was still in force and was proposed to being amended by the Government, did not contain any provision for resettlement and rehabilitation of the people affected by the projects. The Committee requested that the Commission may consider this matter in its entirety and make suitable recommendations to the Government, specially at a time when the government was considering a comprehensive Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, which did not deal with aspects relating to resettlement and rehabilitation.

Considering this issue in its meeting held on 21 December 2000, the Commission decided to pursue this matter the Government. A detailed discussion was held with the Secretary, and senior officials of the Ministry of the Development on 13 February 2001. The Commission was informed that the Bill had been finalized and was with the Ministry of law. The group of Ministers had also considered and finalised the policy regarding rehabilitation and resettlement. The Bill would now be submitted to the cabinet for consideration.

The Commission expressed the view that it was desirable to incorporate the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) package in the Land Acquisition Act itself as an I.L.O convention, to which India is a party, provides for the protection of rights of indigenous and tribal people. In addition, the incorporation of an R&R package in the law will ensure the R&R of Project-Affected-People in a systemic manner. The provision for R&R in the law itself will help to avoid litigation and consequent delays and prevent cost overrun of the projects. Once the R&R package is provided in the law, there will be uniformity in dealing with the cases by the Courts. The R&R facilities should be provided in advance, before actual acquisition of land takes place. The Commission also noted that, in number of cases, land was acquired in excess of that which was required, adversely affecting the land holders on the one hand wasting of the resources of the State on the other, as the excess land was not put to use by the project authorities. A properly drawn project document, with estimates of expenditure involved in R&R, would curb this tendency. Further in the interests of transparency and full information to the people likely to be affected by a project, a Committee consisting of representatives of Government, the industry/agency for which land is proposed to be acquired and the project affected people, should have detailed consultations before the land is acquired.

The Commission has asked the Secretary, Rural Development, to suitably apprise the Minister, Rural Development Ministry of the views of the Commission. Discussions are scheduled to being held with the Minister on 19 March 2001.
Show-cause notice issued to Delhi Government

The Commission has issued notice to the government of NCT of Delhi to show cause as to why a sum of Rs. 3.00 Lakhs should not be awarded as "immediate interim relief" for payment to the next of kin of Mohd. Irshad Kahn, who had died in Police custody.

The Commission, on 17 October 2000, had taken cognizance of a report received from DCP, North-East District, Delhi stating that one Mohd. Irshad Kahn had been brutally to beaten to death by police officials. The police officers had taken him to hospital, where he had been declared brought dead. Requisite reports relating to the post mortem, magisterial inquiry and findings relating to the cause of death were called for and received on 15 December 2000.

In the meantime, the commission also received a petition from the victim's father alleging negligence and lack of cooperation by the police and administration.

According to reports received from the DCP, Delhi investigation conducted in the case established the guilt of two police constables who, while intervening in a scuffle between Shri Irshad and a rickshaw puller, had beaten the former severely, resulting in his death. A charge sheet in the case had been framed against the accused persons, and the matter was to be tried in the competence court of law.

The Commission, while considering the material relating to the incident, and the charge sheet for trial u/s 302 read with Section 34 IPC, observed that a strong prima-facie case existed justifying the award of "immediate interim relief" u/s 18(3) of the Protection of the Human Rights Act, 1993, to the next of kin of the deceased Shri Irshad. The Commission made it clear that the award of this relief would not in any manner prejudicially affects all or any of the accused persons who were to be tried, or even the merits of the points, which arose for determination during the trial. It was highlighted that, in a case like the present, "immediate interim relief u/s 18 (3) of the Act, was relatable to the failure of the State to protect the life of the victim in such circumstances.

The Commission has asked for a reply from the government of NCT of Delhi by 16 March 2001.

Commission's Annual Report for the year 1998-'99 tabled in the parliament
Commission raises fundamental questions of equity and justice in the country - calls for polices for ensuring economic and social rights.

The Annual report of the National Human Rights Commission for the year 1998-99 placed on the Table of he Rajya Sabha on 19 December 2000 and of the Lok Sabha on 20 December 2000 by the Central Government along with the Action Taken Report. This was the sixth Annual Report of the Commission; it had been sent to the Government in October 1999.

Because of significant delays in the tabling of consecutive annual reports, the commission has reiterated its recommendation that these should normally be placed before the Parliament, together with the required Action Taken Memoranda, not later than the session immediately following submission of the Report. In this connection the Commission has also recommended an amendment to the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 so as to enable the commission to make the report public in case it not tabled within three months of submission to the Central Government.

During the period under review, in the Report now tabled, the Commission received 40,723 complaints, 54 percent of which were accounted fo4r by the State of Uttar Pradesh alone - which is still without a State level Human Rights Commission. The Commission felt that to meet the growing expectation for swift and just redressal of human rights grievances, the early setting up of State Human Rights Commission was absolutely necessary. It called for greater political will that the State level, combined with encouragement of the Central Government and the major political parties, to precede conclusively in this direction.

In its Report, the Commission observed that there is a clear correlation between lack of literacy, especially of the girl child, and infant morality rates, malnutrition, and an adverse sex ratio. The Commission, therefore, with increased stridency urged policies in the economic and social sector that are truly responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable in society: fee and compulsory education up to the age of 14; primary health facilities; food and nutritional standards - all of which are necessary for ensuring a life with human dignity.

Considering issues, which raised fundamental questions of equity and justice in the country, the commission made significant recommendations fore the protection of the rights of Dalits, populations displaced by mega projects, especially tribals, children subjected to child labour, child prostitution, women subjected to violence and discrimination and minorities subjected to religious intolerance. It has also stressed to right to development, which provides the integral link between civil and political rights and economic, social, and cultural rights.

The Commission reviewed the matter of human rights violations in areas of terrorism and insurgency and recommended that the menace of terrorism must be fought not only by the armed and police forces, but also at the political, economic and social levels, in a manner that respected human rights, whatever the difficulties this may entail, It also recommended greater transparency in dealing with those who may have been guilty of human rights violations. In this respect, it reiterated its recommendation that the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 be amended in respect of the armed forces in the conduct of the operations and also discourage unwarranted and propagandist charges against them. The Commission also recommended that the security forces, when called up on act in aid of civil authority, must continue to do so in close coordination with the civil administration. Violations of human rights were far less likely to occur when the role and responsibilities of the civil authorities under the law was full respected, not least in respect of cordon and search operations, arrest, interrogation and detention.

The Commission called for a time bound programme to be embarked upon for the speedy clearance of criminal cases in the courts. It made a number of recommendations in this regard and in respect of curbing custodial violence. To keep the institutions of government in good repair, and stressing importance of probity, civility and tolerance, the governance, the Commission made a number of recommendations for reform of the police, the custodial justice system, and their criminal justice system.

Among other major issues, the Commission focused in this Annual Report on: the widespread prevalence of child marriage in certain parts of the country, prevalence of maternal anaemia and the resultant disabilities caused to children, the fate of those displaced by mega projects, prevalence of child labour in a number of hazardous industries in the country, the grave issue of child prostitution prevalence of bonded labour, the unsatisfactory conditions prevailing in mental hospitals in the country, the inhuman and degrading practice of manual handling of night soil, the problems of Denotified and Nomadic Tribes and the need for human rights education in the country. The attention of the Governments was drawn to these areas and far-reaching recommendations were made to help tackle these problems.

In the period under review, there was a 9.6 per cent increase in the total number of cases registered in the Commission. This reflected, both a heightened awareness of human rights in the country, as well as the hope and belief that the Commission would act promptly and impartially to secure the redressal of grievances. During this period, the Commission considered 53,711 cases, of which 47,061 were disposed of. The disposal of cases was 150 per cent more in 1998-99 compared to the previous year. The Commission believes that the disposal of cases could have been even better had there been prompter and fuller responses to the notices of the Commission by the State authorities.

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