Revival of MHRC demanded

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IMPHAL, June 2: The Manipur Human Rights Commission has been lying defunct since May, 2011, the absence has deprived the people of Manipur an important fundamental legal mechanism to promote and protect the human rights of individuals and groups in the State, L Debabrata Roy, convenor of Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights, CSCHR said.

Talking to IFP, he further stated that the present defunct status also means that a vital and statutory institutional human rights body with wide judicial powers, crucial for the proper functioning of humane and democratic governance in the state, has been allowed to literally die out.

“Chief Minister, Okram Ibobi Singh emphasised the protection of human rights in his statement at the recent national meeting on security convened by the Union Minister of Home Affairs in New Delhi. His statement is a cruel irony because the governments led by him have not shown evidence of sincerely tackling the issue of human rights violations in Manipur”.

He added, “Nor has the government accorded due support to the MHRC as per the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act of 1993 (PHRA) as amended in 2006”.

It may be said that the PHRA is the only law in India that defines human rights and enables their applicability in the national courts of law. In its section 2 “Definition”, clause 1(d) says, “Human rights means the rights related to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.”

Clause 1(f) says “International Covenants means the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on the 16th December, 1966.”

Further, MHRC was instituted under the PHRA under central legislation on June 27, 1998 and functioned till the second term of the SPF government in the State.

Yambem Laba, former member of MHRC also priorly mentioned to IFP, “Inspite of various shortcomings like lack of proper infrastructure, staff, finance, etc, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) used to function against all odds to deliver justice to hundreds of people whose rights were being violated by the state. These violations include enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, custodial deaths, extrajudicial executions, torture, rape, etc.”

However, following the retirement of its chairperson and former justice W Shishak and members, the commission has literally become defunct since May, 2011.

It may be noted that inspite of the retirement of the chairperson along with all its members on May 9, 2010, only the post of the chairperson is officially vacant as per the current MHRC website, the Manipur government has still not corrected the anomaly.

In the regard, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL No. 15 of 2011) demanding re-installation of Manipur SHRC was filed in the Guwahati High Court by one Chaoba Takhenchangbam. In response, a division bench directed the state government that the MHRC should be made functional within February 19, 2012.

Talking to Chaoba over the phone, he stated , “As the state government failed to comply with the court’s directive, a contempt notice was served to which the State government requested a six month’s extension (i.e., till 18 August, 2012) of the notice or till a new government is formed. However, even after three months, there have been no attempts at reinstituting the State Human Rights Commission nor has there been any effective pressure on the government in the state Assembly possibly due to the absence of an opposition leader”, he said.

Jenine Meitei, human rights activists told IFP regarding the state’s failure to reconstitute the MHRC, “The cases of human right violations are still there, though the number of cases may have come down or not. Families of victims face a big hurdle while seeking assistance due to the absence of the MHRC thereby causing a psychological discouragement in promotion and protection of human rights”

It is also very pertinent that the appointment of the SHRC is also the responsibility of the opposition parties in the Manipur State Legislative Assembly and civil society.

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