Human Rights Law Network


Media Reports

Cos use foreign money for political funding. Isn’t that influencing polls?

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A recent Intelligence Bureau (IB) report has claimed that some well-known NGOs are working to stall economic development at the behest of their foreign donors. Activists and rights groups have been up in arms ever since the report was leaked. In an interview with Fawaz Shaheen, Colin Gonsalves, eminent Supreme Court lawyer, constitutional expert and founder of the Human Rights Law Network, discusses foreign funding and the fears of India's civil rights activists:

The leaked IB report claims that under the garb of "people-centric issues" certain NGOs are working to stall development projects, resulting in a loss of about 2-3 % of the GDP. Do you agree with this assessment? 
Not at all, this is an issue of environmental protection. Let's take the nuclear energy issue. There are some sections of society that point out its adverse effects. These are not people who are anti-national. It is their point of view, in the nation's interest, that India should go towards renewable sources of energy and that nuclear power is dangerous. We must recognize that these activists are doing a public service, which many people may disagree with. But they don't have the state power to enforce their point of view, all they can do is they can write and talk. That is a constitutionally protected activity. 

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10 years on, Justice eludes Manorama Devi's family

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Almost 10 years have passed since the brutal rape and murder of Manipur's Manorama Devi that shocked the nation and exposed the abuse of Armed Forces Special Powers Act in North-East India. Little has been done by the Government to bring the perpetrators behind the bar even after a decade of protest.

The protest intensified with Iron Lady of Manipur Irom Charu Sharmila fasting for almost 14 years demanding Government's attention to human rights violation in Manipur and repealing of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Friday was the tenth anniversary of the killing of 34-year-old Thangjam Manorama Devi in Manipur allegedly by Assam Rifles personnel and people from different groups like human rights, political groups and democratic rights who held a protest march in Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.

This case of Manorama Devi has become a very symbolic case because after this incident on July 11, 2004, 12 women held a naked protest in Imphal. From this moment this movement became very symbolic against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Armed Forces Special powers act(AFSPA) is a draconian act and the Supreme Court says that it should be repealed but till now nothing has been done in this direction," says Rojio Usham from Manipur who has protesting at Jantar Mantar demanding repealing of AFSPA.

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Pending cases mount at State Human Rights panel

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Since 2001, and till February 2014, as many as 15,266 cases had been filed before the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC), but the panel has been able to disposed of less than a thousand of them. As many as 14,285 cases are still pending; documents accessed under the Right to Information (RTI) have revealed. Constituted under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the MSHRC, headed by Justice B R Bannurmath, looks into the various cases of violation of human rights. Refusal of the police to file FIR, alleged action by the police, and denial of human rights of HIV/AIDS infected people, custodial deaths and other kinds of complaints are looked into by the commission. No fee or stamp paper is required to move the commission, and for many it is the last resort for justice.

According to documents furnished by the commission in reply to an application filed by The Indian Express, pendency at the MSHRC in 2001-02 was nil. Till February 2014, the highest numbers of complaints (7,208) were received in 2008-09, while the least number of 1,454 complaints were received in 2001-02. Since 2008, the number of complaints has gone down. The number of cases disposed of has taken a plunge from 2011-12, with the year 2012-13 and the period between April 1, 2013 and August 31, 2013, witnessing zero cases being settled. The highest number of complaints disposed of after report/hearing was in 2008-09 when 3,402 cases were solved. Relief was awarded in as many as 347 of them. The same year had seen 8,563 cases being disposed of in total, the highest in the given time period.

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SC seeks response of Centre, states on violation of Right to Education Act

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The Supreme Court on April 11 2014 sought response of the Centre, all states and Union Territories on a petition alleging that there was violation of Right to Education (RTE) Act in schools across the country and sought its proper implementation. A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam issued notice and sought their response after summer vacation on a plea filed by an organisation, National Coalition for Education. The plea said lack of resources and failure to implement provisions of the RTE Act has resulted in a significant decline in education performance.

Human Rights Senior Lawyer Colin Gonsalves sought a direction to all the states to complete the required neighbourhood mapping within six months and new schools be constructed six months after completion of the process. The petition asked the states and UTs to recruit and train one lakh additional professionally trained teachers to end the shortage of educators within a year. It sought a direction that "the states and UTs upgrade all deficient schools with appropriate physical infrastructure so as to be in compliance with the RTE Act within six months."The states and UTs regularise and make permanent all contract and para-teachers in the country,"

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Supreme Court recognizes transgenders as 'third gender'

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A recent Supreme Court verdict has empowered the transgender community by giving them not only the right to self-determination of gender but also cultural, social and political rights as guaranteed by the Constitution to all citizens. The lengthy verdict, however, fails to throw light on the sexual rights of the community. The judgment declined to delve into section 377 of the IPC, that calls homosexuality “unnatural” and makes it a criminal offence punishable upto life, despite acknowledging that the colonial law is widely used to harass transgender persons.

Though the apex court has ruled that each person has the right to determine one’s own sexual orientation and gender identity, it fails to talk about the right to choose one’s sexual partner. The third gender cannot be discriminated against under the statue now as far as general rights are concerned. However, the third gender’s sexual activities continue to remain not just unlawful but criminal offences. “Trans persons can now have their own public toilets but can still not have legitimate sex. A trans person would indulge in unnatural sex (under sec 377) as the partner would either be another trans or a man or woman,” said a transgender who did not wish to be named.

Lawyers and LGBT activists say that the case in question — National Legal Services Authority vs. UOI — dealt only with general rights of transgenders and not sexual rights. They, however, are of the view that the judgment has given a boost to the movement against section 377 and will definitely help in decriminalising homosexuality. In July 2009, the Delhi high court had decriminalised homosexuality by striking down sec 377 of the IPC. However, the HC verdict was quashed by the top court in December last year. Later, the SC dismissed a review plea and a curative petition is now pending before it.

Colin Gonsalves, senior advocate and founder of Human Rights Law Network said that “This SC judgment is basically inconsistent with another judgment of the SC (recriminalising homosexuality). This is contradictory. The two verdicts have taken totally different views. But the latest verdict will definitely have an impact on the curative petition (pending in SC) for decriminalising homosexuality,”

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HRLN is a division of the Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC). SLIC is a non-profit legal aid and educational organization, registered under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860, Indian Public Trust Act, 1950 and the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, 1976.