Book Review : Human & Civil Rights Defenders’ Resource Manual
Prepared by Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR)
108, 3rd Floor, Pocket I, Near Living Style Mall,
JASOLA, New Delhi-25, Phone: 011-64639388. E-mail :
Price: Rs. 100/-, Pages: 122
Reviewed by MAHTAB ALAM
Human and Civil Rights Violation in India is not a new phenomenon but what is worse, it is growing day by day or, one should say minute by minute. And violation of human rights means violation of rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed under the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India. According to section 2 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, "human rights" means the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed under the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India. "International Covenants" mean 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 16th December, 1966.
Unfortunately, most of the victims of human and civil rights violations are from marginalized sections of society and religious minorities. Earlier this year, the then Union Minister of State for Home, Dr Shakeel Ahmad, informed Parliament that, the cases of human rights violation against minorities in the country have increased in the last two years. According to Mr. Ahmad, 12,794 out of a total of 32,965 cases registered with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2007-08 pertained to minorities as compared to 9,603 during 2006-07. In 2006-2007, while 8,390 cases of human rights violations pertained to Muslims, 851 cases related to Sikhs and 362 to Christians. However, during 2007-2008, the figures for Muslims, Sikhs and Christians increased to 11,178; 1,003; and 613, respectively. Likewise, the figures compiled till February 11, 2009 show that a total of 10,568 cases have been filed with Muslims (9,248) followed by Sikhs (877) and Christians (412). Here comes the need and importance of civil and human and rights defenders, who, individually or with others (in the form of organization), act to promote or protect human and civil rights.
The book under review is a manual for such defenders and activists. The manual has been prepared by the Training Division of Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), a civil rights’ group comprising of advocates, social activists and grassroots legal social workers dedicated to using the legal system to protect and advance civil and human rights in India. The aim of this manual is to help human and civil rights defenders make more effective use of human rights mechanisms and procedures.
The manual is divided into five parts – each deal with an important aspect of civil and human rights. Part one deals with the Constitution, Fundamental Rights, Indian Judicial System and Court Structure. Part Two is all about Criminal Law and Procedural Framework in India, which covers various issues like criminal law, burden of proof and FIR. Part three deals with the Right to Information (RTI) Act, its importance, use and procedural details. Fourth part talks about different institutional mechanisms to prevent human and civil rights violations, institutions like the National Human Rights Commission, National and State Commission of Minorities, National Commission of Women and, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. It is not merely information about these bodies which has been provided but it also details about how these can be approached and used for the protection of rights. The last part deals with how to file complaints in the Press Council of India in case of a breach of the recognized ethical canons of journalistic propriety and taste. Once can also find an annexure containing writ petition format and application for legal aid.
The most important aspect of this manual is that, it provides an interface between theoretical understanding of the legal and institutional framework for the protection of civil and human rights in India. Manual can be used not only as a guide but also as reference material, must for libraries, social activists and community leaders. Civil and Human rights’ activists can hardly afford to miss it, especially those who are working for the rights of the underprivileged section of society.