Human & Civil Rights Manual

Book: Human & Civil Rights Defenders' Manual
Prepared by Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR)
108, 3rd Floor, Pocket I, Near Living Style Mall, Jasola, New Delhi-25
Price: Rs. 100
Pages: 122

Mahtab Alam
Human and Civil Rights violation in India is not a new phenomenon. What is worse that it is growing day by day or one should say minute by minute. 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 as 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" 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.

Unfortunately, most of the victims of human and civil rights violations are from marginalized sections of our society and religious minorities. Early this year, the then Union Minister of State for Home Dr Shakeel Ahmad informed Parliament that cases of human rights violation against minorities in the country have increased during 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 rose 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 pertaining to 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 organizations), 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 comprised 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 in to five parts - each deals with an important aspect of civil and human rights. Part one deals with 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. The fourth part deals with different institutional mechanisms to prevent human and civil rights violation, institutions like National Human Rights Commission, National and state commissions of minorities, National Commission of Women and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. It does not merely contain information about these bodies which has been provided but it also details 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. One can also find an annexure containing writ petition format and application for legal aid.

In spite of its legal nature, the manual is marked by simplicity and lucidity of language. However, it could be more engrossing if help of more charts, tables and pictures had been taken. Nevertheless, this is a work of reference which is a must for libraries, community leaders/activists and of course civil and human rights defenders as well as for common people consicious of their rights.