Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan has said terror attacks and violence on basis of religion, caste and gender are posing "considerable challenges" to promotion of human rights but expressed satisfaction that safeguards are provided under the Constitution to meet these.
Addressing a South Asian human rights conference at New Delhi on Thursday, he observed that in "an environment of insecurity and distrust" there is a tendency for "clamour for diluting safeguards such as the 'right to fair trial'."
He underlined the need for constant vigilance over the actions of state agencies as also pro-active approach of institutions in responding to instances of exploitation by private parties.
"In south Asian region, the agenda for promotion of human rights faces considerable challenges on account of frequent terrorist attacks, communal violence, and perversive exploitation on account of caste and gender differences, Justice Balakrishnan said.
He noted that there has been "considerable debate" about aspects such as longer detention periods and the demands for custodial confessions to be considered as evidence.
"Our respective constitutions contain safeguards that have been evolved over the centuries of the common-law tradition and have been further refined by the ideas of political liberalism," he told the gathering of human rights activists from South Asian countries.
The CJI noted that there were persistent criticism about the "lack of independence and initiative and effective powers" for National Human Rights Institutions.
The public places "high expectations" on these institutions with the increasing awareness about constitutional rights, he added.
The CJI held that personnel of rights bodies should uphold a high standard of integrity in their work, saying "The public's expectations from the human rights bodies largely depend on the participatory complaint redressal system."
He said while many nations have become parties to various treaties and conventions evolved through the UN system, there is much to be desired in the domestic implementation of various substantive rights.
"While legislative incorporation and judicial creativity lead to the absorption of some human rights norms in domestic legal systems, there was a clear need for specialised institutions to internalise the same," he added.
He also felt the need for "constant vigilance" over the action of state agencies and suggested the rights bodies to be "pro active" in responding to instances of exploitation by private parties either.
"There is a special responsibility upon human rights bodies to actively confront social evils such as immoral trafficking and forced prostitution, a practice that has been described as the most prominent form of slavery in the 21st century," he added.
Addressing the conference, NHRC Chairperson Justice S Rajendra Babu said National Human Rights Institutions have been increasingly becoming "significant players" on both international and national fronts.
He, however, viewed that "effective enjoyment" of human rights calls for the establishment of national infrastructure for their protection and promotion.
The NHRC chairperson advised the rights bodies to seek amicable settlement of complaints concerning individual situation and said such disputes should be resolved through conciliation within the limits prescribed by the law.
He urged the South Asian rights bodies to consider on the possibility of meeting in every two years for "greater" cooperation and coordination of efforts towards protection and promotion of human rights and to share "best practices".
Besides Ambassadors from South Asian countries, members and senior officers of Human Rights Commissions of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka participated in the conference along with other distinguished dignitaries.
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