Now, Sessions judges to hear human rights violations as well: Supreme Court

Updated: Jan 16, 2019, 09:55 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

SC seeks reply from chief secretaries of states for failing to implement the earlier order, which asked them to set up courts for such cases

File Pic
File Pic

Victims of human rights violations across states might soon be able to appeal for their cases at Sessions courts, as a Supreme Court order passed on January 10, has said that Sessions judges should be designated as judges of Human Rights courts as well. Justice S A Bobde and Justice Deepak Gupta were hearing a civil appeal filed by Punjab State Human Rights Commission v/s Jatt Ram when the directive was passed. The apex court has also sought a reply from the chief secretaries of all states for failing to implement the earlier order, which asked them to set up separate courts for fighting human rights violation cases.

On April 22, mid-day had highlighted the ground reality through a story titled – 'The Act is in place, but, where's the court?' – based on the response of an RTI query filed by Mumbai-based lawyer Rajeshwar Panchal. In the reply, the Maharashtra government had claimed that the state's Sessions courts were Human Rights courts as well. However, not a single human rights violation case has been filed in these courts.

Speaking to mid-day, Advocate Rajeshwar Panchal said, "The Supreme Court direction was much awaited. For reasons best known to state governments, they never implemented the earlier direction. However, the need of the hour is to make amendments to the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, which says nothing about the definition of human rights violation and the kind of cases that fall under its ambit. Also, the nature and quantum of punishment are not covered in the Act." He further said, "If the amendments are not made, then the whole purpose of having the Act will become toothless."

Elaborating on the fact that the public was not even aware of the existence of the Act, he said, "The irony is that no special public prosecutor has ever been appointed to represent a victim of human rights violation. It is also unfortunate that till date not a single case has been referred to court."

Panchal is also of the opinion that there were deliberate holes in the Act, as the authorities concerned were fully aware of the fact that the victims of human rights violations would make situations difficult for the government.

Echoing the same sentiments, Senior Criminal Lawyer Dinesh Tiwari said, "Till date, I have not come across a court in Maharashtra which solely handles human rights violation cases. These special courts are usually on paper. However, the fact is that courts are usually over burdened with a lot of civil and criminal cases that makes it practically difficult to have a dedicated court for human rights violation cases."

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