Govt Forms Panel to Oversee Human Rights-Related Obligations to Treaty Bodies

The panel will function as the national mechanism for 'human rights issues' and will meet twice a year. It has been formed under the joint supervision of the home and foreign ministries.

New Delhi: The government has constituted a committee to create a structured mechanism to oversee human rights-related obligations to treaty bodies and the universal periodic review done by the UN Human Rights Council, Hindustan Times reported.

According to the newspaper, the panel will function as the national mechanism for “human rights issues” and will meet twice a year. It has been formed under the joint supervision of the home and foreign ministries.

The latest universal periodic review of India’s human rights record was done on November 10 last year, the daily reported.

It further said that India received close to 340 recommendations, though authorities in New Delhi are yet to decide how many of these will be implemented.

The secretary (West) in the external affairs ministry and special secretary in ministry of home affairs will co-chair the interministerial committee, the daily reported. Joint secretaries in the ministries of women and child development, social justice and empowerment, minority affairs, tribal affairs, rural development, housing and urban affairs, health and family welfare, labour and employment, school education and literacy, legal affairs, corporate affairs and NITI Aayog will be part of it, it added.

According to a gazette notification issued by the external affairs ministry on Friday, the panel said: “The committee shall function as the national mechanism for implementation, reporting and follow-up with the mandate to deliberate upon and oversee… all human rights reporting obligations to the treaty bodies, the universal periodic review and the special procedures; implementation of their recommendations; and modalities for engagement with national stakeholders.”

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told the newspaper: “It is very welcome that the government has set up a committee to enforce its international treaty obligation. Hope this will include bolstering the independence of institutions like the NHRC (National Human Rights Commission), NCW (National Commission for Women), NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) and other constitutional bodies, as well as robust engagement with civil society including government critics.”

Also read: ‘Collective Punishment for Muslims’: Human Rights Watch Slams Demolition Drives in BJP-Ruled States

The move comes a few days after the Human Rights Watch released its latest report highlighting the normalisation of various state governments’ drive to demolish homes of Indian Muslims and low-income groups, as a measure of extra-judicial punishment.

The Wire reported that it is perhaps for the first time that a global human rights body has expressed concern over the government’s use of a demolition drive against vulnerable groups.

The report noted multiple such incidents in 2022 which appeared to be cases of state governments targeting the Muslim community while carrying out punitive home demolitions.

“In April, authorities in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Delhi summarily demolished property mostly owned by Muslims in response to communal clashes. Although they tried to justify the demolitions by claiming the structures were illegal, the destruction appeared intended to be collective punishment for Muslims,” the HRW report said.

Added to that, the HRW also hit out at the majoritarian biases in the functioning of state institutions that are supposed to enforce human rights. It said that state authorities “misused” laws against prohibiting forced religious conversions to “to target Christians, especially from Dalit and Adivasi communities”.

The report also raised concern over the alarming rate of violence against women and girls that it said continued to grow even in 2022.