Hamid AnsariINVC NEWS,
New Delhi,
The Vice President of India Shri M. Hamid Ansari has said that the comprehension and advocacy of civil rights has undergone quantitative and qualitative changes in the past four decades. New dimensions have emerged as social movements focusing on women, Dalits, regional, minority and environmental issues have come into focus. However, in the final analysis the focus is on the conduct of the State in relation to its own citizens. The failure of the State to deliver can be categorized into the broad categories of ‘Act of omission’ and ‘Act of commission’. Delivering the Eighth V.M. Tarkunde Memorial Lecture on ‘Citizens and State Conduct’ here today, he recalled the contribution of V.M. Tarkunde to the propagation of civil liberties and human rights. Shri Ansari also emphasized the need for continual oversight to ensure that liberty is not smothered in material prosperity.

He laid down the operative concepts of civil liberties as, dignity and equal and unalterable rights to all. He went on to explore the state of play with regard to the civil liberties and human rights in the context of what the people of India have given to themselves in the Constitution. Dwelling upon this aspect he remarked that the explicit provisions of the Constitution are evident enough, and, the text also has many values that have been dilated upon and amplified in judicial pronouncements.

According to him the comprehension and advocacy of civil rights has undergone quantitative and qualitative changes in the past four decades. New dimensions have emerged as social movements focusing on women, Dalits, regional, minority and environmental issues have come into focus. However, in the final analysis the focus is on the conduct of the State in relation to its own citizens. The failure of the State to deliver can be categorized into the broad categories of ‘Act of omission’ and ‘Act of commission’.

The Vice President observed that the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy amplify the vision and the principles to secure to all citizens social, economic and political justice. The Constitution casts an obligation on the State to ensure economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development. It also places a responsibility for provision of security and to ensure access to justice. The institutional framework and policy for human rights protection is already in place. The development objectives have also been spelt out in the 12th Five Year Plan. Innovative legislation pertaining to right to food, education, information and rural employment has also been put in place. However, there is imbalance in implementation and insufficient attention to some other areas.

The Vice President remarked that in today’s context the most concerning aspect is the State conduct resulting in violation or denial of rights of citizens. The most serious human rights violation by the State pertains to the article 21 of the Constitution. Serious complaints are frequently made about the misuse of laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) or the Public Safety Act (PSA). This reflects poorly on the State and its agents.

He also expressed concern about the inadequacy of State action in relation to women. The manifestations of violence against women are a reflection of the structural and institutional inequality.

The Vice President drew attention to two sets of impulses, firstly the dogged defence of the status quo, and secondly a measure of introspection. He observed that a plural society, and a mature system of governance would opt for the latter. Shri Ansari concluded by emphasizing upon the need to awaken the collective conscience and to induce fuller accountability into the system of governance at all levels.

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