When hopes and aspirations are "crucified", human rights issues spring up, Chief Justice Dipak Misra today said, while asserting that the country should lay emphasis on rights of the disabled and the underprivileged.
Delivering a speech at the 25th Foundation Day of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the CJI, quoted from ancient Indian texts, American history and old court cases to underline the message of equality and justice.
He cited the instance of Ashtavakra, an ancient Vedic sage, who suffered from physical handicap, and made a reference to an episode connected with King Janak to emphasise the point.
"Ashtavakra once went to the kingdom of Janak. And, when the king's procession was passing, a poor person was thrown out of footpath... When the king sent his prime minister to ask why he (sage) wouldn't come to his palace, he replied that -- 'O king, you have violated the fundamental principles of the traffic rules,'" he said.
Quoting the sage's reply in Sanskrit, the CJI said, "The sage told the king -- 'You know who has the first right over the road. The first right is that of the blind, second of the deaf, then men who carry load, fourth of women, and then comes the king'."
"I hope I am able to communicate what the human rights order should be," the 45th Chief Justice of India said.
He also quoted from the Vedas, Kautilya's 'Arthashastra' and other texts, and said, it amazed him, how "how could they think of these (human rights) concepts in those days".
Buttressing his point, he made reference to the case in Madhya Pradesh High Court, related to eye camps.
The case related to cataract operations and since the patients had suffered, a compensation of Rs 10,000 was announced and the (state) commission took cognisance of the case and it came in the court.
"We (court) realised Rs 10,000 was not enough. So, the compensation was enhanced and we granted Rs 1 lakh each to people who had lost an eye. The case was that the government was instrumental in giving hopes and aspirations to the people that they shall be cured.
"And, when hopes and aspirations are crucified, human rights spring up. It is the duty of the human rights commissions, including the NHRC to agitate in court. And, obligation then is to see if it is coming within the boundary of the Constitution," the CJI said.
Quoting an incident related to Thomas Jefferson's drafting of the Declaration of Independence, he said, the American legend had replaced the word "subjects" with "citizens".
"And, if you come to our texts, kings were not allowed to possess all powers. They were constrained by 'Raj Dharma'. And, if you equated, it will stand today on the pedestal of our Constitution and constitutional values, norms, philosophy and morality," he said.
The CJI said the NHRC has done an "excellent job" in spreading awareness on rights, as evidenced by the increase in volume of complaints filed with it.
Justice (retd) H L Dattu, Chairperson of the NHRC, in his opening address said, by adopting human rights as a way of life, a fundamental change can be brought about to eradicate the scourge of poverty, ignorance, prejudices and discrimination based on sex, caste, religion, disability and other forms in society.
The NHRC has registered nearly 17 lakh cases from its inception till September end this year, with Uttar Pradesh recording the maximum of 39,087 cases in the last one year, the rights panel said.
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