At UNHRC, India says its secular state with no state religion

He was speaking at the 27th session of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) here, where India's human rights records was reviewed. So much so that as the Attorney General of India, I was summoned by the Supreme Court at 2 in the morning to hear a last-ditch petition, after several rounds of litigation, by a convict who was guilty of terrorism to escape punishment (Yakub Memon case).

The Report also covers areas that India wishes to share with member countries as part of the peer review mechanism and in a spirit of cooperative engagement and collaboration that has marked our approach to the issue of human rights.

"Switzerland recommended review of Armed Forces Act in consonance with ICCPR and stressed upon India stop trampling on the political and civil rights of the people".

As Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka backed India on its human rights record, other countries raised various concerns, which were responded to by India.

The issue of "Afrophobia" was raised by Haiti, related to the recent incidents in the country where students from African countries were victims of violence. It is a state-driven process, under the auspices of the UNHRC, which provides the opportunity for each state to declare what actions have been taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

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Group of countries such as Germany, Vatican, Kazakhstan, Kenya, UK, South Korea and the Netherlands were apprehensive on the issues of religious intolerance and rights of minorities.

India is said to be a secular state with no state religion and safeguarding the rights of minorities forms an essential core of its polity.

A number of countries raised the issue of women's rights, like including marital rape within the ambit of rape laws (Spain, Latvia, Namibia, Portugal, Slovenia, Ireland, Sweden, Zambia, Belgium and others), the issue of honour killings and forced sterilisations (Ghana, Iceland, Sweden and others), as well as repealing Section 377 (Israel, Iceland, Norway, Canada and others) that criminalises same sex relations.

This apart, several countries questioned India's commitment to ratifying the UN's convention on torture, to which it became a signatory in 1997.

"As the world's largest multi-layered democracy, we fully recognise the importance of free speech and expression". Nations also urged India to ensure the protection of rights and inclusion of members from the transgender community, persons with disabilities and other backward communities into the mainstream.

The activists also questioned Rohatgi's defence of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which allows soldiers to shoot on suspicion in areas designated trouble spots, and his claim that there was no misuse of this law. "As such, the concept of torture is completely alien to our culture and it has no place in the governance of the nation", he said.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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