The Manipur Human Rights Commission (MHRC) acting chairperson Khaidem Mani is not mincing his words when he lamented the state of affairs in the commission. He said MHRC’s rights are being violated by the state government by not providing adequate infrastructure and staff, right in front of the state Law Minister Th Satyabarta Singh. Speaking at the observation of International Human Rights Day on Thursday the acting chairperson expressed sadness against the state government for not fulfilling the proposal made to provide adequate staff and infrastructure of MHRC. Despite multiple proposals made, the government is yet to fulfil the demands, he added.
The Manipur Human Rights Commission (MHRC) was set up on June 27, 1998, following several allegations of human rights violations in the insurgency-afflicted Manipur under the Protection of the Human Rights Commission Act, 1993. It remained defunct for eight years and three months. It was only on June 25, 2018, that the BJP-led government revived the MHRC. However, it has appointed a single member only who also acts as the Chairperson. We failed to understand, why it is partial to the Human Rights Commission only. Almost all other commissions including the State Information Commission has multiple members. Even the watchdog of public corruption Lok Ayukta has a chairperson and two members. In the initial years of the Human Rights Commission, a chairperson and two members were appointed. But, the BJP government appointed only one member.
The government needs to come clean on why a full-fledged chairperson and another member is not appointed. Is it because of the non-availability of qualified persons or of sheer arrogance? Like that of other governments in the past, the commission still remains a paper tiger, powerless without adequate support staff. Many facilities, including infrastructure, and much-needed staff are yet to be made available. There were just three employees appointed by the state government. The present Acting Chairperson Khaidem Mani was a human rights activist and lawyer before he was appointed to the post. He wants the commission to be adequately staffed having four segments namely administration, law, investigations and research and analysis. A case was taken up against the Manipur Chief Secretary in this connection on May 22, 2020. The government had issued a notification on May 25, saying that the MHRC will henceforth be a full-fledged office and not a government-aided one. Even with the present circumstances, if one is imaginative he can do a lot with the limited resources he has.
A directive in the recent past makes us realise that the Manipur State Human Rights Commission is alive and kicking. The rights commission asked the Imphal West SP, Chief Secretary and DGP to show cause on why FIR should not be filed against Imphal West SP and why they should not pay compensation of Rs 5 lakhs for atrocities and injury allegedly caused on an individual by the Imphal West SP. The directive was given following a complaint lodged before the commission by one Ph Okendra, 50, son of late Ph Ibomcha of Sagolband, Imphal, who stated that he was severely injured after Imphal West SP hit him on his head with a stick. Yet, the commission has its share of outrageous complaints also, which the commission should set aside.
The state agencies have been repeatedly complaining about the human right groups not taking up cases of human rights violations by non-state actors and that they are targeting the state actors only. But, we do not want to discuss here the merits of the issue raised by state agencies. We are simply interested in the jurisdiction of the human rights commissions in the domain of civil rights vis-à-vis private organisations. The directive regarding police atrocity is all right as human rights commissions are specially established to look into violations by state actors. Its functions include monitoring of human rights violations, dispute resolution through adjudication or mediation, human rights education, documentation and research, advising governments on human rights issues and human rights standard-setting.