Report on webinar on Human Right’s Day 2020

St. Thomas’ College of Law (STCL), Gr. Noida, an eminent institution established by the Diocese of Delhi, Church of North India, under the auspices of the St Thomas Higher Education Society, headed by the Rt Revd Warris K Masih, co-chaired by Dr Shiva Panda with Mrs Anuradha Amos, Secretary, STHES, organised a National Webinar on the 9th December 2020, on the eve of World Human Rights Day, on the Theme “Stand Up for Human Rights: The Need of Global solidarity “.
The Webinar was inaugurated and presided by the Hon'ble Ms Justice Indira Banerjee, Judge, Supreme Court of India ,who graced the program as Chief Guest . The Hon'ble Mr Justice N . Kotiswer Singh, Acting CJ of Gauhati High Court was the Guest of Honour. Other distinguished Speakers were Mr Pradeep Rai, Sr Advocate, Mr Romy Chacko and Ms Sneha Kalita, Advocates, Supreme Court of India

Advocate Sneha Kalita and standing Counsel for Gauhati High Court in the Supreme Court introduced and moderated the theme of the webinar “Stand Up for Human Rights: The need of Global Solidarity”. She elaborated the historical background and the circumstances under which the Universal Human Rights Declaration was made. She highlighted the serious challenges brought forth by the Covid !9 pandemic vis-à-vis s Human Rights and Dignity. Discussing these issues with the help of practical illustrations she stated that rise in crimes especially against women, alarming rise of domestic violence, with reported NCRB figure of 1477 complaints, have been quite disturbing and therefore, we need to fight together and said that denying any one of human right is like denying it to humanity. She elucidated the Concept of Corporate Social Responsibility and called upon St. Thomas’ College of Law to continue with its social responsibility vis-a-vis Human Rights as a pioneer Institute of Legal Learning.

Address by the Hon'ble Ms Justice Indira Banerjee Justice Indira Banerjee commenced her address saying that it gave her immense pleasure to participate in the webinar for a special reason. Her Ladyship said that she had been the Advocate for the Church of North India in Calcutta, when Bishop Raju headed the same and added that it had given her opportunity to start her career with the blessings of the Almighty and others, who had been providing service in the CNI.
Elucidating the realm of Protection of Human Rights, she said that Domestic Violence, Sexual Harassment, Exploitation, and Trafficking strike at the root of human rights of women and need to be eradicated at global level as these cannot be tackled by any one or few Nations alone but haves to be tackled whole world with collective international cooperation, with the spirit of humans solidarity. Discussing the challenges posed by the current pandemic COVID 19 and the violations of Human Rights she stated that “ It has to be ensured by the global community that the Corona Vaccine is distributed equally among whole immunity rather than its benefit is shared by only affluent countries. She added that International Cooperation is the Core of International Solidarity, it’s not limited to assistance alone but includes sustainability of relations, improvement and development She summed up her enlightening speech by explaining the concept of human rights that “Basically, Human Rights are those rights which are basic to human civilisation, that is Right to life with dignity which includes right to food, right to shelter, right to education, right to health care, freedom of speech and expression, right to equality, presumption of innocence, so on and so forth “ The Guest of Honour, Chief Justice (Acting), High Court of Gauhati, the Hon'ble Mr Justice N. Kotiswer Singh initiated his speech with its background in which UDHR came forth, especially after the trauma caused to the Human Conscience by the two World Wars. He linked the Human Rights Realisation with the Respect for Democratic Principles and the Supremacy of Rule of Law as per the Constitutional Principles. After describing the different kinds of Democracy Cannons, he said that “Disregard to the inherent dignity comprising of equal and inalienable human rights for every one belonging to human race has resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind and that the man should not be compelled to take recourse to rebellion as a last resort against tyranny and oppression and for this human rights have to be protected by Rule of Law He added that authoritarian regimes are resurging in many parts of the globe which are hell- bent on subverting the Rule of Law, with scant respect for the Democratic Norms. He also said that there is “resurgence of jingoism, ultra-nationalism, fanaticism, demagogue pandering to baser instincts of human beings which have corrosive effect on the lofty ideals of UDHR as these are an anathema for human rights. He explained the democracy beautifully as “Democracy is a living experience, is not merely political formulation or structure of formulations for democracy to strive and exist, the values have to be believed and practised and not merely proclaimed”.He elaborated that “There is a saying, charity begins at home, we must see, what is happening in our own country as it is not portraying a gratifying picture and we must remain alert to those ideas which can chip away slowly our hard-earned freedom, peace and prosperity. We must therefore take a pledge to strengthen our democratic institutions and practice, though, we are blessed with one of the finest Constitutions which should be our most sacred text to guide us on our Collective life and it’s very important to remind you what Dr. Ambedkar said that “How so ever good Constitution but if those implementing it are not good it will prove bad”. Therefore, ensuring that those implementing the Constitution are also imbibed with the same spirit, is absolutely necessary.” He beautifully summed up his illuminating thoughts with the famous couplets of Rabindranath Tagore“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, where knowledge is free. where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls. where words come out from the depth of truth, where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection. where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary deserts sand of dead habit. where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action. into that heaven of freedom, my father, LET MY COUNTRY AWAKE!”

Mr Pradeep Rai, Sr. Advocate, Supreme Court, in his address highlighted and apprised the members of the webinar that Human Rights is a dynamic concept. He said that on 10th December 1948, the UN came up with a Human Rights Declaration which now panders to many more areas like, Right to freedom of speech and expression, education, health, rule of law, equality of opportunities. He gave pragmatic examples and showcased how the Global human rights regime must open and give equal opportunity to each and every dimension of modern life. His main area of focus was uniformity and equal opportunity for every citizen of the planet earth irrespective of any boundaries. He also raised an important issue of privacy and governance espousing his thesis of International uniformity.

Mr. Romy Chacko, Advocate, a member of the Management Committee of St. Thomas Higher Education Society, in his illuminating words, covered three broad areas of Human Rights which critically hampered the human rights during Covid 19 , viz. Right to Religion, Right to Health and Right to freedom of speech and expression. He discussed and apprised the attendees with valuable knowledge and information relating to Human Rights Jurisprudential questions and novel challenges and the legal position stated by foreign Jurists and Courts. He emphasized that the Right to Health, which is a basic human right, became a grave casualty during the pandemic. He illustrated many instances of hospitals declining to admit the Covid patients. He added that in countries like Italy, China and some other, rights issues emerged because of shortage of supplies and medical practitioners deciding which patient to treat and which not. This again was a big socio ethical question of equal human rights and dignity. He touched upon the Right to Religion, giving an example of Germany, where a regulation was challenged because of an umbrella banning of weekly religious services which was challenged by a member of Catholic Community who alleged that the complete prohibition of religious practice was unconstitutional and illegal. He said that the Court in its decision emphatically concluded that prohibition of this type of religious practice was a serious type of infringement of right to life as codified in Article 4 of German Basic Law.
He also gave an example of a New York case, where occupancy limits were prescribed for religious places disproportionately and discriminately. The Controversy was decided by the US Supreme Court by 5: 4. the majority holding that restrictions in worship places is unconstitutional on the ground that it infringed the US Constitution’s 1st amendment. He further highlighted the duplicity and unfairness because same occupancy limits did not apply to liquor stores, bike stores, acupuncture parlour which did not have such restrictions. The Court held that even in Pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and overruled or bypassed/

Dr. K.S. Bhati, Advisor to Saint Thomas’ College of Law, who moderated the proceedings, in his concluding remarks stated that the respect for human rights is the basic postulate upon which the lasting global peace and sustainable development can flourish. Dr M.K.Tyagi, Dean, St.Thomas College proposed the words of thanks to the distinguished guests and the participants

The Organizing Committee consisted of the learned faculties, Professor Simmi Pal, Professor Dhananjay Mishra and Professor Adnan Irshad under the mentorship of Dr. K.S. Bhati., the esteemed Advisor of STCL, who also moderated the webinar and Dr M.K. Tyagi. the Dean.