Colin Gonsalves, a senior Indian advocate was today selected for a prestigious rights award in Sweden for his innovative use of public interest litigation in securing fundamental human rights for India’s most marginalised and vulnerable citizens. Gonsalves, a New Delhi-based Supreme Court lawyer, will share the award and the prize money worth over USD 300,000 (SEK 3 million) with two other laureates — Khadija Ismayilova from Azerbaijan and Robert Bilott from the US, according to a statement by the 2017 Right Livelihood Awards Honour Inspiring Changemakers and Champions of Justice.
Gonsalves, a 65-year-old founder of the Human Rights Law Network, has been honoured by the jury “for his tireless and innovative use of public interest litigation over three decades to secure fundamental human rights for India’s most marginalised and vulnerable citizens”, the statement said. “I am both humbled and privileged by the award. It comes at a time when India is going through a dark period and human rights activists are under siege. The platform the Foundation provides will help us strengthen democratic resistance at this critical stage,” Gonsalves was quoted as saying by the statement.
The Right Livelihood Award is widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, it said. The announcement was made at the International Press Centre at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs by Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, and Maina Kiai, Jury member and former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The three laureates were chosen from 102 nominations from 51 countries.
“This year’s laureates protect the rights and lives of citizens across three continents. With their courageous work for human rights, public health and good governance, they tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges at their very core,” Uexkull said. “At a time of alarming setbacks for democracy, their successes show us the way forward towards a just, peaceful and sustainable world for all,” Uexkull added. Established in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award honours and supports courageous people and organisations offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems. There are 170 laureates from 69 countries, the statement added.