India stands behind 161 nations, including Pakistan, as it is yet to ratify the 30-year-old United Nations’ Convention Against Torture by making a law on it despite signing it way back in 1997. It may sound bizarre, but India is among the only nine countries worldwide which are yet to ratify this crucial convention, an essential condition for a signatory state to ratify the international human rights treaty. This fact has been taken strong note of by the Supreme Court which has asked the government why it was not making at least a “good faith commitment” about its intention to legislate in the matter.
“We do understand that the legislative process can take time, but tell us why can’t you (Centre) make a ‘good faith commitment’ on the law before us,” a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said. “This is an extremely important issue in the national interest and moreover, there is no conflict,” the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and SK Kaul, said.
The remarks were made when Congress leader and former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar pointed out that India was among the only nine nations left in the world which have not yet ratified the treaty despite signing it. ‘The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’, also known as United Nations Convention against Torture, is an international human rights treaty aimed to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment around the world.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, sought some time on the ground that some states are yet to be consulted before a fresh bid is made to legislate. The top court said “it is nice to say that we are committed to the treaty, but there has to be a law”. The Solicitor General had referred to the fact that the Bill on torture was moved in 2010 in Lok Sabha by the erstwhile UPA-II regime, a process in which Kumar, former law minister and senior advocate, was a part. But the legislation had lapsed.
To this, the bench had said, “it has to be non-partisan. This is an important issue.” The government had earlier told the bench that Kumar cannot seek a direction to the Centre to legislate as the issue fell under the domain of the Executive and the Legislature. The senior Congress leader, in his PIL, has sought directions to frame an effective law on the issue and empower agencies like NHRC with necessary enforcement capabilities and mechanisms to implement its orders and directions.
The convention was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on December 10, 1984 and came into force on June 26, 1987 after being ratified by 20 nations. India, which became a signatory on October 14, 1997, is yet to ratify the global human rights treaty, ratified by over 160 nations like Pakistan and Afghanistan, as it has not yet enacted the law on torture. The Convention needs nations to take effective steps to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction and forbids them to send citizens to any country where they believe that the transported persons may be tortured.