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The State and Citizenship

Mona Das

By A.G. Noorani
South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2012, pp.283, Rs. 695.00


Rights delineate relationship between the State and the individual hence; they are some sort of parameters to determine the nature of any State. Individual and group rights, including a gamut of second generation rights called civil and political rights, when guaranteed by a State serve as milestones to mark democratization of society. Advocacy for protection of Civil Rights, in the present era of hegemonic discourses on cross-border terrorism, insurgency, everyday commonplace security threats, is more complex than ever before. Rights are the smallest price that a Nation State is more than willing to pay in return for security and peace.In this context the book under review is an attempt to empower citizens of India through dissemination of information and educating them on civil rights, as admitted in the preface to the book which quotes Francis Bacon's aphorism 'Foreknowledge itself is power'. Neatly divided into nine exhaustive chapters covering various aspects of civil rights the book has an interesting mix of old and new issues as well as issues which in the commonsensical understanding of civil rights may have been neglected. It covers a whole range of themes starting from the most obvious violations like those relating to preventive detention acts, extrajudicial killings, counter-terrorism and human rights, AFSPA, moving on to issues like narcoanalysis, death penalty, video-conferencing, anti-conversion laws which may not appear as violations of civil rights at all. The chapters are complete packages on the themes discussed; issues are placed in a historical context, which then leads to pointing out violations inherent in the text of law, judicial pronouncements that have further impinged on civil rights by way of interpretation, implementation related violations, followed by evaluation in the backdrop of international laws related to the theme. The book begins with a discussion on laws authorizing preventive detentions. Preventive detention 'while premised on the value of precautionary state action ....(it) has been operating at the cost to the values of individual liberty, due process and sacrosanct protection under the law.' The journey of preventive detention as a piece of legislation has been traced to the British East India Company Act, 1784 followed by a host of other laws of the colonial era. However, even in Independent India preventive detention was not only incorporated in the law books but it has become 'a law enforcement tool rather than an extraordinary measure to be applied only during an emergency or during ...

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