20 December 2022
By Rehan Piracha
LAHORE: Sindh Assembly has unanimously passed the Sindh Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2022, to broaden the scope and purview of the Sindh Human Rights Commission.
The legislation allows SHRC to visit business premises to check if there was any abuse of the rights of employees. “(iv-a) to visit any business enterprise or corporate entity, with prior intimation to the concerned corporate entity’s supervisory body or authority, to ascertain the reported violations or abuse and the working conditions of employees, workers or inmates of the supply chain or the value chain, as the case may be;” reads the amendment in Section 4 of Sindh Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
The bill reads that the amendment will serve as an alternative dispute resolution and accountability mechanism for business-related abuse of human rights and provide easy access to remedy. “….(v) review the safeguards provided by or under the Constitution or any law for the time being in force for the protection of human rights and also in the sphere of Business and Human Rights and National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights to ensure accountability and access to remedy as an alternate dispute forum and to recommend measures for effective implementation of laid down procedure and for due diligence in business enterprises;” reads the amendment bill.
According to the government, the legislation is in line with international obligations the country needs to follow for its Generalized Scheme of Preference (GSP+) status for foreign trade.
The amendment allows a person having a demonstrable experience of 15 years in the field of Human Rights or a retired high court judge to be appointed SHRC chairperson by the Chief Minister.
The commission will be comprised of two MPAs nominated by the Speaker, while the four other members, with demonstrable experience in the field of Human Rights, at least one of whom shall be from the minority community and one shall have considerable experience in business and human Rights, to be appointed by the CM. Either an additional secretary or deputy secretary of the Human Rights Department shall be nominated by the department.
The retirement age of a member and chairperson of the SHRC has been fixed at 60 years. The tenure has been increased to four years from three years previously. The chairperson would not be given any extension in tenure under the amended law.
Speaking on the floor of the House, Special Assistant to Chief Minister for Human Rights Surendar Valasai said this amendment bill will serve as an effective mechanism to safeguard the human rights of citizens without any discrimination.
According to the statement of objects and reasons listed in the amended bill, the legislation envisions making Sindh Human Rights Commission an effective institution to cater to contemporary demands and challenges, the capacity and role of the Human Rights Commission is required to be strengthened and enhanced so as to make it work in a proactive and responsible manner and to serve as a Provincial Alternative Dispute Resolution Forum, in the domain of Business and Human Rights in view of country’s international commitment to UN conventions Generalized Scheme of Preference (GSP+) and United Nations Guiding Principles on Human Rights.