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CAA plea in SC by UN body unusual, foreign entity can’t do this, says ex-India envoy to UN

Dilip Sinha, the former Indian ambassador to UN, says India is not a party to any international convention that would allow a foreign entity to take it to court on human rights.

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New Delhi: India is not a party to any international treaty that allows the government to be taken to court over human rights, according to a former Indian Ambassador to the UN in Geneva. His comments come in the wake of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Tuesday announcing that it will file an intervention petition in the Supreme Court against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). 

“This is an unusual case where a foreign entity, which is part of the UN, is taking India to an Indian court. India is not a party to any international convention that allows the Government of India to be taken to an international court on human rights,” Dilip Sinha, who has also served as the vice-president of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), told ThePrint.

The move by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who is the head of the OHCHR, has upset India, with New Delhi stating that it is an “internal matter” of the country.

“There is no precedent for this and certainly no international convention to which India is a party that creates such a jurisdiction,” Sinha said, adding that contrary to popular perception, the UN is not a party in the case as the OHCHR acts independently.

The OHCHR can file the petition but that is not the same as the UN being party to it, he said. 

Also read:‘Inaccurate, misleading’: India says US panel’s comments aimed at politicising Delhi riots

‘UN not party to case’

While the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is an intergovernmental body consisting of 47 members, the OHCHR only services it. The OHCHR does not make decisions on behalf of the UN.

“What the court does will have to be drawn from Indian laws,” Sinha said.

The intervention application filed by the OHCHR also states that it “reflects exclusively the views and positions of the High Commissioner”.

According to Sinha, even if the Supreme Court rejects the petition, the OHCHR can “draw the attention of the UNHRC to the human rights violations in a country but the UNHRC can take a decision only when a member state tables a resolution that then gets adopted”. 

Last week, Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs had tweeted that he had held “a good meeting” with Bachelet during the 43rd session of the UN human rights council on 27 February.

 However, according to sources, at the time the body had no plans to file the petition.

“The Citizenship Amendment Act adopted last December is of great concern. Indians in huge numbers, and from all communities, have expressed – in a mostly peaceful manner – their opposition to the Act, and support for the country’s long tradition of secularism,” Bachelet who was formerly President of Chile had said then. 

Also read: UN study cites Aadhaar, commends India for using tech to reduce disparities among citizens



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  1. Recently there was similar move against Israel and later the UN official was exposed of getting corrupt funds from anti Israel lobbies.
    UN is a toothless tiger going after soft targets and our own anti Hindu forces encourage them for few junkets and publicity and teaching assignment s get thrown at them.
    What a way to earn a living.

  2. UN body’s intervention is fully justified because the situation is at the first step of generating an unprecedented flow of “refugees”. If the UN is supposed to care for refugees when they have been “created”, then how can it not be justified in “preventing the creation” of refugees if it can?

    The only question to be asked is: should the culprits, like the Hindutva elements in this case both inside and outside the state and Central government, be tried in the culprit country’s Supreme Court, or should they be directly taken to international Court of Justice?

  3. Right wingers will pretend things are normal but the fact is things are not normal and the world does not agree. The UN has applied to be the Amicus Curiae in the case. Given how compromised the Supreme Court has become to Government pressure, this move can insulate the Court from the same and look at the merits of the case without undue interference. Even Habeas Corpus petitions are not being heard on time nowadays. This undermines the very legitimacy of the Indian state.

    No diplomacy can work around a bad brief. India is slowly finding itself in the dog house. We are not China. We neither have that economic or diplomatic muscle. Nor should we aspire to be like them. Michelle Bachelet is a highly respected statesman who has the ear of Western capitals. She herself suffered horrendous abuse under the Pinochet regime. So she has credibility and knows what she is talking about. The Delhi riots just reinforce the ill intention of the Govt. The hate speeches, the abuse, the use of violence against the anti CAA protestors, the othering of a significant minority of the population along with the constant mocking and jeering, makes the bad intentions of those in power very clear. Communalism is in the very DNA of the BJP.

    This issue is not going to go away anytime soon. It is still not too late to change course but sound logic and good advice usually falls on deaf ears.

  4. Vikas Swarup has a smile on his face but Ms. Bachelet is grim. So how ‘good’ was the meeting?

  5. Somehow this stinks of Chinese involvement. This HC is ex-president of Chile, which is fast becoming a Chinese vassal state (similar to the one on our western border). Interestingly UNHRC has made no attempt to confront China on its well recorded horrific HR abuses in Xinjiang, or for that matter in gross HR abuses in Chile itself. We should be prepared to deal with more such interferences as India gets closer to the US as its strategic ally. Nevertheless we shouldn’t need anyone else, but we need to look inwards ourselves and stop this erosion of our secular pluralistic values!

    • And what would those “petty interests” be? I am asking because I am not one of them so I do not know. From whatever I have seen of them, they look humane, and capable of taking a holistic view of a situation. (Unlike the Hindutva-ites who appear diabolically cruel and also narrow-minded.)

  6. The most apt response for the SC is to dismiss the petition in less than 30 seconds with an utter contempt that it deserves.

  7. The awkwardness is on account of the fact that such an Intervention Application has been filed in the SC, even if it lacks legal force. Does not raise India’s global stature. Also suggests that somewhere, somehow, the diplomatic corps is failing to get its message across to the political executive.

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