The general elections in India are set to begin on April 19th, 2024, lasting for six weeks. Voters will elect 543 members for the lower house of the Parliament, the Lok Sabha, for a five-year term. The results of which are to be announced on June 4. 

Following this, the party or coalition of parties that wins a majority of seats will nominate a candidate for prime minister and form a government.

That being said, now you must be wondering, how does the concept of ‘human rights’ and election relate in this arrangement?  Well, here’s how the two are related.

What Are India’s Human Rights Obligations Around The 2024 General Elections?

India is obligated to conduct elections fairly and freely, by ensuring that citizens can vote without undue influence or coercion. This is also because India is subjected to human rights obligations under several international human rights treaties and customary law. 

When it comes to elections, India is obligated to secure rights such as the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and privacy; the right of people to run for public office with the freedom to convey their ideas; the right to participate in public affairs; and the obligation to ensure that voters are able to vote free of abusive or manipulative interference.

Among other core human rights treaties, India is a party to the ICCPR, that is, ‘the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’, a multilateral treaty that commits nations to respect the civil and political rights of individuals. 

It is also a member of the ‘International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW), which aims to ensure that women have equal access to and opportunities in political areas, including the right to vote and to stand for election.

What Is The Effect Of Social Media On Human Rights With Respect To Indian Elections?

In previous Indian elections, authorities have applied significant formal and informal pressure on tech companies, both to suppress critical speech and to keep online speech by government-aligned actors, that would otherwise violate the companies’ policies.

Also Read: ResearchED: Here’s How The Supreme Court Grants Citizens A ‘Right Against Climate Change’

For example, in 2022, an intensive investigation by the Reporters’ Collective (a group of journalists that report on the relationship between governance, development, and the political economy, with a focus on holding the powerful accountable) and  ‘Ad Watch’ (a term used to describe the media’s efforts to report on and evaluate the veracity of political advertising) of advertisements in India, raised questions about whether Facebook was giving the BJP cheaper ad rates compared to those offered to its opponents during the analysis of 9 out of 10 elections. 

The same investigation, which spanned from February 2019 to November 2020, has also claimed that Meta was allowing the BJP to create proxy advertisements, going against the company’s own rules. And when Facebook did crack down on surrogate advertisements, it mostly targeted advertisers promoting the opposition Congress Party.

Such actions can have adverse effects – contributing to an uneven playing field by giving some parties an unfair advantage in political campaigning online. 

Adding on, according to a report in ‘The Washington Post’, based on an investigation by an outside law firm that Meta contracted in 2019, Meta did not stop hate speech and incitement of violence ahead of the Delhi riots in 2020, between Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and pro-CAA protestors, in which at least 53 people died. 

In response to the Post, Meta gave references to its policies on hate speech and incitement, saying that it had enforced them globally, however, at the same time, Meta refused to publish this human rights impact assessment, showing a continued disregard for the serious human rights concerns that civil society groups have been raising for decades. 

What Is The Say Of The UN?

The United Nations human rights experts, on March 7, sounded the alarm over reports of attacks on minorities, media and civil society in India and called for urgent corrective action as India prepares to hold elections in early 2024.

We are alarmed by continuing reports of attacks on religious, racial and ethnic minorities, on women and girls on intersecting grounds, and on civil society, including human rights defenders and the media,” the UN experts said, expressing concern that the situation is likely to worsen in the coming months ahead of national elections. 

They further added, “In light of continuing reports of violence and attacks against religious, racial and ethnic minorities, and other grave human rights issues, and the apparent lack of response by authorities to concerns raised, we are compelled to express our grave concern, especially given the need for a conducive atmosphere for free and fair elections in accordance with the early warning aspect of our mandates”.

Image Credits: Google Images

Feature image designed by Saudamini Seth

Sources: Times of India, Human Rights Watch, United Nations 

Find the blogger: Unusha Ahmad

This post is tagged under: elections, India, Parliament, Lok Sabha, Prime Minister, government, human rights, ICCPR, CEDAW, ad watch, Reporters’ Collective, BJP, Congress, Meta, Facebook, CAA, UN  

Disclaimer: We do not hold any right, or copyright over any of the images used, these have been taken from Google. In case of credits or removal, the owner may kindly mail us.

Other Recommendations:

ResearchED: Right To Wages Behind Bars; Struggle For Fair Compensation For Prison Labour In India


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here