ICJ Report on Corporations and Human Rights

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), a non-governmental organization headquartered in Geneva, has put out a detailed and well-researched report titled Access to Justice: Human Rights Abuses Involving Corporations, which covers the scenario in India. The abstract is as follows:

The 1984 Bhopal gas disaster involving Union Carbide provoked a marked shift in perceptions concerning the conduct of corporations in India, leading to the enactment of stricter laws, emergence of new legal principles through the judiciary and development of enforcement mechanisms. India’s legal system, including its judicial organs, provides people with a number of avenues to seek access to justice in corporate-related human rights abuses. Some of these means have yet to be tested, while others need to be made more effective. Human rights concerns arise from corporate activity and struggles over control of land and water and mineral resources, widespread corruption, inadequate or vague laws, endemic judicial delays, and lack of robust enforcement mechanisms to make companies accountable. The laws of civil responsibility and other forms of liability have not been adequately concretised in emerging areas, including biotechnology and genetically modified organisms. The report maps the existing legal framework, identifies limitations and suggests areas where more substantial and sustained reforms are needed to guarantee redress to victims of corporate human rights abuses in India.

 It is a significant resource for those interested in the intersection between corporate activity and human rights, and also in the field of corporate social responsibility.

About the author

Umakanth Varottil

Umakanth Varottil is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore. He specializes in corporate law and governance, mergers and acquisitions and cross-border investments. Prior to his foray into academia, Umakanth was a partner at a pre-eminent law firm in India.

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