National Human Rights Commission chief Arun Mishra on Friday said that suspects in cases should not be jailed without trial and that there was no room for fake encounters. Mishra, a former Supreme Court judge, added that justice was the source of a peaceful society.

He was speaking at an event held in Delhi on the occasion of the World Human Rights Day, which marks the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

Mishra said that the government was accountable to citizens for ensuring human rights in the country. He added that the civil society and the media also play an important role in promoting human rights.

His comments came at a time when human rights defenders and activists in India are facing increasing harassment from the authorities.

As recently as on Wednesday, South African non-profit organisation Civicus put India on a list of countries with “repressed” democratic values. The report had flagged the use of draconian anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case, repression of the farmers’ protest and the imposition of curfews in Jammu and Kashmir.

Earlier this year, global human rights body, the Human Rights Watch, had said that in 2020, the authorities had increased their crackdown on critical voices in the country. The body has also accused the Indian authorities of using politically motivated allegations of tax evasion and financial irregularities to “silence human rights activists, journalists, and other critics of the government”.

Former government officers have criticised Mishra himself for his comments against civil society.

Speaking at a Foundation Day event of the National Human Rights Commission in October, Mishra had said that it had become a norm to “accuse India of human rights violation at the behest of international forces”.

On Friday again, Mishra emphasised on the need to protect freedom of speech, but with a rider.

“Still, it cannot be an unruly horse, violating the sovereignty, integrity of the country, public order, decency and morality,” he said.