Wrongfully Accused And Prosecuted in India

About this Violation

About this Violation

  • If you have been accused of sedition, see [SEDITION] section.
  • If you have been accused of defamation, see [SLAPP] section. 
  • If you have been illegally arrested or detained see [ILLEGAL ARREST & DETENTION] section.

Human Right defenders often face increased criminalization and judicialization that aims to intimidate them and silence them. 

What is criminalisation?

Criminalization is the use of “legal frameworks, strategies and political and legal actions with the intention of treating [the defence, promotion and protection of human rights] as illegitimate and illegal.” They are repeatedly accused and prosecuted on wrongful charges. In addition, their rights during trial are not respected. 

Facing a criminal trial and filing a criminal complaint once the trial has ended

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

Facing a criminal trial and filing a criminal complaint once the trial has ended

When you are facing criminal trial 

Rights during trial

If you have been wrongfully prosecuted, there are several rights that you have during your trial.

  1. Right against self-incrimination: You cannot be compelled to be a witness against yourself as per Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution.
  2. Right against double jeopardy: You cannot be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once as per Article 20(2) of the Constitution.
  3. The Right against the ex-post facto law: You cannot be tried on the basis of a law that was not in force when you committed the alleged offence. This means that an act that was not a crime on the day when it was done, cannot be considered as an offence.
  4. Right to legal aid by a pleader of your choice: You can hire a lawyer to defend you. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the State has to provide you with free legal aid. 
  5. Right to a free and expeditious trial, based on Article 21 of the Constitution. 
  6. The Right to be present during a trial: Section 273 of the Code provides that all evidence and statements must be recorded in your or your lawyer’s presence.
  7. Right to get copies of documents: You have the right to receive copies of all the documents filed by the prosecutor in relation to your case.
  8. Right to be considered innocent till proven guilty: you have the right to be considered innocent until your guilt is proven in court on the basis of evidence and statements by witnesses.
  9. Right to present evidence: According to Section 243(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, you can present your evidence and defend your case. The magistrate is duty bound to record your written statements.
  10. Right to be present when evidence is taken: Section 273 of the Code of Criminal Procedure makes it obligatory on the part of the Magistrate to ensure that all evidence taken in your or your lawyer’s presence.
  11. Right to cross-examination: It's your right in criminal cases to be cross-examined by the prosecutor to prove your innocence.
  12.  Right to appeal: You have the right to file an appeal against your conviction in a higher court.
  13.  Right to humane treatment in prison: You continue to be a subject of human rights during your time in detention or in prison, and most importantly to receive humane treatment. Also, you should not be forced to confess by force.
  14. Right to be discharged when no sufficient ground: As per Section 227 of the Criminal Procedure Code, when the judge is convinced that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against you after duly considering the case, it is your right to be discharged.
  15. The right to be compensated from the State for contravention of fundamental rights pursuant to Articles 32 and 226 of the Indian Constitution. 

Applying for bail

If you are already arrested and detained, you can ask for bail by the police, namely, to be released on condition that you appear at the Court whenever you are required to.  

Note that not all offences are bailable. Bail can be asked for less serious offences. The Officer in Charge of a police station must grant bail for bailable offences, if you are prepared to furnish a bail bond. In contrast, more serious offences are non-bailable. For those offences, bail cannot be granted if there is evidence that the person could be found guilty of an offence punishable by death or life imprisonment. However, in a few cases, persons charged with non-bailable offences might be granted bail.

Asking compensation for accusation without reasonable cause

Under article 250 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, in cases instituted upon complaint or information given to a police officer or Magistrate, if you are finally acquitted and the Magistrate believes that there was no reasonable ground for the accusation, he/she can order the person who made the accusation to pay compensation to the wrongfully accused.

Once charges against you have ended 

Filing a criminal case against the official who wrongfully prosecuted you

Beyond the tools that you can use during your criminal case, you can consider initiating a separate criminal case against the official who wrongfully instituted proceedings against you. The criminal law of India foresees punishment for that kind of malicious exercise of duties by state officials. 

  • Section 166 of the Penal Code prohibits public servants from disobeying the law, “as to the way in which he is to conduct himself as such public servant, intending to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will, by such disobedience, cause injury to any person.”
  • Sections 191- 211 of the Penal Code penalise behaviours that aim to obstruct justice by wrongfully initiating criminal cases against someone, fabricating false evidence and making false statements against someone. Section 211, stipulates “Whoever, with intent to cause injury to any person, institutes or causes to be instituted any criminal proceeding against that person, or falsely charges any person with having committed an offence, knowing that there is no just or lawful ground for such proceeding or charge against that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
  • Section 219 penalises public servants who make reports contrary to the law during judicial proceedings. 
  • Section 220 states “Whoever, being in any office which gives him legal authority to commit persons for trial or to confinement, or to keep persons in confinement, corruptly or maliciously commits any person for trial or confinement, or keeps any person in confinement, in the exercise of that authority, knowing that in so doing he is acting contrary to law, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.”
  • Sections 330 and 331 prohibit anyone, including state officials from voluntarily causing you hurt or grievous hurt in order to exhort confession.
  • Sections 339, 341, 248 prohibit wrongful restraint and wrongful confinement are punished by the Penal Code. The same applies to wrongful confinement to exhort confession.
  • Contempt of Court Act 🡪 In D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (AIR 1997 SC 610), the Supreme Court held that a state official who fails to comply with the requirements concerning arrest or detention ‘liable to be punished for contempt of Court and the proceedings for contempt of Court may be instituted in any High Court of the country, having territorial jurisdiction over the matter.’

According to Article 2 of the same act, criminal contempt is the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which

  1. scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court; or 
  2. prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or 
  3. interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner

If you think that the state official who wrongfully accused you or prosecuted you, has committed any of the criminal offences above, you should consider reporting the incident to the authorities. This can be done by 

  • Filing a police complaint at the nearest police station. If it is a cognizable offence, the police will register a First Information Report. If it is a non-cognizable offence, they will ask authorization from the Magistrate to initiate investigation or direct you to file a complaint with the Magistrate. In both cases, the police should give you a complaint number and a copy of your complaint which should also be signed and stamped.
  • Filing a FIR at the nearest police station, when the offence is cognizable. The police are obliged to register a First Information Report and provide you with a copy of it. If they refuse, you should approach the Superintendent of Police. If he also refuses, you can refer your case to the Magistrate. If again, you cannot register the First Information Report, then you should file a Writ Petition, before the concerned High Court and seek a direction for registration of First Information Report.
  • Filing directly a criminal complaint to the Magistrate. The Magistrate, after relevant inquiry, should order the police station to initiate investigation. If the Magistrate dismisses the complaint and does not order an investigation, then he/she has to record the reasons for that. 
  • For contempt of court offences, you should seek the consent of the Advocate General, before filing a criminal case before the High Court. 

What can you expect? 

The police will investigate your case and arrest the suspect, once they identify them. The case will then go to trial stage. The court will hear the prosecution’s case, examine the accused and allow him to present their case. Then, it will make its judgment, either convicting the accused, if the case was proven beyond reasonable doubt or acquitting him/her for lack of evidence. The burden of proving the case lies with the prosecutor. 

What if you are not satisfied with the outcome? 

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the trial, you can resort to a higher court for the purpose of obtaining a review and reversal of the lower court’s judgement, by filing an appeal. The appeal should be filed to a higher court, which depending on your case might be the Sessions Court, the High Court or the Supreme Court.

You can also resort to a court superior to the one who decided your case and ask for revision. Revision is usually filed to the High Court, for it to examine whether the lower court acted within its jurisdiction.

Lastly you can file for review of your case to the same court that decided on it, when there is new and important evidence.

How can you get compensation? 

In criminal proceedings, Indian courts may award compensation to victims. Section 357(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure allows courts to award compensation for “any loss or injury caused by the offence” out of the fine imposed. However, if the sentence does not include a fine, the courts may use Section 357(3) to “order the accused person to pay, by way of compensation, such amount as may be specified in the order to the person who has suffered any loss or injury by reason of the act for which the accused person has been so sentenced.” Under Section 357A, victims of crimes and/or their dependents can seek compensation from the government under a newly established compensation scheme.

Facing charges and asking for compensation once the charges against you have ended

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

Facing charges and asking for compensation once the charges against you have ended

When you are facing charges

Applying for bail

If you are already arrested and detained, you can ask for bail to the Court, when you first appear before it or at any other time. If the offence you are charged with is bailable, then the Court is obliged to grant bail, whereas if the offence is non-bailable, it is upon the discretion of the court to grant it or not.  

The legal framework also foresees anticipatory bail. If you are likely to be arrested and detained, you have the option to ask for anticipatory bail according to Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This petition is filed to the High Court Division or to a Court of Sessions.

Note that not all offences are bailable. Bail can be asked for less serious offences. 

Asking higher courts to quash orders

If an administrative authority, a state official or a court, carry out an act, issue a decision or omit to do so, which somehow influences your human rights protection during your trial, you can consider filing a writ petition. Those petitions can be filed, when you want to ask the court to issue an order directing lower courts or authorities to do something or stop them from doing something. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, you might choose to file one of the following writs:

  1. Habeas Corpus: with this petition you ask the court to decide whether an arrest has been illegal and order the release. By way of indication, you can file a habeas corpus if:
    1. You are not produced before within 24 hours of your arrest;
    2. You are arrested without a lawful reason;
    3. You are arrested on the basis of an unconstitutional law i.e. a law against the provisions of the Indian Constitution;
    4. Your detention was done with mala fide intent, or with the intent to harm the persons; and/or
    5. You are maltreated by the detaining authorities.
    6. If the court deems that your arrest has been illegal, you should be released from custody. Note however, that habeas corpus cannot be filed for detention under any law providing for preventative detention.
  2. Writ of Mandamus: with this petition you ask the higher courts to order the lower court, tribunal, forum or any other public authority to perform a public or statutory duty and to do any act that forms part of their official duties and they have failed to perform.
  3. Writ Of Prohibition: with this petition you ask the higher courts to prohibit lower courts, including the tribunals, forums or any public authority (magistrate, commissions or any other judicial officers), from exceeding their jurisdiction, when they do something which exceeds their jurisdiction.
  4.  Writ of Certiorari: with this petition you transfer the matter before a superior authority for proper consideration because the lower one has exceeded or did not have jurisdiction. The higher court can quash an order already passed by an inferior court, tribunal or quasi-judicial authority.

In your writ petition, you can also ask for compensation.


During your wrongful prosecution, and in order to address the wrongful proceedings instituted against you, you can file a writ petition before the High Court, under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, in conjunction with Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Article 482 enables the High Court to make the necessary orders in order to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice. With this petition, you will ask the High Court to quash the First Information Report against you or to correct any similar unfairness in your case. You will bear the burden of proof to prove that the First Information Report has been lodged only for malicious reasons and to trouble you.

Further to that, Article 483 of the Code of Criminal Procedure grants to the High Court the continuous superintendence over Courts of Judicial Magistrates, in order to ensure that there is an expeditious and proper disposal of cases by such Magistrates. This article in conjunction with Article 226 of the Indian Constitution can be used as a legal basis for a writ petition asking for your speedy and expeditious trial. 

Where do you file it

You can choose to file your writ petition to:

  1. Before the High Court, pursuant to Article 226 of the Constitution. You have to file it before the High Court within whose jurisdiction the cause of action arose. If you disagree with its judgment, you can proceed to the Supreme Court. Note that the power of the High Court to issue a writ is much wider than that of the Supreme Court.
  2. Before the Supreme Court, pursuant to Article 32 of the Constitution. In this case, you will have to establish why the High Court was not approached first.

Who can file it

You can file it through your lawyer but also the court may allow other people to file a writ of habeas corpus on your behalf, as long as they have some connection to the case.

Challenging the legality of preventive detention

If you are detained under a law allowing preventive detention, the authority making the order must tell you the grounds for the order as soon as possible and you should be given the opportunity to challenge such an order. The detention order is amenable to judicial scrutiny by the High Division of the country in its writ jurisdiction.

Once the charges against you have ended

Asking compensation from the state official

If you have suffered harm due to the wrongful prosecution or accusations by a state official, you can consider initiating a civil case to ask the offender for ‘damages’ for the harm, injury or loss that you suffered, on the ground of tortious act by a public servant. In your case, the act of the public servant can qualify as the tort of ‘trespass to person,’ if the public servant assaulted you or ‘negligence’ if he/she injured you by violating his duty of care towards you. 

What can you ask for? 

You can ask the court for 

  1. Damages, which means monetary compensation for the damage you suffered, which can include loss, pain, suffering or loss of expectation of life (in the form of contemptuous, nominal, real, exemplary or continuous damages).
  2. Injunction, which means an order from the court that restricts the continuance of the wrongful act or omission.
  3. Specific restitution of property, whereby you will receive the property that you were wrongfully dispossessed of, as well as any kind of unjust advantage either received or conferred.


Your claim should be filed to the appropriate court depending on the location where your claim arose (territorial Jurisdiction) and the monetary value of your claim.

What if you are not satisfied/you do not agree with the judgment of the court

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the trial, you can resort to a higher court for the purpose of obtaining a review and reversal of the lower court’s judgement, by filing an appeal. The appeal should be filed to a higher court, which depending on your case might be the Sessions Court, the High Court or the Supreme Court.

You can also resort to a court superior to the one who decided your case and ask for revision. Revision is usually filed to the High Court, for it to examine whether the lower court acted within its jurisdiction.

Lastly you can file for review of your case to the same court that decided on it, when there is new and important evidence.

Asking compensation from the state

If a state official has wrongfully accused or prosecuted you, you can also choose to bring legal action against the state to get a legal remedy in the form of damages, because your constitutional rights were violated. With this legal action you can claim that the state is vicariously liable for the wrongful act of its official, on the basis of the exercise of sovereign functions. This is called liability of the state in tort or constitutional tort. 

For which cases? 

For cases where your constitutional rights have been violated by the wrongful act of a state official, such as the wrongful prosecution or accusations against you, which violate the right to fair trial and your freedom from arbitrary arrest. 

Is the state liable for negligent acts of public officials

According to State of Rajasthan v. Vidyawati Mst., the State is vicariously liable for the negligent acts of state officials. However, in other cases, the Supreme Court has ruled that the state is immune from paying damages when its officials committed wrong when performing a sovereign function (Kasturi Lal Ralia Ram Jain v. State of U.P.).


You should file this lawsuit at the ordinary courts.

File a Complaint with the Administrative Authority or State Commission

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

File a complaint to the Administrative Authority  

Initiating disciplinary action against the state official

The state official, who wrongfully accused or prosecuted you, should be disciplinarily sanctioned. According to the Service Rules and Standing Orders of the Government, you have the right to initiate this disciplinary process yourself, by lodging a complaint to the competent disciplinary authority.

Specifically for police officials, you can initiate disciplinary proceedings by filing a complaint with the Police Complaints Authority at state or district level. If you deem that the disciplinary actions against the police official were not adequate, you can appeal before the High Court or Supreme Court.

National Commission for Women

As a woman, who has suffered wrongful accusations and prosecution, you can consider filing a complaint to the National Commission for Women.

The Commission was set up in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act, with a mandate to advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women and facilitate redressal of grievances. For that purpose, it has established a Complaint & Investigation Cell that processes complaints orally, in writing or online. The Commission will ensure that adequate relief and redressal of your complaint, is provided.

You can register your complaint here Complaints Registration and Monitoring System: National Commission for Women (ncwapps.nic.in) http://ncwapps.nic.in/onlinecomplaintsv2/

National Commission for Scheduled Castes 

The National Commission for Scheduled Castes is an Indian constitutional body established with a view to provide safeguards against the exploitation of Scheduled Castes and protect their social, educational, economic and cultural interests. It has established a complaints mechanism, where you can resort to, if you deem that your rights as a person belonging to a scheduled caste have been violated or restricted by a state official.

You can lodge your complaint online here: NCSC | Home (negd.in)

Report it to the National Human Rights Commission or the Ombudsman

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

Report it to the National Human Rights Commission 

National and State Human Rights Institutions

If a state official or public entity has engaged in activity that violates your fundamental rights, such as a wrongful accusation and prosecution, you can file a complaint with the National or State Human Rights Institutions.

The National Human Rights Commission of India was set up by an Act of Parliament under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 for the protection and promotion of human rights. The mandate of the Commission is to investigate complaints of human rights violations or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant, and to issue appropriate recommendations.

For which cases can you file a complaint? 

You can file a complaint if your rights have been violated by a state authority, agency or official. Indicatively, the violation might concern:

  • Unlawful detention, false implication, illegal arrest, custodial violence and other police excesses.
  • Death in police and prison custody.
  • Harassment of prisoners.
  • Atrocities against castes and tribes.
  • Denial of benefit.
  • Sexual harassment and indignity to women.
  • Abduction, rape and murder.
  • Environment related issues.
  • Inaction on complaints for preventive action to check unlawful activities, communal violence public unrest.

What can you expect? 

The National Human Rights Commission can recommend the government to pay compensation to the victim or to prosecute the offender. However, it does not have power to enforce compliance. 

Note that the National Human Rights Commission has specific focal points for:

  • Human Rights Defenders;
  • Castes and Tribes;
  • Trafficking; and
  • Women.

Who can file a complaint and where? 

A victim or any other person on his behalf, free of cost

By post at: 

National Human Rights Commission

Manav Adhikar Bhawan, Block-C, GPO Complex, INA

New Delhi – 110023

Online: www.nhrc.nic.in or through the Common Service Centre.

Report it to the International Community

Report it to the International Community

International Human Rights Protection

India has ratified several international human rights treaties. Those treaties provide you with certain rights and the state with certain obligations. For every right that you have, the state has a corresponding obligation to respect and fulfil that right and to protect you against abuse of that right by third parties. This means providing the necessary tools so that you can enjoy that right.

India has ratified the following international human rights treaties:

  1. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
  2. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
  3. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  4. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  5. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
  6. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC)
  7. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC)
  8. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

In addition, the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights apply to all states. The Guiding Principles implement the UN "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework, which rests on three pillars:

  1. that the state has a duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation, and adjudication;
  2. that corporations have a responsibility to respect human rights, which means to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address adverse impacts that occur; and 
  3. that, the state, as part of its duty to protect against business-related human rights abuses, must take appropriate steps to ensure that when such abuses occur, those affected have access to effective remedy through judicial and non-judicial means. 

Therefore, if your rights have been violated by a state agency or official, then the state will be responsible for this violation. If a corporation has committed an abuse against you, then the state will have responsibility for failing to protect you against that abuse. The state might also incur responsibility, if it did not adequately investigate your case or did not provide you with an avenue to seek a remedy. 

Depending on the right that has been violated, you might also have different options to engage the international community and seek redress.

If your rights as a woman, a child or a person with disabilities have been violated, the respective legal framework foresees complaints mechanisms, or Committees where you can seek a remedy.

However, India has not thus far ratified any Optional Protocols which allow for individual communications to be made under the treaties and therefore there is no process that will result in a concrete remedy for you. You should consider approaching the international community and making your case internationally. As will be analysed below, this can be useful in improving the human rights situation in your country.

UN Human Rights Council Special Procedures

The Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council (‘Special Procedures’) are independent human rights experts (‘Rapporteurs’) and ‘Working Groups’ with mandates to report and advise on thematic human rights issues. 

With the support of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), special procedures can:

  • Undertake country visits
  • Act on individual cases of reported violations and concerns of a broader nature by sending communications to States and others
  • Contribute to the development of international human rights standards, and
  • Engage in advocacy, raise public awareness, and provide advice for technical cooperation.

In cases of business-related human rights abuses, you can draw the attention of your government and raise public awareness by submitting a complaint to the Special Procedures. You can submit a complaint to the Special Procedures if you have suffered an abuse by the state or by a business. Where a business has caused the harm, the state is also responsible for failing to protect you, investigate the harm, and/or provide remedies.

The UN has established various Special Procedures. In cases of attacks against human rights defenders that work on business and human rights issues, the most relevant are:

  • Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (also referred to as the “UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights”)
  • Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change
  • Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment
  • Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
  • Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions
  • Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
  • Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
  • Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
  • Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy
  • Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes

These are just a few of the Special Procedures. You can find a comprehensive list here: https://spinternet.ohchr.org/ViewAllCountryMandates.aspx?Type=TM&lang=en

In addition, in June 2022, the world’s first Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders was elected under the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention).  The function of this new Special Rapporteur is to ‘take measures to protect any person experiencing or at imminent threat of penalization, persecution, or harassment for seeking to exercise their rights under the Aarhus Convention'. You can submit a complaint to the Special Rapporteur even if domestic remedies have not been exhausted and any information submitted will be kept confidential.  The new Special Rapporteur has various tools for resolving complaints and protecting environmental defenders quickly including: 

  • Issuing immediate protection measures; 
  • Using diplomatic channels;  
  • Issuing public statements; and  
  • Bringing the matter to the attention of human rights bodies and the government concerned. 

Who can submit information

Information submitted to the mandate-holders may be sent by a person or a group of persons who claim to be the victim(s) of human rights abuses. Non-governmental organizations (‘NGOs’) can also submit information, provided they have direct and reliable knowledge of the alleged abuse. 

Under what conditions

Your communication should fulfil the following conditions:

  1. Communications must not be exclusively based on mass media reports. 
  2. The communication should contain a factual description of the alleged human rights abuses, especially any available information as to the date and place of the incidents, alleged perpetrators, suspected motives, and contextual information.
  3. The communication should be submitted based on credible and detailed information.
  4. Include full details of the sender’s identity, address, the name of each victim (or any other identifying information), or of any community or organization subject to the alleged abuse. In communications to governments, the mandate-holders normally preserve the confidentiality of their information source, except where the source requests that its identity be revealed. 
  5. Indicate any steps you have already taken at the national, regional, or international level in relation to the case. However, you do not need to have exhausted domestic remedies to have your allegation examined by Special Procedures.

How to submit information?

The application for all Special Procedures is the same. Upon receiving the information on your case, the UN will notify the relevant mandate holders. Therefore, you do not have to choose the specific mandate holder for your case, but you must present your case so that all appropriate offices are notified.

Any communication addressed to Special Procedures mandate-holders must clearly indicate what the concern is in the subject heading of the message and be addressed to: 

Special Procedures Division c/o OHCHR-UNOG

 8-14 Avenue de la Paix 1211 Genève 10, Switzerland 

Fax: +4122 917 90 06 

Email: urgent-action@ohchr.org (for complaints and individual cases) 

For any other information: spdinfo@ohchr.org

You can find the link here [Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - Submission of information to Special Procedures (ohchr.org)]

What should you expect

It is left to the discretion of the mandate-holder to decide whether to act on a given situation. Usually, the Special Procedure will investigate the case and send a letter to the government regarding the abuse that you reported. The letter will ask for clarifications. Where necessary, the Rapporteurs may request that the concerned authorities take action to prevent or stop the abuse, investigate it, bring to justice those responsible and/or make sure that remedies are available to the victim(s) or their families. In these letters, the Rapporteurs may also inform the state of the applicable human rights provisions. In cases where the state is repeatedly failing to reply, the mandate holder might issue a press release. Upon receiving information on abuses, mandate-holders may carry out visits to countries to investigate the human rights situation on the ground. 

Note that the Special Procedures Rapporteurs do not have the power or authority to enforce their views or recommendations.

Who can you reach out to for support? 

To increase exposure and collaboration with the OHCHR, it is recommended that you build relationships with your local OHCHR office. India is covered by the OHCHR Headquarters in Geneva.

If possible, it is also recommended to visit the OHCHR in Geneva or network with organisations that work directly with the OHCHR. 

The Complaint Procedure of the Human Rights Council

What is the  Procedure? 

It is a confidential procedure that aims to address consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested human rights violations in all UN member states, irrespective of whether they have ratified any particular treaty. It is useful for drawing attention to serious underlying problems and calling on the UN to investigate human rights situations in different countries. However, it is not a procedure that will provide a tangible remedy in a particular case.

Who can submit a complaint? 

The complaint  must come from a person or a group of persons alleging a violation of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. In addition, NGOs are permitted to lodge a communication provided they have direct and reliable knowledge of the violations. 

Under what conditions? 

Your complaint will be admissible if the following conditions are met: 

  1. It should include your name or the name of the organization who is filing it. Its subject should be consistent with the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and international human rights law. Your application should not be politically motivated.
  2. Your complaint should give a complete description of the facts of the alleged violations, the rights that were violated as well as the perpetrator(s). It should not be based exclusively on mass media reports. 
  3. You should attach to your complaint  copies of all documents of relevance, especially administrative or judicial decisions on the complaints issued by national authorities.The language of the communication must not be abusive. 
  4. Your complaint should not have already been dealt with by a Special Procedure, a treaty body, or any other UN or similar regional complaints procedures in the field of human rights. 
  5. You should have first exhausted domestic remedies, (i.e., you should attempt to use the available national legal protections to seek accountability or reparation for the violation, appealing as necessary until the claim can be pursued no further at the national level) , unless those remedies would be ineffective or unreasonably prolonged. You should demonstrate the steps you took to exhaust domestic remedies in your application.

Process for filing under that procedure? 

You should send your complaint to:

Complaint Procedure Unit

Human Rights Council Branch

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

United Nations Office at Geneva

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Or by e-mail to: cp@ohchr.org or to any country or regional office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

What should you expect?

After an initial screening is done, your complaint will be transmitted to the State concerned to obtain their views on the allegations of violations contained therein. You will be informed of the proceedings at the key stages and you might be asked to provide further information if necessary. The Human Rights Council will examine a report of your case in a confidential manner (unless it decides otherwise) and may decide one of the following: to discontinue considering the situation when further consideration or action is not warranted; to keep the situation under review and request the State concerned to provide further information within a reasonable period of time; to keep the situation under review and appoint an independent and highly qualified expert to monitor the situation and report back to the Council; to discontinue reviewing the matter under the confidential complaint procedure in order to take up public consideration of it; to recommend to OHCHR to provide technical cooperation, capacity building assistance or advisory services to the State concerned. All material provided by individuals as well as the replies by the Governments remain of confidential nature during and after the consideration by the Complaint Procedure.

International Labour Organization - Representations’ procedure

The International Labour Organization (‘ILO’) is a specialised agency of the United Nations, responsible for developing and overseeing international labour standards. It has adopted 189 Conventions. The most important of them are the eight fundamental Conventions, which cover a broad range of topics concerning work, employment, social security, social policy and related human rights. They are legally binding on the states that have ratified them. 

India has ratified the following fundamental conventions: 

  • Forced Labour Convention (No. 29)
  • Equal Remuneration Convention (No. 100) 
  • Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No. 105)
  • Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (No. 111)
  • Minimum Age Convention (No. 138)
  • Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182)

You can find the Conventions ratified by India here

What protections does the ILO offer? 

If any of your rights that are protected by an ILO Convention have been violated by your state, then you should consider approaching the ILO, through the ‘Representations’ procedure.’ 

The procedure allows employers’ or workers’ organisations to make a representation against any Member State that has failed to respect the convention. You can also resort to that procedure, if a private company is violating your rights, and your state fails to protect you.

Who can file a complaint?

Individual victims are not permitted to file complaints before this Committee. Rather, you should inform a national or international organisation of workers (trade union) and they can file the complaint on your behalf. In India these include: the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of India (CFTUI), the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). More details can be found here: https://survey.ituc-csi.org/India.html


The representation must:

  1. allege that a Member State has failed to adhere to a Convention which it has ratified;
  2. be communicated to the ILO in writing;
  3. come from an industrial association of employers or workers;
  4. make specific reference to article 24 of the ILO Constitution;
  5. concern a Member State of the ILO;
  6. refer to a Convention to which the Member State in question is a party; and
  7. indicate in what respect it is alleged that that Member State has failed to secure the effective observance within its jurisdiction of that Convention.

Note that it is not necessary to exhaust all domestic remedies before applying for representation with the ILO. If a case is pending before a national court, this will be taken into consideration by the ad hoc Committee. 

How to submit a representation?

All applications should be addressed to the Director General at the following address: 

4 Route des Morillons, CH-1211 Genève 22, Switzerland 

Or by email to: normes@ilo.org 

Complementary Strategies

Complementary Strategies

Achieving justice and remedy for the abuses that you suffered as a human rights defender working on business-related human rights abuses can be a lengthy and difficult process. It may require a combination of patience and strategy, and you may have to call on different resources to achieve your goal. A comprehensive approach may include using legal remedies together with other kinds of complementary strategies such as strategic campaigning, shareholder accountability strategies, grassroots mobilisation, coalition building or gaining media attention. 

It can be overwhelming to think about these considerations right after an abuse has taken place. Before thinking about the strategies, you want to use, try to make sure you are both physically and mentally safe and strong. 

Remember that you are not alone in this situation and that there are a range of organisations that can help you and provide you with immediate support in case of an emergency or financial, legal and psychological difficulties. See Resource Hub.

Building a Strategic Campaign

The first thing you may want to consider is building a strategic campaign. A strategic campaign aims to exert pressure on the different strategic relationships of a business or state actor. To develop a strategic campaign, you should carefully analyse your situation and decide which actions will have the most positive impact for your case. 

For example, you will have to decide whether you want to deal with your case publicly or privately, loudly or quietly, in a manner that takes into account the political and other sensitivities that exist in your country. The purpose of the strategic campaign is for you to get a clear picture of the situation, the direction you want to take your case and the concrete actions you can attempt to take to achieve this result. 

This whole process will be demanding on your resources and your mental and physical health so do not hesitate to reach out and ask for help from organisations that are used to dealing with similar cases! There is no shame in doing so and they can provide you with valuable expertise. See Resource Hub.

To build a strategic campaign you and your collaborators can follow these five steps:

1- Identify your objectives and overall goal: You can do this by asking yourself questions such as What do I want to happen? What do I hope to achieve?

Your overall goal will be the long term and general outcome that you want to achieve. To reach this goal you will need to identify smaller steps and specific milestones that need to take place, these will be your objectives. 

! When deciding on your objectives, make sure that they are SMART:

  • Specific - well detailed, well defined and action oriented;
  • Measurable- meaning that you can quantify and have an indicator of progress;
  • Achievable- meaning that they can be realistically accomplished in the proposed time-frame and with the resources you possess;
  • Relevant- meaning that they are relevant to your overall goal and work;
  • Time-Bound- meaning that you have set a clear deadline. 

2- Take the time to do a policy analysis and identify your audience: You can identify the policies and regulations that need to change, the key actions and stakeholders who can influence decisions and understand the overall political context that will influence your overall goal. You will further need to identify the stakeholders that can help you achieve your objectives. For example, who are the decision makers involved in the issue? What are the power dynamics at play? You should understand why and how each audience you approach can play a role in reaching your goal or can hinder it. Do not forget, when considering actors that could hinder your goal, to be as specific as possible and write down all details you can find on them including their names and functions. 

! Note that if some corporate actors can hinder your goal, other business representatives might help you achieve it! Businesses do not all have the same policies and attitudes when it comes to the respect of human rights and the environment. By interacting with business representatives and industry groups you might find valuable allies that can provide you with support in a variety of ways including testifying on your behalf, paying for bail and fines, or speaking up on your behalf. 

3- Identify your strengths, weaknesses and your message: It will be helpful for you to reflect on your internal strengths - skills, knowledge, resources, past experience - and weaknesses - missing networks, capacity for lobbying, contacts in the media or funding. Once you have identified these, you can search for opportunities that exist around you and will enable you to tackle your weaknesses and achieve your objectives. You should further consider the threats that could prevent you from achieving your objectives by asking yourself who are your opponents? Is there a negative political climate around your objective? Identifying them early will enable you to minimise the damage and safety risks they can present.

Once you have reflected on your strengths and weaknesses, you will need to identify what your audience needs to hear and present your message in a persuasive and appealing way. At their core, your messages should be the same, however, depending on the audience you will target, you will need to adapt the way they are framed. Most of the time, advocacy messages have two major components: (1) a calling for what is right and (2) a calling for the audience’s self-interest. You can find different methods to develop advocacy messages by using the key words “advocacy message” and “effective” on google.

4- Identify your tactics and activities: Depending on your situation and objectives, you will have to use different strategies and tactics to reach your goal. To choose the appropriate tactics for you to use, you can develop a ‘results chain’. The chain will start with your overall goal and outline the small steps you will need to take to get there. In your chain you can describe the assumptions you are making about the impact of the activities you plan on doing. This will help you reflect on your logic and might show you missing activities. It will further help you understand the kind of resources, be it financial or volunteers, that you will need to put your campaign into action. There are various organisations that you can reach out to for financial support. See Resource Hub. 

A few examples of activities include one-to-one meetings with high level representatives, the organisation of workshops and conferences, the drafting of a letter to international civil servants, a mass participation event engaging members of the community, social media posts or petitions. 

5- Monitor and Evaluate: Finally, you want to make sure that you are keeping track of the efforts you are putting into your campaign to ensure that they are working. You will also want to organise meetings to monitor the campaign and make sure it is going in the direction you want. 

Grassroots Mobilisation

Grassroots mobilisation is about bringing together individuals - in your district, region, or community - to influence a specific outcome. It is one of the key elements in successful campaign strategies. Grassroots mobilisation can be highly effective, as we have seen with the #SaveAru movement, because it uses collective action at a local level to influence outcomes at the national level. When every member of the community is participating in ways that they can, and are equally responsible and invested in the cause, the movement is truly powered by collective leadership. The costs of the movement are further distributed between all members of the community and thereby become more affordable. 

To build grassroots mobilisation, you and your collaborators can follow five simple steps: 

1- Identify the cause you want to address and make a plan of action;

2- Find supporters and volunteers to join your campaign; 

3- Reach out and partner with local organisations and community leaders;

4- Implement your plan of action; and

5- Regularly evaluate your progress. 

! Do not forget that, when it comes to mobilising members of a community, listening and understanding is more important than influencing and persuading. Having several short conversations will be more efficient than a one-off long speech to a general audience! 

To get started, you should identify the cause you want to address 

(1). The problem that you want to tackle most probably has a root cause. For example, it can be the lack of respect for human rights and the environment by a company which operates in proximity to your village and has threatened you; the absence of legislation by the government to protect people defending the environment; or the inefficiency of local government officials to implement a law, among other potential root causes. You need to identify the root cause you want to tackle so that you can clearly define the actions and steps you want to take to resolve the issue. Defining the outcome, you are looking to achieve will also be crucial to give your movement a clear direction. 

Once you have identified the cause you want to address, you can start creating awareness about your campaign and get interest from individuals in the community 

(2). Communication will play a key role here and you can use different approaches such as door-to-door canvassing, face-to-face conversations, emails, phone calls or social media to reach as many community members as possible. Having a campaign website or a Facebook page can be a useful tool to speed up this process and will make you gain important visibility online! It will further constitute a good opportunity to start building the next step by building a list of potential partner organisations. 

Using your website and the networks of members from the community you can approach like-minded local organisations and community leaders. See Resource Hub.

(3). To reach out to them you could offer to give a short presentation about your campaign during their events or simply provide your help during their rallies to get to know like-minded people and talk about your campaign. Usually, civil society organisations have dealt with or assisted defenders in similar contexts in the past. They can share their valuable experience with you, guide you on what to do, explain the law and your rights, guide you on where to find support and identify pro bono lawyers that can help you plead your case or provide support in building an advocacy campaign. 

! You should not ignore community leaders! Community leaders can be valuable allies that you can collaborate with to convey important messages of your campaign. If a community leader endorses the changes and propositions you raise, they will be more likely to be accepted and followed by the community and your movement will gain traction. Examples of community leaders that can help you are religious leaders, local political office holders or village figureheads. 

Once you have built a solid basis of supporters you can start implementing your plan of action 

(4). You can take a variety of actions as part of your plan including rallies, outdoor events, in-house groups, training sessions, organising for a group of volunteers to exchange with the local representative or staging a demonstration. No matter the activity that you choose to conduct, the key to success will be having successful communication. You can keep your supporters up to date on actions conducted through SMS, WhatsApp, and encrypted apps such as Telegram and/or post your announcements for events on your campaign website and Facebook page. Do not forget to communicate with your organisers and volunteer team to make sure everyone has the same information including the date, time, and place of the events. 

During your campaign, you can organise regular meetings with your supporters to evaluate the success of your actions 

(5). This will enable you to reflect on what went well and what did not and give you avenues for improving your upcoming events. At the end of the campaign, it will also enable you to see if you have reached your objectives. 

Coalition Building

Reaching out to other organisations and talking about your case will give you the opportunity to build coalitions. A coalition is a temporary alliance of individuals, groups or organisations that want to achieve a common goal. Forming a coalition with other organisations that have similar values, interests, and goals as your own will allow you to combine your resources and thereby have more impact than if you acted alone. It can be of great help to shift the balance of power and increase the impact of each of your organisation's efforts. Actions taken by the coalition can be focused towards bringing attention to your and other human rights defender cases in the media, requesting for a motion filed by lawyers to be considered or request the international community to act. 

To successfully build a coalition you need to take a series of steps.

  1. Before anything else, you should define what your main goal is. Your main goal will be at the centre of the initiative and organisations that you are going to approach are going to ask about it regularly. Ideally, you want to be able to present your goal in a manner that is easy to understand and appears attainable. To do so, you can present it through bullet points illustrating the key ideas and goals and condense it to one sentence. 
  2. Then you should identify your key stakeholders, leaders, and players. You should be strategic when choosing the organisations to enrol in your coalitions, recognising compatible interests between you, your organisation and other groups or organisations. Stakeholders may include local civil society organisations, international non-governmental organisations and national or international trade unions. 
  3. Once you have identified who you want to be a part of your coalition, you can start approaching and trying to mobilise them. You may need to demonstrate to the organisations that your goals are similar and compatible. You can also show them how working together will have a positive impact on everyone’s ability to reach their objectives and that the benefits from building a coalition will outweigh the costs. 
  4. While attempting to mobilise partner organisations, you must keep in mind that building a coalition can be a long process and that your short-term goals might transform into longer-term battles. Keep committed to your objectives, with a little flexibility, so you can take advantage of new and innovative opportunities to reach your goals. Also take into account that the level of commitment of your partner organisations will differ, and although it is perfectly normal, you should hold tight to the organisations that are in it for the long haul. To do so you can see them as a steering committee for your coalition and regularly require their inputs. 
  5. Once you have gathered all members of your coalition, you can host an event to bring all of them together and connect with one another, collaboratively discuss your goals, and show them the actions you had in mind. Adding value to your event can help attract participants. For example, you could invite a guest speaker, provide training, or build the event around a known human rights celebration. 
  6. As you will move forward with your coalition, keep in mind to follow up with your members. Regularly thanking them for their input and recognising their efforts will keep everyone motivated and encourage initiatives. You can achieve that by using email newsletters, posts on social media or SMS channels and face-to-face meetings. 

Bring media attention to your case

Another complementary strategy for your case may be to gain visibility and attention by getting media coverage. Before deciding if you want to use this strategy, you should ask yourself whether you want your case to be publicly known and talked about or if you would rather go about, it quietly. Gaining media coverage can play a pivotal role in presenting your case, promoting it in public debate and positively shaping public opinion in your favour. However, this may expose you to further retaliation, as companies may use strategic lawsuits against public participation to try to silence you. For example, the company could bring a defamation suit against you, the journalist who interviewed you and/or the organisation that published the article. Importantly, you must be careful that the journalist does not reveal your current location so as not to compromise your safety.

To attract media coverage, your story should be prepared in such a way as to catch the attention of readers. You can do this by highlighting why your organisation exists, how important your work is to society and by providing details about the abuse that you have suffered. If you can, try to link your story to an issue that is currently talked about in the public space as this will be more likely to interest the media. Finally, if you can show how your story affects other people and has an impact on wider society, this will increase the interest of newspapers. 

Once your story is ready, you can use social media to promote it by publishing blog posts, Instagram stories, Facebook posts and/or tweets. This will enable you to gain public attention and establish your cause before getting traditional media interested in what you have to say. 

If you want the attention of mainstream media, you can collaborate with other national and international organisations to contact reporters. You can reach journalists by email, through their social networks (such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter) or through partner organisations. You will have a better chance of getting your interview request accepted if you choose journalists who are used to covering the same kind of story as yours. 

! Be aware that journalists can receive a lot of requests so keep your emails short and to the point! 

If you don't get a response to your first contact request, you can follow up by tweeting the reporter or trying to contact them by phone. Don't get discouraged as getting media attention can be a long process during which you may end up sending your story to twenty journalists before one responds. 

When a journalist becomes interested in your story, they will most likely want to talk to you in person. To make sure you are well prepared for the interview, keep in mind three key points you want to make and practice answering questions with a colleague. 

Once the interview is over, do not forget to thank the journalist for his or her time. Following the publication of the article, you can forward it to regional or national newspapers thereby gaining exposure and/or circulate it among your partner organisations.

Bring attention to your case to other businesses and industry groups

Although business-related human rights abuses find corporate actors at the heart of the human rights abuses, you should not forget that businesses and industry groups do not all have the same policies, attitudes, and views when it comes to the respect for human rights and the environment. 

You might want to look for allies in the private sector by reaching out to business representatives and industry groups and explain the issues you are facing. Private actors might become valuable allies who can provide you with support in a variety of ways including by testifying on your behalf, paying for bail and fines, or speaking up on your behalf.

Bring attention to your case at the international level

Equally important is to make your case known at international level. 

National and international non-governmental organisations are allies in your strategic campaign and have a fundamental role to play in channelling information to relevant institutions abroad. One of their main tasks is to submit the so-called shadow reports to international bodies or during the Universal Periodic Review Process. Those reports analyse how and if the government is realising human rights at the national level and provide the necessary background information to international organisations. In turn, if the shadow reports reveal information on serious and systematic violations of the rights protected by the conventions in the country concerned, international institutions can initiate inquiries or visits to the territory of a State Party. By making your case known to NGOs and INGOs, it can be included in their shadow report. Although this will not give you a tangible remedy, you will have added your brick to the wall of human rights in your country. 

You can also bring international attention to your case through the various organisations worldwide that work to protect human rights defenders - including Frontline DefendersProtect Defenders and Peace Brigades International. You can register your case with one of them, and they will identify the best ways to support you internationally. Be aware that they may publish something on their website or link you with other victims or experts worldwide. If your case is widely known, the offenders might hesitate to retaliate against you in the future. There are also many organisations that work on business and human rights issues that can share legal resources with you, both domestically and internationally. Most importantly, both kinds of organisations can direct you on where to find funding and donors to continue your legal case and to propose other resources necessary for your work as a human rights defender.

Bring attention to your case in political spheres

You can also contact political figures to draw attention to your case. For example, you can ask a foreign diplomat - by contacting the foreign ministry of the country in question or the embassy - to listen to your story, to come to your trial or simply to have a photo taken with you. This will show your abuser that your case is being taken seriously at the international level and may make them think carefully about retaliatory actions in the future. 

If you are uncomfortable with contacting diplomats of foreign countries, you can contact international civil servants instead. International civil servants are not linked to a specific country but rather to an organisation. To contact them, you can look up the offices of OHCHR, UNDP or the ILO in your country. These organisations often organise informal events such as consultations and webinars during which you can have the opportunity to raise your concerns and build a support network.