- The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is a statutory organisation established in 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993.
- The Act also created Human Rights Commissions at the levels of the various States.
- NHRC was established in conformity with the Paris Principles, adopted at the first international workshop on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights held in Paris in 1991, and endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1993.
Functions of NHRC
- The NHRC enquiries into complaints of violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant, studies treaties and international instruments on human rights and makes recommendations for their effective implementation to the Government.
- It is responsible for spreading human rights awareness amongst the masses.
- While inquiring into complaints under the Act, the Commission shall have all the powers of a civil court.
Composition of NHRC
- According to the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2019, the NHRC consists of
- A Chairperson, who has been a Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court
- One member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India
- One member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
- Three Members, out of which at least one shall be a woman to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights
- In addition, the Chairpersons of National Commissions viz., National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Women, National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Backward Classes, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights; and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities serve as ex officio members.
- The term of the Chairperson and Members of the Commission is three years or until he attains the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. They shall be eligible for re-appointment.
- They can be removed only on the charges of proved misbehavior or incapacity, if proved by an inquiry conducted by a Supreme Court Judge.
Limitations of NHRC
- As per the Protection of Human Rights Act, the NHRC can only recommend the government but the recommendations are non-binding. This lack of authority gives an outright rejection of any recommendation or partial compliance.
- Under the Act, human rights commissions cannot investigate an event if the complaint was made more than one year after the incident. Therefore, a large number of genuine grievances go unaddressed.
- State human rights commissions cannot call for information from the national government, which means that they are implicitly denied the power to investigate armed forces under national control.
- Also, the National Human Rights Commission powers related to violations of human rights by the armed forces have been largely restricted.
- Another major problem is that it is flooded with too many complaints, and are finding it difficult to address the increasing number of complaints.
Why in News?
- National Human Rights Commission, NHRC has issued an advisory to the Centre, States, and Union Territories administrations to mitigate deliberate self-harm and suicide attempts by prisoners in judicial custody.
- The Commission has observed that most of the unnatural deaths of prisoners occur due to suicide. It has emphasized that the barracks as well as the toilets, where most suicides take place, should be kept free of objects, which can be used for hanging.
- The Commission has recommended regular check and vigil on bed sheets and blankets of inmates to ensure that these are not used to make ropes, to attempt suicide. Existing vacancies of Prison staff should be filled up particularly those of Prison Welfare Officers, Probation Officers, Psychologists, and Medical Staff.