- NHRC of India is an independent statutory body established on 12 October, 1993 as per provisions of Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, later amended in 2006.
- It is the watchdog of human rights in the country, i.e. the rights related to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by Indian Constitution or embodied in the international covenants and enforceable by courts in India.
|What Are Human Rights?
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.
- It is in conformity with the Paris Principles, adopted for the promotion and protection of human rights held in Paris in October 1991, and endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations .
|What does the Paris Principles say?
Functions of NHRC:
The National Human Rights Commission Functions:
- Inquire, on its own or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf, into complaint of-
- violation of human rights or abetment or
- negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant;
- Intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court with the approval of such court;
- Visit, under intimation to the State Government, any jail or any other institution under the control of the State Government, to study the living condition of the inmates and make recommendations thereon ;
- Review the safeguards by or under the Constitution or any law for the time being in force for the protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation;
- Review the factors, including acts of terrorism that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures;
- Study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation;
- Undertake and promote research in the field of human rights;
- Spread human rights literacy among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other available means;
- Encourage the efforts of non – Governmental organizations and institutions working in the field of human rights;
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 and shall be eligible for re-appointment.
Limitations of NHRC
- The NHRC can only make recommendations, without the power to enforce decisions. 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, 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.
Reform initiatives can only bear fruit when ordinary citizens take an active interest in good governance and human rights. If human rights commissions are to truly protect and promote human rights in India, changes must be made to enable them to become more effective institutions like:
- The effectiveness of human rights commissions can be greatly enhanced if their decisions are made enforceable by the government.
- A large number of human rights violations occur in areas where there is insurgency and internal conflict. Not allowing commissions to independently investigate complaints against the military and security forces only compounds the problems and furthers cultures of impunity. Thus including armed forces in their ambit.
- Including activists who have the knowledge and on-the-ground experience of contemporary trends in the human rights movement .
- By having independent cadre of staff with appropriate experience.
Why in News?
The National Human Rights Commission has asked for action taken reports from the authorities of eight States, where 15 people died following police action during the nationwide lockdown.