National Human Rights Commission

About NHRC

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is the body responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights in India. The NHRC was established on 12 October, 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 as amended by the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006. It is 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 October 1991. Section 2(1)(d) of the PHRA defines Human Rights as the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.

Source: NHRC

The NHRC has been often described as a paper tiger, unable to protect ordinary citizens from human rights violations, committed at times by the state machinery. In one such case, the NHRC, disillusioned by its helplessness in bringing justice in the alleged extrajudicial killings of 1,528 persons in Manipur, had last year referred to itself as a “toothless tiger” before the Supreme Court.

Source: The Hindu

Issues in the working of NHRC

  • Process of appointment of chairperson and members – The selection committee tasked with appointing the chairperson and the members to the Commission is dominated by the ruling party. It consists of the prime minister, home minister, Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Deputy-Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. There is thus a need to diversify the selection committee.
  • Obscure selection process – NHRC’s selection process is very obscure. Very often, the government does not publicise vacancies in the Commission. The criteria to assess candidates is also not specified. As a result, appointments to the NHRC have been fraught with disputes. All this can change if the government commits to greater transparency in the selection process.
  • No – inclusion of civil society members – The much-needed diversification that is warranted in NHRC can be done through the inclusion of civil society members and academicians with proven track record in the improvement of human rights. The NHRC could certainly benefit from the grass roots level experience, widespread community outreach and the expertise of these organisations or individuals.
  • Conflict of interest in investigation – Police officials investigating for the NHRC are sent on deputation by their forces. Their allegiance lies with their home cadre to which they return after their tenure at the Commission is over. This conflict of interest restricts the scope of their work, as they often are charged with investigating abuse of power by law enforcement personnel. The NHRC urgently requires officers of its own to carry out independent investigations, and the government should provide it resources for the same. The NHRC cannot escape the blame either. It does have powers to conduct its own investigation in cases where the Centre or state government do not respond within the time stipulated by Section 17 of PHR Act. However, the Commission has rarely used this power.

Source: The Indian Express

Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018

On April 4, 2018, the Union Cabinet approved the Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018, in order to protect and promote better human rights in India. The Bill intends to give the NHRC teeth as well as claws to act against human rights violations.

The primary proposals made by the bill are:

  • The Bill proposes to include one member of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights within its fold as a deemed member as well as a woman member.
  • The Bill proposes to enlarge the scope of eligibility and selection of the Chairperson of the NHRC as well as of State Human Rights Commissions.
  • It also proposes to incorporate a mechanism to look into cases of human rights violations in Union Territories.
  • The Bill seeks to strengthen human rights institutions so that they can discharge their roles and responsibilities effectively. Moreover, the amended Act will be in sync with the agreed global standards and benchmarks on ensuring rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of individuals in the country.

The amendment to the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 will make the NHRC and State Human Rights Commissions more compliant with the Paris Principle “concerning its autonomy, independence, pluralism and wide-ranging functions in order to effectively protect and promote human rights”.

Source: The Hindu