National Human Rights Commission

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), as a statutory and an autonomous body, was set up in India under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. Numerous state governments have also established their separate human rights commission.

The NHRC consists of:

(1) (a) a Chairperson who has been a Chief Justice of India, (b) one member who is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court, (c) one member who is or has been the Chief Justice of a High Court, (d) two members to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in matters relating to human rights;

(2) The Chairpersons of the National Commission for Minorities National Commission for the Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and National Commission for Woman are its ex-officio members. The two persons as in (1) (d) above are recommended by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the leaders of the opposition or the largest opposition political party in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The Commission has a wide mandate including civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, and group rights.

Section 12 lays down that the Commission shall perform all or any of the following functions, namely:

  1. Inquiring, suo motu, or on petitions, presented to it by victims, or any persons on their behalf, or on a direction or order of any court, into complaints of violation of human rights or abetment thereof, or negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant.
  2. Intervening in any proceedings involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a Court, with the approval of such Courts.
  3. Visiting, notwithstanding any thing contained in any other law for the time being of force, any jail or other institution under the control of the State Government, where persons are detained or lodged for purposes of treatment, reformation or protection, for the study of the living conditions of the inmates thereof and making recommendations.
  4. Reviewing the safeguards provided by, or under, the Constitution, or any law for the time being in force, for the protection of human rights, and recommending measures for their effective implementation.
  5. Reviewing the factors, including acts of terrorism, that inhibits the enjoyment of human rights, and recommending appropriate remedial measures.
  6. Studying treaties and other international instruments on human rights, and making recommendations for their effective implementation.
  7. Undertaking and promoting research in the field of human rights.
  8. Spreading human rights literacy amongst various sections of society, and promoting awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights, through publications, media, seminars and other available means.
  9. Encouraging the efforts of non-governmental organisations, and institutions working in the field of human rights.
  10. Undertaking such other functions as may be considered necessary for the promotion of human rights. The activities of the NHRC include: v Complaint redressal and investigation constitute the major activities of NHRC. NHRC accepts complaints written in any language by post, telegram, fax, email or even on mobile, and also through facilitation counter. It charges no fees. The status of the complaint can also be ascertained from the facilitation counter and website of the Commission www.nhrc.nic.in.

At the year of inception 1993-94, NHRC received only 496 complaints which reached 74,444 in 2005-06, which reflects the credibility of NHRC. NHRC till date has received more than six lakh applications. At any given time the complaint under process is to the tune of 20,000 to 30,000. v The Commission has reviewed a number of legislative Bills/Acts from the human rights perspective:

  • The Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1985 (TADA)
  • The Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2000
  • The Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, 2001 (POTO)
  • Freedom of Information Act
  • Domestic Violence Bill
  • The Child Marriage Restraint Act
  • National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill, 2004
  • Food Safety and Standards Bill, 2005. The Commission has a very unique function of monitoring the execution of its recommendations. Commission regularly monitors, through visits of members of the Commission and its special rapporteur, regular feedback from the Ministers, both at the Centre and the State and also from other related agencies
  • Prison conditions
  • Custodial deaths
  • Hospitals for mentally ill patients
  • Status of bonded and child labour
  • Homes run by the Government
  • Rights of internally displaced persons
  • Vishakha (Supreme Court) guidelines on sexual harassment at work place
  • Encounter deaths
  • Deaths of children in protection homes v The Commission has laid equal status on civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. The Commission has assisted in flagging concerns and recommendations resulting in concrete corrective steps v According to the Commission, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana topped the human rights violation in 2011. Delhi alone had human rights violation cases to the tune of 5,228 in 2009-10 which jumped to 5,929 in 2010-11, 7,865 in 2011-12. The Commission deplores the non-functioning of 10 State Human Rights Commissions out of the 22 such commissions in the states of India.

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