National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

What is Human Rights

  • Section 2(1)(d) of the Protection of Human Rights Act 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.

About National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • The National Human Rights Commission, India has been set up to enquire into complaints of violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant. It was established on 12 October, 1993. 
  • The statute under which it is established is 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, and endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations by its Regulations 48/134 of 20 December, 1993.

Autonomy of the Commission

  • Autonomy of the Commission derives, inter-alia, from the method of appointing its Chairperson and Members, their fixity of tenure, and statutory guarantees thereto, the status they have been accorded and the manner in which the staff responsible to the Commission – including its investigative agency – will be appointed and conduct themselves.
  • The financial autonomy of the Commission is also provided under the Act.
Composition of NHRC
The NHRC consists of The Chairman and Four members (excluding the ex-officio members) 
  • 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, or, 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 sitting Judge of the Supreme Court or sitting Chief Justice of any High Court can be appointed only after the consultation with the Chief Justice of Supreme Court.

Appointment

  • The Chairperson and Members of the Commission are appointed by the President on the basis of recommendations of a Committee comprising the Prime Minister as the Chairperson, the Speaker of Lok Sabha, the Home Minister, the leaders of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha as Members.
  • Term of office for Chairperson and members of the NHRC term is three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. 
  •  Original Act allows for the reappointment of members of the NHRC and SHRCs for a period of five years but an amendment in 2019 removes the five-year limit for reappointment.   

Removal

  • They can be removed only on the charges of proved misbehavior or incapacity, if proved by an inquiry conducted by a Supreme Court Judge.
Functions

The Commission shall, perform all or any of the following functions, namely:-

  • Inquire, on its own initiative 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, where persons are detained or lodged for purposes of treatment, reformation or protection 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;
  • Such other functions as it may consider necessary for the promotion of human rights.

Powers of National Human Rights Commission

  • While inquiring into complaints under the Act, the Commission shall have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and in particular the following, namely;
    • Summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath;
    • Discovery and production of any document;
    • Receiving evidence on affidavits;
    • Requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
    • Issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents;
    • Any other matter which may be prescribed.

Steps after the inquiry

  • Where the inquiry discloses the commission of violation of human right or negligence in the prevention of violation of human rights by a public servant, it may recommend to the concerned Government or authority the initiation of proceedings for prosecution or such other action as the Commission may deem fit against the concerned person or persons;
  • Approach the Supreme Court or the High Court concerned for such directions, orders or writs as that Court may deem necessary;
  • Recommend to the concerned Government or authority for the grant of such immediate interim relief to the victim or the members of his family as the Commission may consider necessary.

What kind of complaints are not entertained by the Commission ?

  • Ordinarily, complaints of the following nature are not entertained by the Commission:
    • In regard to events which happened more than one year before the making of the complaints;
    • With regard to matters which are sub-judice;
    • Which are vague, anonymous or pseudonymous;
    • Which are of frivolous nature;
    • Which pertain to service matters.

Human Rights Violation by Armed Forces

  • The Commission may on its own motion or on the basis of petitions made to it on allegations of human rights violations by armed forces, seek a report from the Central Government. On receipt of the report, it may either not proceed with the complaint or, as the case may be, make its recommendations to the Government.
  • According to the Act, the Central Government shall inform the Commission of the action taken on the recommendations within three months or such further time as the Commission may allow.
  • It is further stipulated that the Commission shall publish its report together with its recommendations made to the Central Government and the action taken by that Government on such recommendations. A copy of the report so published will also be given to the petitioner.

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