National Human Rights Commission and State Human Rights Commission

16-05-2024

09:07 AM

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Mains:  Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies

 

What is National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)?

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is an independent statutory body established to protect and promote human rights in India. It is responsible for reviewing and addressing human rights violations and making recommendations for the protection and promotion of human rights.

  • NHRC was established under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993.
  • It is an embodiment of India’s concern for the promotion and protection of human rights.
  • It is established in conformity with the Paris Principles (1991), adopted at the first international workshop on national institutions for the protection of human rights. 

 

What is the composition of NHRC?

The NHRC comprises of a Chairperson, five full-time Members, and seven deemed Members. The statute lays down qualifications for the appointment of the Chairperson and Members of the Commission.

Position 

Qualification

Chairman

A person who has been Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court

5 Members  

  • One Member who is or has been a Judge of the  Supreme Court.
  • One Member who is or has been the Chief Justice of a High Court
  • Three Members to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights. 
  • Note: Of the three members, at least one will be a woman.

7 Deemed Members 

Chairpersons/Chief Commissioner of the 

Table - Composition of NHRC 

  • Appointment:The chairperson and members of the NHRC are appointed by the President of India, based on the recommendations of a committee consisting of 
  • Term: Three years or till the age of seventy years for both the Chairperson and Members. 
  • Removal: The Chairperson or any other Member of the Commission shall be removed from his office by order of the President on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity after the inquiry of the Supreme Court. The  President also, by order, removes from office the Chairperson or any other Member if the Chairperson or such other Member:
    • Is adjudged an insolvent.
    • Engages during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his office.
    • Is unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body.
    • Is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court.
    • Is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for an offense which, in the opinion of the President, involves moral turpitude.

 

What are the functions of NHRC?

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has a number of functions that are designed to protect and promote human rights in India. Some of the key functions of the NHRC include:

  • Inquire into complaints of violation of human rights/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 the such court.
  • Visit 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 under the Constitution/law in force for the protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation.
  • Review the factors like 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.
  • 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.
  • Encourage the efforts of NGOs and institutions working in the field of human rights.

 

What are the powers of NHRC?

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has a number of powers that enable it to carry out its mandate to protect and promote human rights in India. Some of these powers include:

  • Powers of a civil court in the investigation and inquiry into complaints of human rights violations: The Commission, when investigating complaints, has the same powers as a Civil Court hearing a case under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. These powers include the ability to:
    • Summon and enforce the attendance of witnesses and examine 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.
  • Power to recommend compensation to victims of human rights violations: The NHRC has the authority to recommend that victims of human rights violations be compensated for their losses or suffering.
  • Power to approach the Supreme Court or the High Court for the enforcement of human rights: If necessary, the NHRC can approach the Supreme Court or the High Court for the enforcement of human rights in order to protect the rights of individuals or groups.
  • Power to take suo moto cognizance of human rights violations: The NHRC has the authority to take "suo motu" cognizance of human rights violations, even if a formal complaint has not been filed. 

 

What are the various initiatives undertaken by NHRC? 

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) undertakes a variety of initiatives to carry out its mandate of promoting and protecting human rights in India. Some of them include: 

  • Reviewing laws like the Terrorist & Disruptive Activities Act and Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2000.
  • Protection of human rights in areas of insurgency and terrorism.
  • Setting up the guidelines to check misuse of the power of arrest by the police. Setting up of Human Rights Cells in the State/City Police Headquarters.
  • Steps to check custodial deaths, rape, and torture.
  • Accession to the Convention against Torture, Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions.
  • Systemic reforms of police, prisons, and other centers of detention.
  • Protecting the Human Rights of persons affected by HIV/AIDS

 

What are the challenges faced by NHRC? 

Some of the key challenges faced by the NHRC in its efforts to protect and promote human rights include

  • Limited resources and staff: The NHRC has limited resources and staff, which can make it difficult for it to effectively carry out its mandate. This can lead to a backlog of cases and a lack of capacity to address all human rights issues in a timely manner.
  • Heavy workload and a backlog of cases: The NHRC receives a large number of complaints of human rights violations and has a heavy workload as a result. This can lead to a backlog of cases and a delay in addressing human rights issues.
  • Limited ability to enforce its recommendations: NHRC has limited ability to enforce its recommendations, which can hinder its effectiveness in addressing human rights issues and ensuring their implementation.
  • Limited jurisdiction over certain categories of cases: The NHRC has certain limitations in its jurisdiction and cannot investigate cases that are older than one year, cases that are anonymous, vague, and frivolous.
  • Limited powers to investigate and address human rights violations by non-state actors: The NHRC does not have the authority to investigate and address human rights violations by non-state actors, such as private companies or individuals. 

 

What measures could help towards the effective functioning of NHRC?

Some measures that could help for the effective functioning of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) are: 

  • Regular training and capacity building: Regular training and capacity building exercises for commission members and staff to ensure that they are equipped to handle human rights cases.
  • Streamline processes and procedures: This includes simplifying the complaint process, improving case management, and adopting best practices from other human rights bodies.
  • Increase powers and authority: In order to more effectively address human rights issues, the NHRC could be given more powers and authority, such as the ability to enforce its recommendations or to investigate and address human rights violations by non-state actors.
  • Address structural issues: This could include working to change laws and policies that perpetuate discrimination and inequality or addressing systemic issues such as corruption or lack of accountability.
  • Enhance outreach and communication: This could include increasing its presence on social media, conducting more public hearings, and collaborating with civil society organizations and other stakeholders.
  • Clear and transparent procedures for lodging complaints and investigating human rights violations.
  • Time-bound investigations to ensure swift justice for victims of human rights violations.
  • Adequate representation of marginalized communities, such as SCs and STs, on the commission.
  • Institutional Accountability: Regular monitoring and evaluation of the commission's performance to ensure accountability.

 

What is State Human Rights Commission, and what are its features?

The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in India serves as a watchdog to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights within each state. It was established as per the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993.

  • Composition: The State Commission shall consist of a Chairperson and 4 members. 

Position 

Qualification

Chairperson 

A person who has been Chief Justice or Judge of a High Court 

4 Members 

One Member who is, or has been, a Judge of a High Court.

One Member who is, or has been, a district judge in that State.

Two members to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of human rights.

 

  • Appointment: The Chairperson and other Members shall be appointed by the Governor after obtaining the recommendation of a Committee consisting of:
    • The Chief Minister
    • Speaker of the Legislative Assembly
    • Minister-in-charge of the Department of Home in that State
    • Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. 
  • Removal: The Chairperson or any other Member of the  Commission shall be removed from his office by order of the President on similar grounds as that of the Chairperson and members of the NHRC. 

 

Video

 

Previous Year Questions

Mains

 

Q) Though the Human Rights Commissions have contributed immensely to the protection of human rights in India, yet they have failed to assert themselves against the mighty and powerful. Analyzing their structural and practical limitations, suggest remedial measures. (2021)

 

Q) Multiplicity of various commissions for the vulnerable sections of the society leads to problems of overlapping jurisdiction and duplication of functions- Is it better to merge all commissions into an umbrella Human Rights Commission? Argue your case. (2018)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Q) What is a Human rights court? 

As per the provision of the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, the State Government may, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the  High Court, specify for each district a Court of  Session to be a Human Rights Court for the purpose of  providing speedy trial of offenses arising out of violation of human rights.

 

Q) What are Human rights?

According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR),  Human rights are rights human beings have that are derived out of mere existence and are not granted by any state. These universal rights are inherent to all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, etc. 

 

Q) Who is the present Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission?

Justice Shri A.K Mishra is the present Chairman of NHRC.