What is the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)?

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Overview:

The Central Government recently appointed seven people, including a former Delhi police commissioner, as ‘special monitors’ of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

About National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • It is a statutory body established on 12 October, 1993, under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
  • It is the watchdog of human rights in the country.
  • 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. 
  • Objectives:
    • To strengthen the institutional arrangements through which human rights issues could be addressed in their entirety in a more focused manner.
    • To look into allegations of excesses, independently of the government, in a manner that would underline the government’s commitment to protect human rights.
  • Composition:
    • It includes a chairperson and eight other members.
    • The Chairperson of NHRC is the retired Chief Justice of India.
    • Out of the eight members, four are full-time members, whereas the other four are deemed members.
    • Out of the 4 full time members of the NHRC: 
  • One member should be a working or retired Judge of the Supreme Court.
  • Other member should be working or retired Chief Justice of a High Court.
  • Two members are selected based on their experience and knowledge of human rights.
    • The 4 deemed members of NHRC are the chairpersons of the National Commission for Minorities, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and the National Commission for Women.
    • The chairperson and members are appointed by the President on the recommendations of a six-member committee consisting of –
  • Prime Minister as its head
  • Speaker of the Lok Sabha
  • Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
  • Leaders of the Opposition in both the Houses of Parliament
  • Union Home Minister
    • Term: The chairperson and members are appointed for a term of 3 years or till the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier.
    • The chairperson and members are eligible for reappointment.
  • Functions of the NHRC:
    • Inquire, on its own initiative or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf, into a 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 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;
    • Spread human rights literacy among various sections of society;
    • Study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation;
  • Powers: 
    • 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.
    • It can summon and enforce the attendance of witnesses and examine them on oath.
    • It can also grant compensation to the victims of police brutality.
    • 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.
    • The NHRC has the authority to take "suo motu" cognizance of human rights violations, even if a formal complaint has not been filed. 

Q1) What are Paris Principles (1991)?

The Paris Principles, a set of international standards which frame and guide the work of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs).Drafted at an international NHRIs workshop in Paris in 1991, they were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993.

Source: Rakesh Asthana, 6 others appointed NHRC special monitors