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National Human Rights Commission

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” Nelson Mandela

The National Human Rights Commission of India is an autonomous statutory organisation established on 12 October 1993 pursuant to the requirements of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, as modified in 2006.


  • It is the country's watchdog for human rights.


  • It was founded in accordance with the Paris Principles, which were approved in October 1991 in Paris for the promotion and protection of human rights and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 December 1993.


Human rights are rights we have simply because we exist as human beings - they are not granted by any state. These universal rights are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. They range from the most fundamental - the right to life - to those that make life worth living, such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty. ~UNHRC



Composition of NHRC


Under the Act, the chairperson of the NHRC is a person who has been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a Judge of the Supreme Court will be the chairperson of the NHRC.

  • Three persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC, of which at least one will be a woman.


  • Chairpersons of various commissions such as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and National Commission for Women are members of the NHRC, including the chairpersons of the National Commission for Backward Classes, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as members of the NHRC.


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 the complaint of-

    1. violation of human rights or abetment or

    2. 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.


Limitations:


The NHRC is fraught with mischief at its very basis. The ruling party dominates the selection committee tasked with appointing the chairperson and members of the Commission. It is composed of the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha Speaker, and the Rajya Sabha Deputy-Chairman. There is thus a need to diversify the selection committee.


Non-availability of funds or Scarcity of resources - or rather, resources not being used for human rights-related functions - is another big problem. Large chunks of the budget of commissions go into office expenses and in maintaining their members, leaving disproportionately small amounts for other crucial areas such as research and rights awareness programmes.


Under the Act, human rights commissions cannot investigate an event if the complaint was made more than one year after the incident. Therefore, a large number of genuine grievances go unaddressed.


Way Forward:


Independent recruitment of staff: Human rights commissions need to develop an independent cadre of staff with appropriate experience. who will be more dedicated.


Human rights activists from civil society must be included in the commission if they are to have any real impact on society. Many human rights advocates can contribute to the Commission's work because of their in-depth understanding of current issues and their hands-on experience working in the field.


Investigations into police misconduct should be handled by a separate entity. Human rights commissioners spend the majority of their time investigating allegations against police abuse and misconduct. It may be time to consider the creation of a new agency completely committed to the civilian oversight of the police.

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