Statutory Institutions/Commissions: National Human Rights Commission
In the progression of India, formation of the National Human Rights is major step. The National Human Rights Commission, abbreviated as NHRC of India is an autonomous public body founded on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993. It was given a statutory base by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (TPHRA).
It is well recognized that Human Rights are essential for entire development of an individual. Human rights are the rights of the individuals, are recognized by the society and are to be compulsory by the state. Thus, these rights must have a social respect and must be enforceable by the state government. Human rights are intrinsic in human nature and they are completely essential for living as a human being. Human rights are the foundation of human life, self-respect and worth. Human rights can be elaborated as the condition by which man can archive self-freedom and can make the fullest development of him. Human Rights create specific conditions to help an individual to develop his persona. To live the life of dignity of the personality, to express his thoughts freely, to get the freedom to follow any religious dogmas, to make any business and for the financial and educational development as well as the political participation, human rights are more indispensable for human being.
History: The UN Commission on Human Rights framed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). UDHR was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Although the UDHR was a non-binding resolution, it is now reflected to have acquired the force of international customary which may be raised in appropriate circumstances by national and other judges. The UDHR desires member nations to promote a number of human, civil, economic and social rights. The implementation of the Universal Declaration is a significant international commemoration marked each year on 10 December, and is called Human Rights Day or International Human Rights Day.
The international community has acknowledged the mounting importance of strengthening national human rights institutions. In this background, in the year 1991, a UN-sponsored meeting of representatives of national institutions held in Paris, a comprehensive set of principles on the status of national institutions was developed, these are commonly known as the Paris Principles. These principles, became the basis for the establishment and operation of national human rights institutions.
Following these progresses, India, sanctioned the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, in order to bring about greater answerability and strengthen the dominion of human rights in the country. The National Human Rights Commission was established on October 12, 1993. Its statute is contained in the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, and is in conformity with the Paris Principles. States, 23 of them, have set up their own human rights commissions under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 to deal with violations from within their states.
Features of the National Human Rights Commission:
- National Human Rights Commission was established under Section 3 of the 1993 Act to shield human rights. The term ‘human rights’ is described in Section 2(d) of the 1993 Act, which reads as follows:
“2. (d) “Human rights” means 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.”
- It is independent commission. it has been created by an Act of Parliament.
- National Human Rights Commission is dedicated to provide independent opinions on issues within the parlance of the Constitution or in law for the time being enforced for the protection of human rights. The Commission takes an independent stand.
- National Human Rights Commission has the powers of a civil court.
- It has authority to grant interim relief.
- National Human Rights Commission has authority to recommend payment of compensation or damages.
- Large number of complaints received every year reflects the credibility of the Commission and the trust reposed in it by the citizens.
- National Human Rights Commission has wide mandate.
- National Human Rights Commission has exclusive mechanism with which it also monitors implementation of its various recommendations.
The NHRC is the national human rights institution, accountable for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as "rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants".
Major purpose of the National Human Rights Commission is through the petition of a person, to examine the violation of human rights or the failures of the state or other to prevent a human rights violation. The Commission can visit state institutions where people are detained such as jails to inspect the conditions of the institutions and ensure they are in compliance with human rights provisions. They can also examine any law or constitutional provisions to ensure that the protections of the law protect human rights. They are to counsel the state on measures to prevent violence and related violations as well as on how to effectively implement provisions of human rights treaties. The commissions may also take on research about human rights, create awareness campaigns through various mediums, and boost the work of NGOs.
In simple way, "Human Rights" entails the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the constitution or personified in the International covenants and enforceable by courts in India. "Commission" means the National Human Rights Commission constituted under section of All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights known as Human rights, as commonly understood, are the rights that every human being is entitled to enjoy freely irrespective of his religion, race, caste, sex and nationality in Declaration of Independence acknowledged the fundamental human rights (Jagdish chand, 2007). Human Rights are not static. New rights are accepted and enforced from time to time. Only persons fully familiar with the latest development about the expanding limits of Human Rights can encourage their awareness better than others.
Composition of National Human Rights Commission:
The National Human Rights Commission include a chairperson and seven other members. Out of the seven members, three are ex-officio members and four others are selected by the President on the recommendation of a Selection Committee. The Committee is consisting of the Prime Minister who is the chairman of this Committee, Union Home Minister, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Leaders of the Opposition in both the Houses of Parliament.
Members of NHRC:
The National Human Rights Commission comprises of following executives:
- A Chairperson, retired Chief Justice of India.
- One Member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India.
- One Member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court.
- Two Members to be appointed from among persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights.
Additionally, the Chairpersons of four National Commissions,(1.Minorities 2.SC and ST 3.Women), to serve as ex officio members.
The Chairperson and the Members of the Commission are appointed by the President of India, on the recommendations of a Committee.
The Chairperson and the members of the NHRC have a tenure of five years. But if any member reaches the age of 70 years before the completion of his tenure, he or she has to retire from the membership.
The Chairperson or any other member of this commission can be removed by the President even before the expiry of their full term. They can be removed only on the charge of proved misbehaviour or incapacity or both, if it is proved by an inquiry conducted by a judge of the Supreme Court.
The headquarters of the commission is at New Delhi. Though, with the permission from the government, it can establish offices at other places in India.
Functions of National Human Rights Commission:
Comprehensive powers and functions have been given to the Commission under section12 of the Act.
National Human Rights Commission perform following functions:
- To investigate grievances regarding the violation of human rights either suo moto or after receiving a petition.
- To scrutinize the failure of duties on the part of any public official in preventing the violation of human rights.
- To interfere in any judicial proceedings involving any allegation of violation of human rights.
- To visit any jail or any other institution under the control of the State Government to see the living conditions of the inmates and to make recommendations thereon.
- To review the safeguards provided under the constitution or any law for the protection of the human rights and to recommend appropriate remedial measures.
- To study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and to make recommendations for their effective implementation.
- To undertake and promote research in the field of human rights.
- To encourage the efforts of the non-governmental organisations working in the field of human rights.
- To spread human rights literacy among various sections of society and to promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other means.
- To review all facts related to the activities of the terrorists which obstruct the way of the protection of human rights and to make recommendations for their effective implementation.
To make an inquiry into the complaints submitted to it, the commission has the powers of a civil court. It can recommend to both the central and state governments to take suitable steps to prevent the violation of Human Rights. It submits its annual report to the President of India who causes it to be laid before each House of Parliament.
It usually sends a copy of the inquiry report to the petitioner and also to the concerned government. The government may be asked to inform it about the action taken or proposed to be taken on the concerned complaints.
The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, authorized the State Governments to establish their own commission for this aim. The chairman and the members of such State Commission are appointed by the Governor in consultation with the Chief Minister, Home Minister, Speaker and Leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Assembly.
Role of National Human Rights Commission:
Though the founding of the National Human Rights Commission is great step, yet sometimes it cannot perform its duties effectively. It does not have any mechanism of investigation. It always depends on the staff of the central and state governments. So its investigation sometimes fails to be unbiased.
In majority cases, it asks the concerned Central and State Governments to investigate the cases of the violation of Human Rights. It also approaches the Supreme Court and the High Courts to provide judicial assistance to the victims. Soli J. Sorabjee disparaged it as “India’s teasing illusion” due to its incapacity to render any practical relief to the aggrieved party.
On the issue of the violation of Human Rights, India is unnecessarily gripped in controversy. As an independent state, when it takes action against all disintegrating forces, the issue of Human Rights violation is raised. The National Human Rights Commission in India has effectively demonstrated its inclination to act as an effective organisation in the protection of Human Rights.
There is a well-planned investigation division within the Commission. The prime duty of this investigation division is to look into complaints received by the Commission. For this purpose the investigation, team makes on the spot investigations. The Act outlines the investigative role of the Commission. Subsection 1(b) of Section 11 provides, “Such police and investigative staff under and officer not below the rank of a Director General of Police and such other officers and staff as may be essential for the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission.”
The Commission divides the cases in these following categories:
- Custodial deaths
- Police excesses (Torture, Illegal detention\ unlawful arrest, false implication)
- Fake encounters
- Cases related to Women and Children
- Atrocities on Dalits\Members of Minority community\ Disabled
- Bonded labour
- Armed forces\ para military forces
- Other important cases
Once the Commission receives a complaint, it seeks comments from the concerned government regarding complaint. After receiving the comments of the concerned authority, a detailed note on the merits of the case is prepared for the consideration of the Commission. After this, directions and recommendations of the Commission are communicated to the concerned government under Sections 18 and 19 of the Act.
After completing inquiry, the Commission may take any of the following steps under Section 18 of this Act, namely:
- Where the inquiry discloses, the commission of violation of human rights 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 units 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 subject to the provisions of clause
- Give a copy of the inquiry report to the petitioner or his representative.
- The Commission shall send a copy of its inquiry report together with its recommendations to the concerned government or authority who shall, within a period of one month, or such further time as the Commission may allow, forward its comments on the report, including the action taken or proposed to be taken thereon, to the Commission.
- The Commission shall publish its inquiry report together with the comments of the concerned government or authority, if any, and the action taken or proposed to be taken by the concerned government or authority on the recommendations of the Commission.
Major Human Rights issues in India:
It cannot be denied the humongous magnitude of human right violations occur in India. The world’s largest democracy is beleaguered by extensive violations. Some major issues are taken up by NHRC. These re mentioned below:
- Custodial Torture
- Right to Work and Labour Rights
- Extrajudicial Killings
- Arbitrary Arrest and Detention
- Excessive Powers of the Armed Forces and the Police
- Sexual Violence
- Conflict Induced Internal Displacement
- Child Labour
- Manual Scavenging
- Violence and discrimination against Women, Children
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Rights
- Problems faced by Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Religious Minorities, Persons with Disabilities
Limitations of the Commission: There are some limitations of National Human Rights Commission.
National Human Rights Commission can only make recommendations, without the power to impose decisions. This lack of authority to ensure compliance can lead to outright denial of its decision too.
It is often visualized as a post-retirement destinations for judges, police officers and bureaucrats with political clout. Bureaucratic functioning, insufficiency of funds also hamper the working of the commission.
Under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, human rights commissions cannot examine an event if the complaint was made more than one year after the incident. Therefore, a large number of genuine complaints go unaddressed.
To summarize, the Government of India did comprehend the need to establish an independent body to promote and protect human rights. The establishment of an autonomous National Human Rights Commission by the Government of India mirrors its commitment for effective execution of human rights provisions under national and international instruments. According to news reports, Human rights commissions are most active when their tasks are passably supported by other mechanisms that safeguard a government’s accountability.