Human rights

This article has been written by Sujitha S, pursuing law at the School of Excellence in Law, Chennai. This article tries to study the structure and functions of the Human Rights Commission in India and its role in the promotion of human rights.

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.

Table of Contents

Introduction

“When the fundamental principles of human rights are not protected, the center of our institution no longer holds. It is they who promote development that is sustainable; peace that is secure; and lives of dignity.” — Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

Indian culture is a reflection of the integration of many ethnicities and religions. As a consequence, the protection of human rights is complicated by the huge size and population, as well as the rich culture of the country. To address the wide range of human rights violations, there’s a pressing need for an independent body to govern them in the country. In the early 1990s, this need for bolstering human rights institutions was recognized by the international community. Subsequently, on October 12, 1993, India founded the National Human Rights Commission, a statutory and non-constitutional body for the promotion and preservation of human rights. The  National Human Rights Commission of India has been in existence for more than 28 years now. Though their functions and powers are hampered by several additional restrictions, they play a considerable role in protecting against human rights violations. With this context in mind, the article covers the activities of India’s human rights commission.

Evolution of Human Rights Commission

Pressure from the international community

The Indian government showed minimal attention to local human rights and civil liberties organisations until the early 1990s. Their reports, requests, and petitions on human rights violations were received with absolute silence, particularly in light of anti-insurgency operations in Kashmir, Punjab, and northeastern regions. Amnesty International and Asia Watch’s critical publications have increased international awareness of these human rights violations. The Indian government, on the other hand, could not continue to ignore international human rights criticism, which accused the government of tolerating abuses by allowing leniency to security forces and effectively approving human rights violations. As a result of pressure from the international community, the need for the government to form an independent structure for safeguarding human rights gained momentum.

Establishment of human rights commissions

In 1990, the Parliament of India established certain similar commissions, including the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, the National Commission for Women, and the National Commission for Minorities,1992. Eventually, the Indian government recognised the need to create an independent agency to promote and safeguard human rights. India’s commitment to the effective implementation of human rights laws under national and international treaties is shown in the establishment of an autonomous National Human Rights Commission. The Commission was the first of its sort in South Asia and one of the few in the field during the early 1990s. 

The Commission was established on October 12, 1993, under the Protection of Human Rights Act (1993). In addition, eighteen Indian states have established their own human rights commissions to address abuses occurring inside their borders. The Act covers a wide range of topics, including its purpose and powers, as well as its composition and other relevant issues. While the National Human Rights Commission guarantees specific rights to individuals, the State Human Rights Commission directs the state to deliver certain economic and social rights to its citizens. The term “fundamental” denotes that these rights are inherent in all human beings and that they are fundamental and necessary for each individual.

Relevant International framework

Since India has ratified the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the rights guaranteed in the Constitution must comply with them. The Supreme Court is responsible for the enforcement of fundamental rights under Article 32, while the High Courts are responsible under Article 226. Although India has long sought institutional remedies to its human rights issues, it is doubtful that India would have established a national human rights commission in the absence of international pressure, norms, and participation.

National Human Rights Commission

Composition of the National Human Rights Commission

Chapter II of the Protection of Human Rights Act deals with the constitution of the Commission.  According to  Section 3, the Commission will comprise of

  • A chairperson who has served as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; 
  • One member who is or has served as a Supreme Court Judge; 
  • One member who is or has served as the Chief Justice of the High Court; 
  • Two members to be appointed from among those with knowledge of or practical experience in human rights issues.
  • Ex-officio members of the Commission include the Chairpersons of the National Commission for Minorities, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and the National Commission for Women.
  • A Secretary-General will serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission and will exercise the powers and perform the tasks that the Commission may assign to him.

Appointment and removal of members of the National Human Rights Commission

The rules for appointment to the National Human Rights Commission are set forth in Sections 2, 3, and 4 of the Protection of Human Rights Act. On the recommendation of a committee consisting of the Prime Minister of India (Chairperson), the Home Minister of India, the Chairman of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chairman of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the President of India appoints the Chairman and members of the National Human Rights Commission. The chairman and other members serve for five years or until they reach the age of 70, whichever comes first. After their tenure, the chairperson and members are no longer eligible for employment with the central or state governments.

The Chairperson or any other member of the commission may be removed from office by an order of the President on the basis of misbehaviour or incapacity if the Supreme Court, following an investigation, reports that the Chairperson or any other member should be removed on any such ground. The chairperson may be removed on other grounds if

  • he is adjudged insolvent, 
  • he is engaged in any paid employment outside the duties of his office during his term of office. 
  • he has become incompetent to continue his office, 
  • he has been declared a person of unsound mind by a court, or 
  • he has been found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for an offence which, in the opinion of the President, involves moral turpitude.

Divisions of the National Human Rights Commission

There are six divisions in the NHRC. These have been assigned with specialised tasks, and they collaborate and coordinate with each other for the same. They are

The Administrative Division

The Secretary-General oversees this division, which is led by a joint secretary and supported by a director, under-secretaries, and section officers. This division is responsible for the administrative, staffing, establishment, and cadre concerns of the Commission’s employees and officers.

The Law Division

The registrar is in charge of the law division. The division assists the Commission in receiving and processing human rights violation petitions. The law division is in charge of the complaint investigation. When a complaint is received by the Complaint Registry (CR) division, it is separated or divided into fresh and urgent complaints after being assigned a diary number.

The Training Division

The division was established to spread information and direct attention to training various agencies and NGOs, as well as civil society, in order to increase awareness of human rights through the organisation of human rights training programmes. A Chief Coordinator leads this division. A senior research officer and other secretarial staff assist him.

The Policy, Research and Project Division 

When the Commission determines that a particular issue is of public importance based on its proceedings, debates, or other means, it is changed into a project/program that is handled by this division. It also conducts and fosters human rights research and hosts seminars, workshops, and conferences on relevant topics.

The Investigation Division

When the Commission requests an independent investigation, it is handled by the Investigation Division, which is supervised by a Director General of Police officer. The Division also aids the Commission in investigating complaints, reviewing police and other official reports, and investigating allegations of custodial violence or other offences.

The Information and Public Relations Division

This division, which is led by an Information and Public Relations Officer who also serves as the editor of the Human Rights Newsletter, broadcasts information about the Commission’s work through electronic and print media. This division is in charge of the Commission’s homepage and periodicals.

Functions of the National Human Rights Commission

  • Investigate human rights violations or negligence by a public official, either proactive or reactively.
  • Visiting a jail or any other center under the jurisdiction of the state government where people have been apprehended or held for treatment, reformation, or protection and rehabilitation in order to evaluate the prisoners’ living conditions and give suggestions.
  • Appraisal of the safeguards provided by or under the Constitution or any current legislation for the protection and advancement of human rights, as well as recommendations for their successful implementation.
  • Analyse the causes that hinder the enjoyment of human rights, including acts of terrorism, and provide recommendations for appropriate remedies. Establish and foster research projects at colleges, universities, and other professional fields.
  • Evaluation of the safeguarding of human rights protection and safety provided by or under any representation;
  • The conditions or challenges that limit the implementation of human rights in the country are evaluated and reviewed on a regular basis.
  • Encourage human rights education among all parts of society, as well as knowledge of the defence mechanisms available to safeguard these rights, through publications, the media, conferences, workshops, seminars, and other activities. 
  • Any view, approval, recommendation, or report on any issue involving the promotion and preservation of human rights should be directed to the government. 
  • Prepare monthly reports on the actual position of human rights in general, as well as other particular issues in the country;
  • Assistance to the government on situations involving human rights violations and strategies for preventing them;
  • Collaborate with the United Nations and other UN-affiliated organisations, as well as regional and national institutions in other countries with expertise in human rights protection and promotion;
  • Participation and assistance in developing and implementing human rights education and awareness programmes for teaching and research, as well as participation in their implementation in schools, colleges, universities, and other professional fields;
  • Increase public knowledge of human rights and attempt to combat all types of prejudice by raising public awareness, particularly via correct information and awakening human rights education, and by utilising all media outlets;
  • Perform any additional tasks that it deems beneficial to the promotion and protection of human rights.
  • To adjudicate in court proceedings involving human rights problems with the permission of the court.

State Human Rights Commission

Composition of the State Human Rights Commission

The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 mandates the establishment of a state-level Human Rights Commission. A State Human Rights Commission can investigate violations of human rights in matters covered under the Seventh Schedule’s state list and concurrent lists under the Constitution. According to the Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006, it has three members, one of whom is the chairperson. A former Chief Justice of a High Court shall serve as chairperson. The remaining members should be: 

  • A sitting or retired judge of the High Court of the state or a District Judge having at least seven years’ experience as a District Judge.
  • A person with relevant expertise or knowledge in the field of human rights.

Appointment and removal of members of the State Human Rights Commission

  • On the recommendations of a committee headed by the Chief Minister, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the Home Minister of the state, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, the Governor of the state chooses the chairperson and other members. 
  • In the event that the state establishes a legislative council, the chairman and leader of the opposition would also be members of the committee. 
  • The chairperson and members serve for five years or until they reach the age of 70, whichever comes first. They are not eligible for any further employment with the state government or the central government when their term ends.
  • However, subject to age restrictions, the chairman or a member of the commission may serve another term. 
  • The members may only be dismissed by the president, not the governor, for the same reasons as the NHRC.

Functions of the State Human Rights Commission

  • Investigate a complaint of human rights violation or negligence by a public servant, suo moto, or on the basis of a petition brought to it by a victim or any person acting on his behalf.
  • With the consent of the court, intervene in any case involving any claim of human rights violation.
  • Visit any jail or other body under the administration of the State Government where people are incarcerated to examine the inmates’ living conditions and provide recommendations.
  • Examine the protections for the protection of human rights established by or under the constitution of any legislation now in force, and provide recommendations for their effective implementation.
  • Examine the reasons that obstruct the enjoyment of human rights, including acts of terrorism, and provide recommendations for appropriate remedies.
  • Conduct and promote human rights research.
  • Promote human rights literacy and understanding of the measures available to defend these rights among diverse segments of society.
  • Support non-governmental organisations and institutions that operate in the field of human rights.
  • Perform any other tasks it deems necessary for the advancement of human rights.

Filing and admission of complaints : an overview

Filing of complaints

One of the primary functions of the NHRC is to address complaints. A complaint concerning human rights infringements can be filed by any individual, group of individuals, or organisation. The Commission keeps track of the complaints it receives and assigns them a number. Members are presented with these complaints.  The Commission may request more information and affidavits in support of the accusations made. 

Admission of complaints

If the Commission determines that the complaint is devoid of merit, the complaint may be dismissed. The Commission directs additional inquiry or investigation if a complaint is admitted. The Commission also requests the state governments to provide reports or views. Following that, a thorough note on the case’s contents is drafted and presented to the Commission. When the Commission decides to take up a case, its members or the investigative section can conduct an investigation. If an infringement of human rights or negligence by a public official is discovered during the investigation, the Commission may propose that criminal charges be brought against the responsible parties.The Commission might also propose to the concerned state that the victim or family members be granted prompt relief. The Commission may also go to the Supreme Court or the appropriate High Court to have its orders and instructions carried out.

Complaints related to the armed forces

If the allegations include the army, the Commission requests a report from the central government. If the Commission is satisfied with the government’s report, it will not pursue the issue further. If the Commission is dissatisfied, it will offer recommendations to the government. Within three months, the central government must advise the Commission of its actions in response to the suggestion.

Investigation wing

The Commission has its own investigation committee, led by the  Director General of Police, to look into human rights violation charges. In conducting an inquiry, the Commission may use the services of any officer or investigating agency of the government. During several investigations, the Commission has also involved non-governmental organisations.

Types of complaints 

The types of complaints usually accepted include

  • Deaths in the custody of the police and the courts
  • Fake encounters between the police, army, and paramilitary forces   
  • Unlawful detention, extortion and intimidation by the police
  • Cases not being registered
  • Failure to safeguard the lives and property of residents by the police
  • Failure to undertake thorough investigations
  • Refusal of essential facilities in prison
  • Atrocities and restriction of access to village tanks, wells, and water sources against Dalits
  • Bonded or forced labour

Other human rights bodies

S. No.Name of the bodyAmbitObjectiveThemes
1National Commission for Women NationalAddressing concerns about women’s rights violations and providing recommendations to the government on policy regarding women.Rights of the women
2National Commission for Minorities NationalDevelopment of general policy and planning, coordination, assessment, and review of the legislative framework and development programmes for minority populations.Rights of the minorities
3National Commission for SC/ST NationalProtection of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Anglo-Indian minorities from exploitation in order to develop and preserve their social, educational, economic, and cultural interests.Rights of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes
4National Commission for Protection of Child RightsNationalPromotion, and protection of children’s rights, notably those enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, which India signed in 1992.Child rights
5Chief Commissioner for persons with disabilitiesNationalProtection and promotion of the  economic, social, educational, and cultural interests of disabled persons.Rights of persons with disabilities

Role of the Human Rights Commission in the promotion of human rights

Raising human rights awareness and education

The Commission has promoted environmental rights, children’s rights, women’s rights, and the  rights of victims of honour killings. Further,  NHRC stepped up recently during the coronavirus outbreak to safeguard and promote the human rights of virus-affected persons. The National Human Rights Commission also worked hard to spread human rights education throughout the country. The National Human Resource Development Council, the National Council for Educational Research and Training, and the National Council for Teacher Education are all working together in this regard. The NHRC developed resources for education at all grades of schooling in partnership with various government institutions. The Commission is also working with the University Grants Commission (UGC) on the establishment of university-level human rights courses. The Commission’s adoption of an integrated human rights framework has been a significant step forward in the field of human rights education.

Dismissal of human rights complaints

The National Human Rights Commission receives and processes multiple human rights complaints. The high rate of clearance of human rights complaints by the NHRC may be attributed to the fact that the commission was fully staffed during the years. The very purpose of a governmental body lies in the redressal of grievances.  Thus, by addressing the cases registered, the primary goal of enabling the protection of human rights against their violation is discharged. 

Protection of rights of marginalised people

The rights of Adivasis, manual scavengers, the elderly, the disabled, and other disadvantaged are preserved through projects across the country. It also takes disaster-related relocation into account. The Commission was the first to take action against manual scavenging in 1996-97. In 2000-2001, the Commission recommended that the National Policy for Rehabilitation and Resettlement of Project Affected Families be amended. The National Human Rights Commission has advocated that the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 include measures for the settlement of those displaced as a result of land acquisition for such projects.

Similarly, the Commission stressed the need for assisting those who are harassed or discriminated against because of their disability. The Commission has also taken on the task of promoting and protecting the economic and social rights of those displaced by natural disasters. For instance, it took suo moto notice of the situation following the terrible cyclone that hit Orissa in October 1999. The favourable outcomes of its participation in Orissa set the stage for a similar action by the Commission in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Gujarat in January 2001, destroying major portions of the state.

Review of legislations

The Commission performed adequately in the field of evaluating laws and treaties. It has made comments on approximately twenty Acts, Bills, or ordinances with human rights ramifications, including anti-terrorism laws, armed forces special powers, few provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Criminal Procedure Code, the Police and Prisons Acts, women’s and children’s rights, bonded labour, Dalit and Adivasi rights, health and education issues, refugees, and the right to information.

Major human rights cases 

The Gujarat riots

The National Human Rights Commission has taken notice of media reports regarding a mass grave being discovered in Lunawada village in Gujarat’s Panchmahal district. In this case, the Commission requested a report from the State Government and the CBI. During the months of February and March 2002, communal violence on a large scale was reported in Gujarat. Approximately 3,000 members of the minority Muslim community were killed, and the property was damaged. The Gujarat state government and police failed to take enough precautions to avoid violence and to give protection, security, and justice to Muslim minority community victims. What can be done in instances where people are massacred in collusion with the state? Is the NHRC empowered to investigate this incident of grave human rights violations on its own? Indeed, the NHRC launched an independent investigation into these incidents and ordered the state administration to report on the steps taken to restore calm in Gujarat. The Commission also moved the Supreme Court of India on behalf of the Gujarat riot victims.

Punjab mass cremation case

The National Human Rights Commission awarded each victim of the Punjab Mass Cremation Case, Rs. 1.75 lakh as damages. A total of 1051 victims received compensation. The bodies of these people were incinerated by state authorities in contravention of cremation guidelines for unidentified corpses, according to the Commission. According to the Commission, the conduct violated the deceased’s dignity and offended the emotions and sentiments of their relatives, who would have wanted to perform their funeral rites. The Punjab government was ordered to deposit Rs. 18,39,25,000/- within three months for distribution to the relatives.

This is a horrifying case of serious human rights violations, in which the Punjab police have incinerated a significant number of human bodies. The Supreme Court submitted this case to the NHRC. The Commission held the Punjab government liable and responsible for the deceased’s right to life being violated. On March 8, 2006, the Commission granted compensation to 38 additional people.

Orissa starvation deaths case

The NHRC was notified of reports of starvation-related deaths in the Orissa districts of Koraput, Bolangie, and Kalahandi. In a similar case, the Indian Council of Legal Aid and Advice and others filed a Writ petition before the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Constitution on December 23, 1996. The Supreme Court of India declared on July 26, 1997, that the petitioner can approach the NHRC since the issue is pending with them and they are likely to make a decision. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the Commission moved promptly and developed an interim measure for a two-year term, as well as requested that the Orissa State Government form a committee to investigate all issues of the land. It also named a special rapporteur to oversee relief and reconstruction efforts.   

In January 2004, the Commission organized a conference with renowned experts on the subject to explore concerns linked to the right to food. The Commission has authorised the formation of a Core Group on the Right to Food, which will advise on concerns brought to it and identify relevant programmes for the Commission to implement. In the context of India, this judgement clearly establishes that economic, social, and cultural rights are recognised equally as civil and political rights before the courts and the Commission.

Encounter death cases in Andhra Pradesh

The Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) over encounter deaths in which police killed persons suspected of being members of the People’s War Group. The deaths were allegedly caused by armed militants resisting custody, but the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee insisted on extrajudicial executions that amounted to unjustifiable and unprovoked murders. They released details on 285 such incidents. The NHRC investigated six incidents involving the deaths of seven persons and, for the first time in India, issued guidelines in 1997 outlining the procedure for encounter deaths.

Refugee cases in Arunachal Pradesh

The Commission filed a writ petition under Article 21 of the Constitution to enforce the fundamental rights of around 65,000 Chakma Hajong tribals. In this incident, the Kaptain Hydel Project displaced a huge number of refugees from former East Pakistan in 1964. These displaced Chakmas sought refuge in India’s north-eastern states, especially Assam and Tripura. In this matter, there were two key issues: (1) Granting of citizenship; and (2) fear of persecution by some sectors of Arunachal Pradesh’s inhabitants. Two distinct NGOs addressed the NHRC about these two problems. In this case, the Commission argued in court that the issue of leave notices by the All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) to Chakmas and attempts to execute them looked to be supported by the Arunachal Pradesh police. The state government purposely delayed the resolution of the case by failing to provide the appropriate answer to the NHRC, and in fact, through its agencies, aided in the displacement of the Chakmas from the state.

Following the hearing, the Court ordered the government of Arunachal Pradesh to protect the lives and personal liberty of the Chakma people living in the state. This decision is especially significant since it dispels any ambiguities about the applicability of fundamental rights to refugees. According to this judgement, foreigners are entitled to the protection of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees their right to life and liberty. Thousands of innocent Chakma refugees from AAPSU have been protected owing to the Commission’s timely action.

Silicosis deaths in Madhya Pradesh

The National Human Rights Commission voiced genuine concern about the deaths of tribals from Alirajpur tehsil in Jhabua District, Madhya Pradesh, who died of silicosis/silicotuberculosis while working as labourers in the quartz crushing plants of Godhra, Gujarat. The Commission became aware of this tragedy after reading a news article in the Indian Express on September 19, 2007, titled “Death Stalks Godhra Again, in the Form of Silicon Dust.” According to the findings, these tribals were exposed to silica dust during work and received no protection. According to the research, roughly 200 tribals have died in the previous four years and that those labourers who returned to their communities in Jhabua and died of silicotuberculosis there were not compensated because they lacked documentary proof to process compensation claims.

Following a review of the report, the Commission instructed that it be given to the Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretaries, as well as the District Collectors of Panchmahal and Jhabua, for a factual report within four weeks. A team from the Investigation Division was also dispatched by the Commission for a spot investigation.

Challenges faced by human rights bodies

Structural challenges

Composition

The Act stipulates that three of the five members must be former judges, however, it is unclear if these judges must have a track record of human rights activity, expertise, or qualifications in the field. The Act is ambiguous about the other two members, just stating “persons with knowledge and expertise of human rights.” As a result, commissions are frequently used as retirement communities for judges, police officers, and officials with political influence.

Limitation on time

Human rights commissions are prohibited from investigating an incident if the complaint is lodged more than one year after the event. As a result, a substantial portion of valid grievances gets ignored.

Inability to deal with armed forces

State human rights bodies are unable to request information from the national government, therefore denying them the authority to probe armed forces under national jurisdiction. Even the National Human Rights Commission’s powers in relation to armed forces human rights violations have been limited to requesting a report from the government (without the ability to call witnesses) and then offering recommendations.

Practical challenges

Delay in filing

The majority of human rights commissions have less than the required five members. This hampers the ability of commissions to respond to complaints quickly, especially as the number of complaints continues to rise.

Scarcity of resources

Another major issue is a lack of resources, or rather, resources that are not being used for human rights-related tasks. Large portions of commission funding go to office expenditures and member maintenance, leaving disproportionately modest amounts for other critical areas like research and awareness programmes.

Over-burden

Most human rights commissions have difficulty in receiving a deluge of complaints. The National Human Rights Commission received approximately 74968 complaints in 2020. State human rights bodies are also struggling to deal with the growing number of complaints.

Bureaucratic shortcoming

As most of the members of commissions come from government departments—either on deputation or after retirement, the internal environment is generally similar to that of any other government institution. Complainants often find it difficult to acquire documents or information about the progress of their case due to strict hierarchies. The presence of security guards, battalions of peons, and office attendants create obstacles for common people to speak with officials about their complaints in person.

Way ahead

Enforceability of decisions

The influence of human rights commissions will be considerably boosted if the government makes its recommendations immediately enforceable. This will save time and energy since commissions will no longer need to issue notifications to government agencies to execute the recommendations, or alternatively, go through a time-consuming legal process to force the government to comply. Commissions must also have clear and well-defined authorities to pursue government agencies that provide fraudulent information. This will help to avoid many incidents resulting from the influence of departmental agencies, especially those involving the police department.

Inclusion of armed forces

Human rights violations are common in places where insurgency and internal divisions are present. Allowing commissions to investigate allegations against the military and security forces in an impartial manner merely exacerbates the problems and promotes cultures of amnesty. Instead of the existing system, where the National Commission is limited to requesting reports from the national government, it is critical that commissions have the ability to call witnesses and documents.

The right choice of members

Since positions of non-judicial members are increasingly being occupied by ex-bureaucrats, the argument that commissions are more like government extensions than independent watchdog organisations gains momentum. Commissions must include society’s human rights advocates as members if they are to play a significant role in society. Many activists may provide the Commission with knowledge and first-hand experience of current trends in the human rights movement.

Recruitment of staff

Human rights commissions must build an independent body of professionals with relevant expertise. The existing system of responding to people on deputation from various government ministries is insufficient since history has shown that most have limited knowledge and comprehension of human rights issues. This issue may be solved by hiring specifically trained and competent personnel to help eliminate the backlog of complaints.

Police complaints commission 

Human rights bodies spend a good deal of time investigating complaints about police misconduct. Perhaps it’s time to consider developing a new organisation dedicated only to the monitoring of police.   For example, the United Kingdom has an Independent Police Complaints Commission; South Africa has an Independent Complaints Directorate, and several Brazilian regions have Police Ombudsmen offices that deal solely with police complaints.

While it may seem obvious that these solutions will assist in increasing quality, the problem is persuading the government to approve these and other innovative ideas.

Conclusion

The above discussion clearly demonstrates that the Commission has done an efficient job in protecting and promoting human rights during the course of its 28-year history. The number of human rights cases being registered is increasing, but the number of cases pending is also increasing. This can be attributed to legal, infrastructural, and administrative problems at the Commission. To overcome the aforementioned obstacles, the National Human Rights Commission must be given additional authority. The Commission should be given judicial supervision powers, comparable to those granted to the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution. The Commission should be given powers regarding its contempt so that officials who disobey the Commission’s recommendations and directives can be penalised and held accountable. Every financial year, a separate budget/fund shall be released in the name of the NHRC. Its infrastructure must be completely technologically driven.

Overall, it would be an effort to introduce a human rights framework and substantial obligations to legislative procedures, creative policy-making, and programmes executed at both the national and state levels. Its major contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights in India and the concerned states has evaporated, leaving behind the expected role of investigating alleged violations, examining public inquiries, exercising jurisdiction, determining whether there is a need for providing direction and assistance to governments, and raising awareness about human rights education among lawmakers, academicians, stakeholders, and students, as well as the general public. Furthermore, hosting human rights-related seminars, workshops, and conferences has been beneficial to the strengthening of our country’s human rights jurisprudence. It may be stated that the NHRC cannot function properly without the cooperation of government stakeholders, other groups, and the general public.  So the effective teamwork of NGOs, stakeholders, legal experts, academicians, and the general public can lead to the effective functioning of the human rights commissions. 

FAQs

Who was the first chairman of the NHRC?

Justice Shri Ranganath Misra

Are human rights defined in the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993

Yes. As per Section 2 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1933, “human rights” are defined as the rights to life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the individual enshrined in the Constitution or embodied in International Covenants and enforceable by Indian courts. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights were both endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966.

What procedures does the Commission apply to investigate complaints

While investigating complaints of human rights violations, the Commission may request data or a report from the Central Government, any State Government, or any other authority or organisation subordinate to it within such period as it may specify; provided, however, that if the data or report is not received within the period fixed by the Commission, it may proceed to investigate the complaint on its own. In case, if the Commission is satisfied that no more investigation is required, or that the required steps have been initiated or taken by the concerned authority after receiving the  data or report, it may not proceed further with the complaint and notify the complainant accordingly.

What measures does the Commission have after the investigation

  1. If the investigation reveals a public servant’s violation of a human right or negligence in preventing a violation of a human right, the Commission may propose to the responsible government the start of criminal proceedings or other action against the concerned person or parties.
  2. Make an application to the Supreme Court or the High Court for any required directives, orders, or writs.
  3. Recommend to the responsible Government that the victim or members of his family be granted such immediate interim remedies as the Commission deems appropriate.

Is it possible to file a complaint in any language

They might be in Hindi, English, or any other language included in the Constitution’s Eighth Schedule. It is assumed that the complaints would be self-contained. There is no payment for filing a complaint. When it is deemed essential, the Commission may request further documents and affidavits in support of claims. Telegraphic objections and complaints sent by FAX or e-mail may be accepted at the Commission’s discretion. Complaints can also be filed using the Commission’s mobile phone number.

What types of complaints does the Commission not consider

The Commission does not normally consider the following types of complaints:

  1. In the case of incidents that occurred more than a year prior to the filing of the complaint;
  2. In cases where there is a pending lawsuit;
  3. Vague, anonymous, or pseudonymous cases;
  4. Concerning questions of service matters.

What is the National Commission for Human Rights expert panel

The expert panel is nothing but a committee formed by the commission, comprising persons having expertise on the subject matter, for the assessment required. For example, the National Commission for Human Rights (NHRC) has organised an 11-member expert committee, which includes Public Health Foundation of India President Dr. K S Reddy and activist Maja Daruwala, to analyse the influence of the COVID-19 outbreak on human rights, particularly those of the marginalised and vulnerable.

Who is the present chairman of the NHRC

Arun Kumar Mishra

References


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