In this blog post, Srishti Khindaria, a student of Amity Law School, Delhi, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, analyses the concept of human rights and how it emerged in India. Emphasis is laid upon the role of the National Human Rights Commission and how to file a complaint with the Commission in the case of violation of human rights.
Human Rights are those rights which are inherent to all human beings, irrespective of their nationality or ethnic origin, place of birth, current place of residence, sex, religion, color, language or any other status. These are rights everyone is equally entitled to, without any form of discrimination. These rights are interrelated, indivisible and interdependent.
These are rights people are entitled to by humanity. Human Rights are universal in nature and are often laid down and guaranteed by law in the form of treaties, general principles, and customary international law and derived from other sources of international law.
This principle of universality of human rights is the considered to be the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle was first set down clearly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 and has been reiterated in several international conventions on human rights.
Human rights are essential for the very existence of human beings and the development of their individual personalities. These demand respect and recognition for inherent dignity that every individual is entitled to be protected.
There are several types of Human Rights; these are as follows
Human rights include Social and Civil Rights, such as:
- Right to life, liberty and security of person.
- Right to property.
- Right to freedom from slavery and servitude
- Right to freedom from torture and cruelty
- Right to privacy
- Right to freedom of assembly
Human rights also cover certain Economic Rights, such as
- Right to adequate standard of living
- Right to social security
- Right to work
- Right to equal pay for equal work
- Right to form trade unions
- Right to rest and leisure
- Right to food and health
Human Rights further include Political Rights such as;
- Right to take part in political processes.
- Right to equal suffrage i.e. right to vote
- Right to nationality
- Right to equality before law and equal protection of law
- Right to judicial remedies and fair trials
- Right to take part in government affairs
Human Rights also cover Cultural Rights such as;
- Right to participate in cultural life of the community
- Right to enjoy art and to share advancements in the scientific field with the public
- Right to protection of moral and material interests
- Social and International Order in which Human Rights as provided in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be fully realized.
Human Rights in India
In India, the concept of Human Rights is not an idea adopted from the western countries. These rights symbolize the common heritage of India’s glorious past. Pre-independence the enjoyment of such rights was not available to all the segments as our society was ridden with the ills of the hierarchical caste system. The liberation movement from the British rule is seen as a movement focused on the attainment and protection of such rights.
Post-independence, the constitution makers, formulated the Constitution with the fundamental rights at its core. Through the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, six types of fundamental rights were enshrined under Part III of the Indian Constitution. These fundamental rights were made available to all and there was “equal enjoyment of rights and opportunities” and to ensure “an egalitarian social order.” Special care was also taken to safeguard and protect the interests of the weaker sections of the society through the policy of “protective discrimination.” Reservation was provided for, and minorities were also allowed to set up their institutions to promote and keep their culture alive.
Part IV of our constitution enshrines Directive Principles of State Policy; these ensure socio-economic rights and justice.
National Human Rights Commission of India
In pursuance with the protection of the Human Rights Act of 1993 the first National Human Rights Commission of India was constituted on 29 September 1993, with Shri Ranganath Mishra, the ex-chief justice of India as its first chairperson.
Under Section 2 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1903, “human rights” have been defined as rights relating to life, equality, liberty and dignity of the individual as enshrined in the Constitution or guaranteed by International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.
The functions to be performed by the Commission are as follows;
- Inquire, into a complaint filed by the victim himself or any person on his behalf, or taken up by its initiative.
- Intervene in any proceedings involving allegations of violation of human rights pending before any other court with the prior approval of such a court.
- Conduct visits to any jail or any institution under the control of the State Government, where people have been logged or detained for the purpose of rehabilitation, reformation or treatment.
- Review the safeguards 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 factors that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights including terrorism and suggest appropriate remedial measures.
- Promote and undertake research in the field of human rights.
- Encourage efforts of NGOs and other institutions working in the field of promotion and protection of human rights.
- Study treaties and other international instruments on the subject of human rights and suggest ways for their effective implementation.
- Any other functions that it may consider necessary for the promotion of human rights.
The commission enjoys autonomy in a lot of aspects; the method of appointment of members, the duration of tenure and other statutory guarantees are assured to it. The commission also enjoys full financial autonomy.
The composition of the Commission is as follows:
- The National Human Rights Commission shall consist of Chairperson and any other such members appointed by the president of India. The Chairperson must be a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of India.
- Members are appointed by recommendations of a committee which is headed by the Prime Minister as the Chairperson, the Home Minister, The Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the leaders of opposition in the Lok and Rajya Sabha and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
The current members according to the NHRC website is:
|Justice H L Dattu
|Justice Cyriac Joseph
|Justice D. Murugesan
|Sharad Chandra Sinha
|Chairperson, National Commission for Minorities
|Chairperson, National Commission for Scheduled Castes
|Chairperson, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
|Chairperson, National Commission for Women
Procedure of Filing a Complaint
Who can make the complaint? The complaint may be lodged with the commission by the victim himself or any person acting on his behalf.
On what grounds can a complaint be filed? A complaint can be filed on the following grounds:
- Violation of any human rights or any abetment thereof
- Negligence by a public servant in the prevention of such violation
What language can a complaint be filed in? The complaint can be drafted in English, Hindi or any language included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.
In what time frame can a complaint be filed? The jurisdiction of the National Human Rights Commission is limited to complaints filed within one year from the date on which the act constituting a violation of human rights is alleged to have been committed.
By what modes can a complaint be sent? The complaint can be sent by the following modes;
- By post; National Human Rights Commission
Manav Adhikar Bhawan Block-C,
GPO Complex, INA, New Delhi – 110023
- By telegram
- By fax; (011) 23386521
- By email; [email protected] (general)/ [email protected] (for complaints)
- Complaints maybe filed online by clicking on the following link: http://126.96.36.199/HRComplaint/NewHRComplaint.aspx
- Complaints can be made in the 24 hours mobile number of the Commission: +91 9810298900
Does the commission charge any fee from the complainants? No, the Commission does not charge any fee for filing of the complaints.
What kind of complaints is not entertained by the Commission? Ordinarily, the Commission does not entertain any complaints of the following nature;
- Complaints regarding incidents that occurred more than a year before the filing of the complaint.
- Complaints concerning to matters sub-judice in nature that is; matters already pending or being heard in the court of law or tribunal.
- Complaints which are trivial or frivolous in nature
- Complaints which are vague, anonymous and pseudo-anonymous in nature.
- Complaints which pertain to service matters.
- Complaints which are illegible in nature
- Matters still pending before the State Human Rights Commission or any other Commission
- Complaints which relate to civil disputes such as property rights, contractual obligations, etc.
- Allegations, which do not point to the violation of any specific type pf human right.
- Any matter covered by a judicial verdict/decision of the commission
What must the complaint contain? The complaint must disclose a clear picture of the matter leading to the complaint. The complaint must contain clearly all of the following clearly, along with other aspects
- The name of the victim
- The age of the victim
- The religion/caste of the victim
- The State to which the incident relates.
- The District to which the incident relates.
- Date on which the incident occurred.
The documents enclosed in support of allegations, if any, must be easy to read and decipher. The complaints are expected to be self-contained.
It is advisable that the format prescribed on the NHRC website be followed. It can be downloaded from http://nhrc.nic.in/Documents/Compformat.pdf