Important: Completed 25 years
    • Cases registered by the National Human Rights Commission have gone up over the past three years, but those where monetary relief was recommended have in fact declined
    • Recent cases :
  • Red Sanders encounter case
  • Dadri mob lynching
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India is an autonomous public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993. It was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (TPHRA). The NHRC is the national human rights institution, responsible 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”
  1. Inquire, on its own initiative or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf, into complaint of-
    1. violation of human rights or abetment or
    2. negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant;
  2. intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court with the approval of such court;
  3. 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 ;
  4. 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;
  5. review the factors, including acts of terrorism that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures;
  6. study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation;
  7. undertake and promote research in the field of human rights;
  8. 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;
  9. encourage the efforts of non – Governmental organizations and institutions working in the field of human rights;
  10. such other functions as it may consider necessary for the promotion of human rights.
Powers relating to inquiries
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, and in particular the following, namely;
  1. Summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath;
  2. discovery and production of any document;
  3. receiving evidence on affidavits;
  4. requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
  5. issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents;
  6. any other matter which may be prescribed.
The Commission has its own investigating staff headed by a Director General of Police for investigation into complaints of human rights violations. Under the Act, it is open to the Commission to utilise the services of any officer or investigation agency of the Central Government or any State Government. The Commission has associated, in a number of cases, non – Governmental organizations in the investigation work.
The autonomy of the Commission derives, inter-alia, from the method of appointing its Chairperson and Members, their fixity of tenure, and statutory guarantees thereto, the status they have been accorded and the manner in which the staff responsible to the Commission – including its investigative agency – will be appointed and conduct themselves. The financial autonomy of the Commission is spelt out in Section 32 of the Act.
The Chairperson and Members of the Commission are appointed by the President on the basis of recommendations of a Committee comprising the Prime Minister as the Chairperson, the Speaker of Lok Sabha, the Home Minister, the leaders of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha as Members.
Reason for CJI as NHRC Chairperson
Reasons for making a former CJI chairperson of NHRC are-
  1.  Well known interpreter of constitution and executive decisions
  2. Free from political influences due to his service in judiciary
  3. Respectable integrity
  4. As per India’s international commitments and NHRC Act, it is a statutory requirement that the post of NHRC chairperson be filled by a former CJI.
Limitations of NHRC:
  • NHRC’s recommendations are not binding
  • NHRC cannot penalise authorities who do not implement its orders
  • JK is out of its jurisdiction
  • NHRC jurisdiction does not cover human right violations by private parties
  • 3/5 are judges, leading to more judicial touch to its functioning
  • 2/5 are also not Human Right experts. Political appointments.
  • Time limit is set to 1 year i.e. NHRC cannot entertain ca case older than 1 year
  • Limited jurisdiction over violation by armed forces
  • Act does not extend to J&K
Practical Limitations:
  • Vacancies are not filled on time. Most human rights commissions are functioning with less than the prescribed Members
  • Fund crunch
  • Overload and backlog. Too many complaints. Hence, in recent days, NHRC is finding it difficult to address the increasing number of complaints
  • Bureaucratic style of functioning
Why a former Chief Justice of India is made the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)? In the light of recent events where human rights have been violated, it is argued that there is a need to reform NHRC to address such violations. Critically comment. (200 Words)

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