The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on 10th December 1948 in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly. It constitutes the International Charter of Human Rights. It describes the equal human rights of all the people living in different parts of the world. It recognizes all civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of the people. For example, the right to freedom, equality, justice, equal protection, equal opportunity for all, religious freedom for all, equal protection of rights, political rights, right to work, etc.
To strengthen the process of protection of human rights in India, the Government of India decided to set up the national level autonomous national human rights protection agency. Therefore, the National Human Rights Commission of India was set up on 12th October 1993.
The National Human Rights Commission or NHRC is a standalone or independent body of the Government of India that has a duty and a mission of promoting and protecting human rights. It is a statutory body mentioned in the Constitution of India that was established on 12th October 1993 under the ‘Protection of Human Rights Act.’ This act was further amended in 2006.
Human rights means the rights relating to and including the right to life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the constitution or embodied in the international covenant and enforceable by courts in India.
Appointment of NHRC Members
A Selection Committee of NHRC recommends the candidates to the President. The Selection Committee includes:
- Prime Minister (Chairman)
- Speaker of Lok Sabha
- Union Home Minister
- Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha
- Leaders of the Opposition in both Houses of the Parliament
The Composition of NHRC
- A Chairperson who is a retired Chief Justice of India.
- One Member who is or has been a Judge of the Supreme Court.
- One Member who is or has been the Chief Justice of a High Court.
- Two persons having knowledge or practical experience in matters relating to Human Rights.
The President appoints the chairperson and the members of the National Human Rights Commission, for which a committee nominates the names of the candidates. This committee consists of the chairperson, the Prime Minister, and the members including the Home Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, and the Speaker, and the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
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Further in addition to this, the chairperson of the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the National Commission for Women, and the National Commission for Minorities are deemed to be members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for the discharge of specific functions laid down in the Commission.
Functions & Powers of NHRC
The functions of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as stated in Section 12 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 include inquiry into such complaints of violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant or an individual. The Commission also studies other treaties and international instruments on human rights and makes recommendations for their effectiveness in implementing the working of the Commission to the Government.
- The Commission can investigate any complaints related to violations of Human Rights in India either suo-moto or after receiving a petition.
- The Commission can interfere in any judicial process that involves any allegation of violation of Human Rights.
- The NHRC can visit any prison/institute under the control of the state governments to observe the living conditions of inmates. It can also make recommendations based on its observations to the authorities.
- The Commission can review the provisions of the Constitution that safeguard Human Rights and can suggest necessary restorative measures.
- Research in the field of Human Rights is also promoted by the National Human Rights Commission.
- Human Rights awareness and literacy through different media are also promoted by the National Human Rights Commission in various sectors of society.
- The Commission has the power to recommend suitable steps that can prevent violation of Human Rights in India to both Central as well as State Governments.
- The President of India gets an annual report from the National Human Rights Commission which is laid before both the Houses of the Parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
If the Human Rights Commission’s mission is truly to protect human rights in India, it needs a revamp. The efficacy and authority of the commissions will be greatly enhanced if their decisions are made enforceable by the government. Misuse of laws by law enforcement agencies is often considered the root cause of human rights violations.
Therefore, to make the efforts of the commission more impactful, the weakness of laws is supposed to be removed and the laws that run contrary to human rights should be amended and repealed.
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