National Human Rights Commission
The National Human Rights Commission is a statutory ( and not a Constitutional ) body. It was established in, October, 1993 under a legislation enacted by a parliament, namely, the protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. This Act was amended in 2006.
The Commission is the watchdog of human rights in the country i.e. 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.
The specific objectives of the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission Are:
- To strength the institutional arrangements through which human Rights issues could be addressed in their entirely in a more focused manner;
- To look into allegations of excesses, independently of the government, in a manner that would underline the Government’ s commitment to protect human rights; and
- To complement and strengthen the efforts that have already been made in this direction.
Function of the National Human Rights Commission:
- To undertake and promote research in the field of human rights.
- To spread human rights literacy among the people and promote of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights.
- To encourage the efforts of Non-Government Organisation (NGO) working in the field of human rights.
- To undertake such other functions as it may consider necessary for the promotion of human rights.
- To study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation.
- To review the factors including acts of terrorism that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend remedial measures.
- To visit Jails and detention places to study the living condition of inmates and make recommendation thereon.
- To intervene in any proceeding involving allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court.
Composition of National Human Rights Commission
The Commission is a multi-member body consisting of a chairman and four members. The chairman should be a retired Chief Justice of India (CJI ), and members should be serving or retired judges of the Supreme Court, a serving or retired chief justice of a high court and two persons having knowledge or practical experience with respect to human rights.
The commission also has four ex- officio members- the chairman of the National Commission for the Minorities, the National Commission for SCs, the National Commission for STs and the National Commission for women.
The chairman and members are appointed by the president on the recommendation of a six- member committee consisting of prime minister as its head, the speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, leaders of opposition in both the Houses of Parliament and the Central home minister. Further, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court or a sitting chief justice of a high court can be appointed only after consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
The Chairman and members hold office for the five years or until they attain the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier. After their tenure, the chairman and members arr not eligible for further employment under the central or a state government.
The President can remove the chairman or any member from the office under the following circumstances.
- If he is adjudged an insolvent;
- If he engages , during his term of office, in any paid employment outside the duties of his office
- If he is unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind and body
- If he is of unsound mind and stand so declared by a competent
- If he is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for an office
Working of the National Human Rights Commission
The Commission’s headquarters is at Delhi and it can also establish offices at other places in India. It is vested with the power to regulate its own procedure. It has all the powers of a civil service court and its proceedings have a judicial character. It may call for information or report from the Central and state Governments or any other authority subordinate thereto.
The Commission may take any of the following steps during the completion of an inquiry
- It may approach the Supreme Court or the High Court concerned for the necessary directions, orders or writs.
- It may recommend to the concerned government or authority to make payment of compensation or damages to the victim.
- It may recommend to the concerned government or authority for the grant of immediate interim relief to the victim.
Performance of the National Human Rights Commission
The various human rights issues taken up by the commission are as follows
- Abolition of Bonded Labour.
- Issues concerning Right to Food.
- Functioning of the Mental Hospitals at Ranchi, Agra and Gwalior.
- Functioning of the Government Protective Home (Women), Agra.
- Review of the Child marriage Restraint Act, 1929.
- Abolition of Child Labour.
- Protocols to the convention on the rights of the Child.
- Guidebook for the Media on Sexual Violence against Children.
- Maternal Anemia and Human Rights.
- Trafficking in Women and Children.
- Rehabilitation of Destitute Women in Vrindavan.
- Harassment of Women Passengers in Trains
- Abolition of Manual Scavenging.
- Rights of the Disabled Persons.
- Issues Related to Rights to Health.
- Rights of Persons Affected by HIV / AIDS.
- District Complaint Authority.
- Setting up of Human Rights Cells in the State / City Police Headquarters.
- Steps to check Custodial Deaths, Rape and Torture.
- Accession to the Convention against Torture.
- Discussion on adaptation of the Refugee law for the Country.
- Implementation of Treaties.
- Promotion of Human rights Literacy and Awareness in the Educational system.
Human Rights ( Amendment ) Act, 2006
The Parliament has passed the Protection of Human Rights ( Amendment ) Act, 2006. The main amendments carried out in the protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, relate to the following issues:
- Reducing the number of members of State Human Rights Commission (SHRC ) from five to three.
- Changing the eligibility condition for appointment of member of SHRCs.
- Strengthening the investigative machinery available with Human Rights Commissions.
- Empowering the Commissions to recommend award of compensation, etc. even during the course of enquiry.
- Empowering the NHRC to udertake visits to jails even without intimation to the state governments.
- Strenghtening the procedure for recording of evidence of witness.
- Clarifying that the commission of NHRC and SHRCs are distinct from the members of the respective Commission.
- Enabling the NHRC to transfer compliants received by it to the concerned SHRC.
- Enabling the Chairperson and members of the NHRC to address their resignation in writting to the President and the Chairperson and members of the SHRcs to the Government of the state concerned.
- Enabling the Central Government to notify future international convenants and convention to which the Act would be applicable.