We all must be aware of human rights. The National human rights commission (NHRC) and the State human rights commission (SHRC) were established under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993. Read to know more about NHRC and SHRC.
Human beings are social animals.
They constantly interact with each other and with their surrounding environment which keeps their lives woven together.
To enjoy life to its fullest, they must possess certain rights referred to as human rights.
What are human rights?
Human rights are the rights that humans are entitled to, by virtue of being human.
But with rights, come duties; to protect the rights of fellow humans. An effective balance between these rights and duties facilitates a healthy living space for all. Human rights as a concept are still evolving.
Internationally and nationally, Human Rights are 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 National and state Human rights commission is an embodiment of India’s concern for the promotion and protection of human rights.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the State human rights commission (SHRC) were established in 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 which was later amended by the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006. They are mandated to protect the rights and dignity of Indian citizens.
It is in conformity with the Paris Principles, adopted at the first international workshop on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights held in Paris in October 1991. It was endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations by its Regulations 48/134 of 20 December 1993.
What is the composition of the NHRC and SHRC?
Both NHRC and SHRC are multi-member bodies consisting of a chairperson and five members and a chairman and three members respectively.
NHRC: Chairman should be a retired Chief justice of India or a retired Supreme Court Judge. Members should consist of a serving or retired Supreme Court Judge, a serving or retired High Court Judge, and three others having knowledge or practical experience with respect to human rights out of which at least one should be a woman.
SHRC: Chairman should be a retired Chief Justice of a High court or a retired judge of a High Court. Members should be a serving or retired High court judge or a District Judge in the same state with a minimum of seven years of experience as a District Judge and a person having knowledge or practical experience with respect to human rights.
NHRC: They are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a six-member committee comprising the Prime minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the Leader of the opposition of both the houses and the central Home minister.
SHRC: They are appointed by the Governor of the state on the recommendation of a six-member committee comprising the Chief Minister, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the Deputy Chairman of the Legislative council if present, the Leader of the opposition of both the houses and the State Home minister.
Term of office
The chairperson and the members hold office for a period of 3 years or until they attain the age of 70, whichever is earlier.
Functions of the commission
The Commission shall perform all or any of the following functions, namely: –
- Inquire, on its own initiative or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf, into a complaint of-
i) violation of human rights or abetment or
ii) negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant;
- Intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court with the approval of such court;
- 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;
- 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;
- Review the factors, including acts of terrorism that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures;
- Study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation;
- Undertake and promote research in the field of human rights;
- 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;
- Encourage the efforts of non – Governmental organizations and institutions working in the field of human rights;
- Such other functions as it may consider necessary for the promotion of human rights.
Working of NHRC and SHRC
The commission is vested with the power to regulate its own affairs. It has all the powers of a civil court and its proceedings have a judicial character. It may call for information from any state government or any subordinate authority.
It cannot inquire into a case after the expiry of one year after the date on which the alleged human rights violence occurred.
It can take any of the following actions during or after an inquiry has been completed:
- Recommend the government or any other authority to make the payment of compensation to the victim for the violation.
- Recommend the government or authority to take action against the human rights violator.
- Recommend the government or the concerned authority for the grant of immediate interim relief to the victim.
- Approach any concerned court for the issue of any necessary writs, orders, or directions.
Problems faced by the NHRC
- At present, NHRC is dependent on the government for two of the most important requirements i.e., money and human resources.
- The NHRC also has very little autonomy because of which the commission is not able to perform several of its mandates.
- The NHRC has only got recommendatory powers, non-implementation of which, cannot be enforced.
- The Protection of Human Rights Act, of 1993 does not categorically empower the NHRC to act against private parties in the case of human rights violations.
- Scarcity of resources, especially manpower shortage hampers the working of commission.
The National and state human rights commission has been functioning for nearly three decades now. They have taken several measures to promote a culture of human rights in the country. These include awareness programs by way of imparting training and bringing out publications, Seminars, and Workshops on human rights issues, reviewing various laws/ rules from a human rights perspective, and making recommendations to make them more human rights friendly.
They also assess the implementation of various programs/ schemes of Government which has a bearing upon the enforcement of human rights and make suggestions for better implementation/ enforcement.
However, there are certain issues associated with their functioning, as we already discussed. It is in the best interest of citizens, that these issues are resolved at the earliest. A wholehearted attempt from the legislature and the executive to ensure the autonomy of these institutions is necessary for this.
Article written by: Caroline Abraham