Origin, Role and Functions of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

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1. Set up in October, 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993

2. Autonomous – operational & financial autonomy.

3. Independence through appointment and dismissal of its Members – own mechanism for disposal of com­plaints – pluralistic composition

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4. Chairperson – retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court – four Members – two from the Judiciary (one retired Judge of the Supreme Court and the other retired Chief Justice of a High Court) – other two Members appointed from persons having knowledge of or practical experience in matters relating to human rights.

5. Chairpersons of the National Commission for Women, the National Commission for Minorities and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes – deemed to be the Members of the Commission.

6. Embodies a true National Human Rights Institution as outlined in the Paris Principles

7. Appointment of Chairperson/Members – based on recommendations of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Speaker of the House of the People, Minister In-charge of the Home Affairs in the Gov­ernment of India, the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People, the Leader of Opposition in the Council of States and the Deputy Chairman of the Council of States.

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8. Enjoys financial autonomy – gets consolidated grants-in-aid from the Central Government – spent by the Commission as it thinks fit for performing the functions under the PHR Act.

9. Independent to recruit its own staff for proper functioning.

10. The Chief Executive Officer – designated as the Secretary General – officer of the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.

11. Investigative Department – headed by an officer of the rank of Director General of Police.

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12. Every proceeding – deemed to be a judicial proceeding – u/s 193 and 228 for the purpose of Section 196 of the Indian Penal Code.

Powers

» As vested in a Civil Court trying suit under Civil Procedure Code, 1908.

» To regulate its own procedure for disposal of complaints

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» To utilise the services of any officer or investigation agency of the Central/State Government – with con­currence – for conducting any investigation pertaining to any inquiry.

» Make recommendations to the concerned Government authority suggesting action to be taken against guilty public servant

» Recommend payment of relief/compensation to the victims

» Approach the Supreme Court or High Courts for appropriate directions/orders/writs.

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» Communicate the inquiry report – petitioner/victim/representative – Government authority for comments/ action taken/proposed.

Functions

» Inquiry – on petition or suo moto – against complaint of violation of human rights/abetment of violation/ negligence in prevention of violation – by a public servant.

» Intervention – any proceeding before a court with its approval – involving allegation of violation of human rights.

» Visit – any jail/other institution – persons detained/lodged for treatment/reformation – study living condi­tions of inmates – make recommendations.

» Review – safeguards under the Constitution/any law – for protection of human rights – recommend mea­sures – effective implementation.

» Review – factors – also acts of terrorism – inhibit the enjoyment of human rights – recommend appropriate remedial measures.

» Study treaties/international instruments on human rights – make recommendations for effective imple­mentation.

» Undertake and promote research in the field of human rights.

» Spread human rights literacy – promote awareness of safeguards available for protection – publications, media, seminars, and other means.

» Encourage efforts of non-governmental organisations/institutions working in the field of human rights.

» Other functions considered necessary for promotion of human rights.

» Responsibility of Government authority.

» The Central Government/State Government/Authority has to indicate its comments including action taken on the report/recommendations of the Commission within a period of one month in respect of complaints against public servants other than members of the armed forces.

» In respect of complaints against members of the armed forces, the Central Government has to indicate action taken on the recommendations within three months to the Commission.

» Issue of the one-year limitation period.

» Purpose – not to have another judicial body – an institution which will give sharper focus on the allegation of violation of human rights and provide quicker redressal – other redressal mechanism – District Courts to the Supreme Court – always available to the people – Commission’s role not to replace these mechanisms.

Important Steps Taken by NHRC

» Asked all State Governments to report the cases of custodial deaths or rapes within 24 hours of occur­rence failing which it would be assumed that there was an attempt to suppress the incident.

» Undertaken visits to detention centres.

» Suggested legislative and other measures to improve conditions in prisons and lock-ups.

» Frequently taken up issues of child labour and child prostitution.

» Instituted efforts with police, para-military forces and the Army to impart human rights education to the staff and officers – include human rights in the curriculum during initial/in-service training.

» Entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with National Law School of India University, Bangalore creation of a Chair on Human Rights.

» Assumed the Chair of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions in 1996 – contin­ues to hold this position.

Evaluation

The National Human Rights Commission has pursued its mandate and priorities with determination and considerable success. During the period April 1998 – March 1999 the NHRC considered 53711 complaints. Out of these, 32172 complaints were dismissed. 10718 complaints were transmitted to the concerned authority of the Central/State Governments with appropriate direction. The Commission took cognizance of 10821 cases for the inquiry.

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