28th NHRC Foundation Day Programme

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    • The Prime Minister participated in the 28th NHRC Foundation Day programme on the 12th of October.
      • The PM highlighted the role of NHRC in protecting the human rights and dignity of the marginalised section.

    About National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

    • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India was established on 12 October 1993.
    • The statute under which it is established is the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 as amended by the 2006 Amendment Act.
      • Hence, it is a Statutory Body.
    • It was set up in conformity with the Paris Principles.
    • NHRC has retained its ‘A’ status of accreditation with the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) for the 4th consecutive term of 5 years.
      • The NHRC, India got ‘A’ status of accreditation first time in 1999 which is retained in 2006, 2011 and 2017 reviews.
    • The NHRC is an embodiment of India’s concern for the promotion and protection of human rights.
    • The world looks at the NHRC of India as a role model in promoting and monitoring the effective implementation of promotion and protection of human rights.

     

    Human Rights

    • The United Nations defined Human rights as rights inherent to all human beings.
      • They are universal and are available regardless of any race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or another status
    • Section 2(1)(d) of the PHRA defines Human Rights as 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.
    • Human Rights include the following but are not limited to
      • Right to life and liberty, 
      • Freedom from slavery and torture, 
      • Freedom of opinion and expression, 
      • Right to work and education, etc.

    Paris Principles

    • The Paris Principles set out six main criteria that NHRIs require to meet. These are: 
      • Mandate and competence, 
      • Autonomy from Government, 
      • Independence guaranteed by a Statute or Constitution, 
      • Pluralism,
      • Adequate resources; and 
      • Adequate powers of investigation.. 
    • These principles were adopted at the 1st international workshop on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights held in Paris in October 1991.
    • It was also endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations by its Regulations 48/134 of 20 December 1993.
    • The Paris Principles provide international benchmarks against which NHRIs can be accredited by the GANHRI.

    Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, GANHRI

    • It accesses the NHRIs through a rigorous process of review across the world for 5 years before giving ‘A’ grade accreditation.
    • UN Human Rights acts as secretariat for the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI)
    • The Accreditation confers international recognition and protection of the NHRI. 
    • ‘A’ status accreditation grants participation in the work and decision-making of
      • the GANHRI, as well as 
      • the work of the Human Rights Council and other UN mechanisms.
    • Aim and Functions of NHRC
      • Aim: Protection and promotion of human rights.
      • The functions of the Commission as stated in Section 12 of the Act include.
        • Inquiry into complaints of violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant
        • Study of treaties and international instruments on human rights
        • Make recommendations for their effective implementation to the Government.
        • Run Awareness drives for masses on the subject of human rights.
        • Encourage the efforts of all stakeholders in the field of human rights literacy not only at the national level but at the international level too.
        • Play an active role in coordinating with other NHRIs of the world to enhance awareness from the perspective of human rights.
        • host delegations from 
          • UN Bodies and other National Human Rights Commissions,
          • members of civil society, lawyers and political and social activists from different countries.
      • Functions relating to human rights in the case of Delhi will be dealt with by the NHRC.
      • Few Declaration/ Covenants implemented by NHRC
        • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
        • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
        • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
        • Convention on the Rights of the Child
        • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
    • Composition of NHRC
    • It is a multi-member body consisting of 
      • 1 Chairman: As per The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2019
        • He must be a former Chief Justice of India or a former judge of the Supreme Court.
        • They are appointed for 5 years or till the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier.
        • They can be removed only on the charges of proved misbehaviour or incapacity if proved by an inquiry conducted by a Supreme Court Judge.
      • Members: Out of the total members, three are ex-officio members.
        • The Act of 2019 provides for 3 persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC.
          • Of these 3 members, at least one will be a woman.
        • Other Members: Chairpersons of various commissions such as 
          • National Commission for Scheduled Castes, 
          • National Commission for Scheduled Tribes,
          • National Commission for Women,
          • National Commission for Backward Classes,
          • National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, and
          • Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.
        • Secretary-General
          • He exercises all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), subject to the respective chairperson’s control.
    • The President appoints the Chairman and members of NHRC on the recommendation of a high-powered committee headed by the Prime Minister.
    • Commission also has 5 Specialized Divisions i.e. 
      • Law Division, 
      • Investigation Division, 
      • Policy Research & Programmes Division, 
      • Training Division and 
      • Administration Division.
    • There are few Core Groups too.
      • Core Group on Children
      • Core group on Business, Environment and Human Rights
      • Core Group on Women
      • Core Advisory Group on Criminal Justice System Reforms

    Challenges and Criticism of NHRC

    • No Mechanism to Investigate:
      • In most cases, NHRC asks the concerned Central and State Governments to investigate the cases of the violation of Human Rights.
      • It has been termed as ‘India’s teasing illusion’ by Soli Sorabjee (former Attorney-General of India) 
        • due to its incapacity to render any practical relief to the aggrieved party.
    • Can not investigate case registered after 1 year:
      • A large number of grievances go unaddressed because NHRC cannot investigate the complaint registered after one year of the incident.
    • Inadequacy of Funds:
      • Inadequacy of funds also hampers the working of NHRC.
    • Only recommendatory in Nature:
      • NHRC can only make recommendations, without the power to enforce decisions.
      • The government often rejects recommendations of NHRC or there is partial compliance to these recommendations.
    • Highly restricted powers in case of Armed forces:
      • NHRC has very few powers related to violations of human rights by the armed forces.
    • Post Retirement Destinations:
      • Many times NHRC is viewed as post-retirement destinations for judges and bureaucrats with political affiliation.

    Conclusion and Way Forward

    • Independent Investigation Staff with appropriate Experience;
      • It will give it real teeth to prosecute and check for any violation of human rights.
    • Involvement of Civil Societies and other stakeholders:
      • There is a need to change the composition of the commission by including members from civil society and activists.
    • Adequate Funds and Mandatory implementation of recommendations:
      • The institute should be given more independence and autonomy by providing adequate funds.
      • Further, the recommendations must be mandatory to implement with very few exceptions and procedures.
    • The Indian NHRC is a really good and fair body working consistently and diligently in the field of securing human rights for India.
    • But it can be made even better for strengthening grassroots democracy.

    Source: NewsonAir, NHRC