More teeth for NHRC: The government seeks to introduce amendments to the Act in Parliament’s Winter Session
- What is NHRC? Why is it being often called toothless tiger?
- What are the significant loopholes in the Protection of Human Rights (PHR) Act 1993?
- What changes should be brought on for the effective functioning of NHRC?
- Does this reform save the country’s reputation in international human rights fora?
GS paper 2 (statutory regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies )
In this video, you can find detailed answers for all the above questions.
What is the context about?
- This year marks the 25th anniversary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
- The Commission, which draws its mandate from the Protection of Human Rights (PHR) Act 1993, has been mired in controversies since its formation.
- As the government seeks to introduce amendments to the Act in Parliament’s Winter Session, NHRC is coming once again to limelight.
- The Amendment Bill intends to strengthen human rights institutions in this country.
What is NHRC?
- NHRC is a statutory body established by a statute called Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
- The commission is the watchdog of human rights in the country, which are guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the international covenants and enforceable by courts in India.
Why is it being often called toothless tiger?
- It is because NHRC investigates human rights violation cases, sometimes in remote areas, with very limited resources.
- The evidence collected is put to forensic judicial adjudication by its chairman and members, who are former judges. But at the end, when NHRC arrives at a finding, it can only recommend remedial measures or direct the state concerned to pay compensation.
What are the significant loopholes in the Protection of Human Rights (PHR) Act 1993?
- NHRC’s recommendations do not percolate to the ground level as the NHRC does not have the backing of the Protection of Human Rights Act to penalise authorities which do not implement its orders.
- The Act does not extend to Jammu and Kashmir and hence the commission has to keep its eyes closed to human rights violations there.
- The Act does not categorically empower the NHRC to act when human rights violations through private parties take place.
- The Act requires that three of the five members of a human rights commission must be former judges but does not specify whether these judges should have a proven record of human rights activism or expertise or qualifications in the area. Regarding the other two members, the Act is vague, saying simply: “persons having knowledge and experience of human rights.”
What changes should be brought on for the effective functioning of NHRC?
- The effectiveness of commissions will be greatly enhanced if their decisions are immediately made enforceable by the government. This will save considerable time and energy as commissions will no longer need to either send reminders to government departments to implement the recommendations or alternatively to approach High Courts through a cumbersome judicial process to make the government take action.
- A large number of human rights violations occur in areas where there is insurgency and internal conflict. Not allowing NHRC to independently investigate complaints against the military and security forces only compounds the problems and furthers cultures of impunity. It is essential that commission is able to summons witnesses and documents.
- NHRC needs to develop an independent cadre of staff with appropriate experience. The present arrangement of having to reply on those on deputation from different government departments is not satisfactory as experience has shown that most have little knowledge and understanding of human rights issues. This problem can be rectified by employing specially recruited and qualified staff to help clear the heavy inflow of complaints.
- A culture of human rights ought to be promoted through education. Human rights education in India is extremely important, given the fact that society is witness to numerous violations and abuse of powers and that the ability of the people to fight these injustices is limited. The strategy for inculcating human rights culture among the people needs to be based on a number of factors: social, legal, political, judicial, and institutional.
Does this reform save the country’s reputation in international human rights fora?
- In 1993, the UN General Assembly adopted the Paris Principles on Human Rights. This led to the constitution of national human rights institutions in almost every country.
- Every five years, India’s human rights agency, the NHRC, has to undergo accreditation by an agency affiliated to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR).
- The Commission’s compliance to the Paris Principles is ascertained in this process, which is similar to NAAC accreditation of Indian colleges — better the grade, higher the benefits. Thus, if India gets an A-status, the NHRC can play a pivotal role in the decision-making processes of the UNHRC and other important international bodies.
The above article has been retrieved from: HT Correspondent. ( 2018, October , 11). Cyclone Titli upgraded to ‘very severe storm’: What cyclone categories mean. Hindustan Times. Retrieved from https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/cyclone-titli-upgraded-to-very-severe-storm-what-cyclone-categories-mean/story-UqJVclvMfjalDgyX3jUuiN.html