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National Human Rights Commission( NHRC)

According to Professor Charles Beitz, an American philosopher, Human Rights are the basic requirement of global justice. They describe conditions that the institutions of all domestic societies should strive to satisfy, whatever a society’s more comprehensive aims and their violation identifies deficiencies that, if not made good locally, should command the attention and resources of the international community. If a country failed to satisfy these conditions even though it were equipped to fulfill them, that country would become susceptible outside corrective interference. If the failure were due to lack of local resources, this could justify a requirement on others to assist. Human rights are natural rights of a person but the violation of human rights has existed since ages and is prevalent still now. Right to equality, justice, life, liberty, freedom from torture and slavery are inalienable human rights.

Though the concept of human rights is a very old but this concept gained significant importance after adoption of United Nations Charter in 1945 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

India is a member of UN and also signed the declaration of 1948. The principles of this declaration are also reflected in our constitutional provisions. India also passed Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 which was last amended in 2019. This Act provides for establishment of National Human Rights Commission, State Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Courts for protection and promotion of Human Rights.

National Human Rights Commission:

It is a public body constituted on 12 October, 1993 which got its statutory recognition from 1993 Act. Composition of the commission:

It consists of a chairperson who is appointed by president and 5 other members. The commission has one secretary general as well who is the chief executive officer of the commission. Present Secretary is Jaideep Govind. The chairperson is not appointed yet, justice HL Dattu completed his term as a chairperson in 2020.

(a) a Chairperson who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. As per amendment in 2019, now a judge of Supreme Court can also be the chairperson.

(b) one Member who is or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court.

(c) one Member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court.

(d) two Members to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights. As per amendment as in 2019, the members should be three, out of which, one must be a woman.

The commission also consist of ex – officio members i.e. Chairperson of the National Commission for Backward Classes; the National Commission for Minorities; the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights; National Commission for Women and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities; National Commission for Scheduled Castes; National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

Functions of the Commission: The main functions of the commission are as follow:

1.Spreading human rights literacy among various sections of the society and promote awareness about human rights.

2.Promoting research in field of human rights.

3.Studying international treaties and instruments on human rights and make recommendation for their implementation.

4.Suggest remedial measures to curb factors like terrorism which inhibit the enjoyment of human rights.

5.It’s one of the important functions is to admit complaints regarding violation of human rights. Moreover it may take suo moto action to inquire into matters involving violation of human rights.

Powers of the commission while inquiring:

1.The Commission has all the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and in particular in respect of the following matters:

(a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath;

(b) discovery and production of any document

(c) receiving evidence on affidavits

(d) requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office

(e) issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or Documents.

2. The Commission may ask any person to furnish such information which may be useful for inquiry and such person is legally bound to furnish such information.

3.The Commission has the power to seize any document and obtain copies of such document if that document is related to the subject matter of the inquiry.

4. Control over State Human Rights Commission: The commission may transfer to itself any complaint filed before or pending before the State Commission.

5. The Commission while inquiring into the complaints of violations of human rights may call for information or report from the Central Government or any State Government or any other authority or organisation subordinate thereto.

Procedure of the Commission:

(1)The Commission shall meet at such time and place as the Chairperson may think fit.

(2)The Commission shall have the power to lay down by regulations its own procedure.

Achievements of National Human Rights Commission

In February, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), a UN body based in Geneva, re-accredited India’s National Human Rights Commission the ‘A’ status.

The Commission filed writ petition before Supreme Court on violence in the afternoon of Godhara Incident of Gujarat.

The Commission’s intervention in the campaigns against discrimination with HIV patients, brought it into limelight.

The commission provided remedial measures against terrorism.

Its intervention in sexual exploitation of children of Nitharia village of Noida, U.P. ,was remarkable.

The commission is expanding in the field of violation of rights of Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe.


It’s former chairperson H.L.Dattu himself called it a toothless tiger.

The Commission lacks infrastructure and support from state governments.

Disposal of cases: The Commission has itself submitted that it can dispose of more than 100 cases per year.

The Commission has limited powers in relation to violation of human rights involving armed forces.

Most importantly, the recommendations of the Commission are not binding.

The Commission has no power to investigate a complaint filed one year after the incident.

Suggestions for improvement:

There is need to change the composition of members. The Commission must have public spirited persons rather than judges or bureaucrats.

The Commission should muster the support of non state actors like non governmental organizations.