Context: Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill 2019.
More in news: The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill 2019 recently passed by both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to amend “The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993”.
Human Rights mean 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 Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993:
The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 was enacted to provide for the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the Human Rights Courts for protection of human rights.
Need of Amendment: The NHRC has proposed certain amendments to the Act to address the concerns raised at certain global platforms. Besides this, certain State Governments have also proposed for amendment of the Act, as they have been facing difficulties in finding suitable candidates to the post of Chairperson of the respective State Commissions owing to the existing eligibility criteria to the said post.
The Difference between “The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993” and “The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill 2019”:
- The NHRC’s main function is to inquire into complaints of violation of human rights. But it cannot execute its decisions based on its findings. For that, NHRC has to depend either on the central or state government or on the judicial hierarchy in the country from the top court down to magistrates. The statutory provisions to this effect are not touched by the new amendments.
- Under the initial NHRC law, its two non-judge members had to be “persons having knowledge of or experience in matters relating to human rights”. The number of such members has now been raised to three including a woman member, but the imprecise provision of keeping the coveted positions open to any person of the government’s unguided choice remains unchanged.
- International human rights jurisprudence is a fast-growing legal discipline and there is neither a dearth of eminent scholars specialising in it nor any known human rights activist has been selected for the membership of the commission.
- The commission will have more adjunct than full-timer members with the new amendments. However, instead of the heads of its sister-bodies engaged in class-specific work, it would have been more fruitful to associate with NHRC representatives of a few leading NGOs, promoting human rights in general.
Conclusion: The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has brought some of the major changes in the composition and functioning. However, the concerns that NHRC and SHRC faces in promoting human rights still remained. For the protection of human rights, NHRC needs holistic reforms which are somewhere remained untouched by the new legislation.