The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and various State Human Rights Commissions (SHRCs) have been constituted under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. These commissions are the watchdog of human rights in the country, that is, 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.
Since its formation, the Commission has taken up some important projects and has, through its reviews, reports and recommendations, taken up the cause of prison inmates, patients at mental health asylums, bonded labourers, people with disabilities, women and children and the economically and socially marginalized sections of the country.
HRCs unable to assert their mandate and power:
- The NHRC has been labeled as a toothless tiger because it is swamped with cases but has few resources to address them.
- Much of the complaints that come to the commission are dismissed even before a preliminary hearing, critics argue that the NHRC shies away from contentious cases with political implications.
- Its recommendations are non-binding on the government and thus ignored.
- Limited jurisdiction into Human rights violation by armed forces and private parties.
- The inability of NHRC to initiate cases beyond 1 year.
- The officers conducting investigations are usually on deputation from the same forces that have been accused of violations and which creates a conflict of interest.
- More powers: Its decisions should be made enforceable by the government.
- Armed forces: The definition should be restricted to only army, navy, and air force. Further, even in these cases, the Commission should be allowed to independently investigate cases of violation of rights.
- Commission’s membership: Members of NHRCs should include civil society, human rights activists, etc. rather than ex-bureaucrats.
- Amending law: Misuse of laws by law enforcement agencies is often the root cause of human rights violations. So, the weakness of laws should be removed and those laws should be amended or repealed if they run contrary to human rights.
- Independent Staff: NHRC should have its independent investigating staff recruited by itself, rather than the present practice of deputation.
The situation of persistent human rights violations across the country presents manifold challenges. There is a need to improve and strengthen the human rights situation. It is important to empower NHRC to make it work more efficiently and independently.