Q.1) Discuss the structure and functioning of NHRC. Also, discuss the criticisms faced by the organisation.
Structure of NHRC:
- The members are selected by a selection committee comprising of PM, speaker and deputy chairman, home minister, leaders of opposition in both the houses.
- It consists of a retired Chief Justice of India as chairman, a serving or retired judge of SC as member, one serving or retired chief justice of a high court, 2 eminent people having knowledge and experience in human rights, chairpersons of minorities commission, SC commission, ST commission and women commission.
- To inquire, suo motu or on the basis of a petition or on a direction of a court, into a complaint of human rights violation.
- With regard to inquiries into complaints, it has similar powers of a civil court i.e. summon attendance, require production of any document and ask for oaths. Proceedings before it are deemed to be judicial proceedings.
- It can require any person to furnish information in relation to the inquiry. It has search and seizure powers.
- It can take aid of any government agency for its investigations upon their concurrence.
- As an outcome of its investigation, it can recommend to the concerned government to pay compensation to the victim and/or to initiate prosecution proceedings against the offender.
- To intervene in any human rights case pending before a court. It may also approach the SC and the HCs for relief.
- To visit any jail or any other state institutions to see the living conditions of the inmates and make recommendations.
- To review the constitutional and legal safeguards for human rights and make recommendations.
- Overlapping jurisdictions and duplication of laws. For example, NHRC cannot inquire into any matter which is pending before a State Commission or any other Commission duly constituted under any law for the time being in force.
- It receives a very large number of complaints while the capacity to deal with them is very limited.
- It has to depend upon the government to provide them with staff and funds.
- No mechanisms have been developed to institutionalise the body and each successive commission seems to be working more or less independent of the previous one.
- These Commissions can only make recommendations in their reports which are to be laid before Parliament.
- The recommendations of the report are circulated to the concerned offices by the nodal ministry of the commission, which results in long delays.
- Usually on the recommendations radically divergent from status quo, the bureaucratic tendency is to deflect or reject it. They don’t even mention the grounds for rejection in detail.
Q.2) Critically analyze the impacts of rise of social media on democratic setups of countries.
Positive for democracy:
- Makes communication between people and representatives easy and efficient. Eg., Twitter and the way ministers like Sushma Swaraj handled it.
- Gives voice to the marginalised sections of the society. Eg., #MeToo movement
- Involves youth with politics of the day.
- Lack of regulation of the content makes spreading of fake information easy. This can affect political credibility of representatives.
- Threats from AI and ML led ideas used by companies like Cambridge Analytica to influence voter behavior.
- Often, the fake news promote separatist ideas on religion, region and caste lines. These propagate conflict between people.
Q.3) The socio-religious reform movements in the 19th century provided a base to the National Freedom Movement. Explain.
Main ideas of reform movements:
- Many reformers like Dayanand Saraswati and Vivekananda upheld Indian philosophy and culture. This instilled in Indians a sense of pride and faith in their own culture.
- Female education was promoted. Schools for girls were set up. Even medical colleges were established for women. This led to the development of girls’ education.
- The cultural and ideological struggle taken up by the socio-religious movements helped to build up national consciousness. They paved the way for the growth of nationalism.
Contribution to Freedom movement:
- It united Indians of different identities under one idea of a nation.
- The sense of pride it instilled in Indians helped them in challenging the racial supremacy demonstrated by British.
- The religious reform movement helped many Indians to come to terms with modern world and modern ideas like freedom, liberty.
The religious reform movement after all transformed India into a nation in the making.
Q.4) What are parliamentary privileges? Do you think parliamentary privileges should be abolished?
Parliamentary privileges are special rights, immunities and exemptions enjoyed by Houses of Parliament, their committees and members. They are necessary in order to secure the independence and effectiveness of their actions. Without these privileges Houses can neither maintain their authority, dignity and honour nor can protect their members from any obstruction in the discharge of their parliamentary responsibilities.
Need for privileges:
- They provide immunity to the legislators from any comments they make in the house. This immunity is necessary to allow them to debate without fear of repercussions.
- They are important to allow members in the performance of their functions and protect dignity, authority and honour of House.
- Need to protect information which is necessary to be confidential in the larger public interest.
Problems with such privileges:
- Often, these powers are used to censor media for their criticism of the working of legislatures. They go against the fundamental rights of citizens.
- The lack of any codified law leads to excess punishment and arbitrary usage of power.
- It curtails accountability of the legislators to the general public.
- The codification of privileges is resisted because it would make the privileges subject to fundamental rights and hence to judicial scrutiny.
- Legislators used privileges to cover up corruption and even pleaded in courts that they were not ‘public servants’.