Human Rights Issues

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NHRC: Power and Functions

Mains level : Extra-judicial modes of delivering justice and Rule of Law

  • The killing by police of all four accused in the Hyderabad rape-murder case have been questioned over the legality and propriety of the action.
  • Extra-judicial or “encounter” killings have been a contested and divisive police procedure for decades.
  • This is what the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Supreme Court have said on the proper procedures to be followed during such action by police.

About NHRC

  • The NHRC is a Statutory public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993.
  • It was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (TPHRA).
  • It is responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as “Rights Relating To Life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants”.

Powers of NHRC

  • NHRC investigates grievances regarding the violation of human rights either suo moto or after receiving a petition.
  • It has the power to interfere in any judicial proceedings involving any allegation of violation of human rights.
  • It can visit any jail or any other institution under the control of the State Government to see the living conditions of the inmates and to make recommendations thereon.
  • It can review the safeguards provided under the constitution or any law for the protection of human rights and can recommend appropriate remedial measures.

Limitations

  • NHRC does not have any independent mechanism of investigation. In majority cases, it asks the concerned Central and State Governments to investigate the cases of the violation of Human Rights
  • NHRC can only make recommendations, without the power to enforce decisions.
  • Its powers related to violations of human rights by the armed forces have been largely restricted.

NHRC’s guidelines on fake encounters

  • Justice Venkatachaliah, who was Chief Justice of India in 1993-94, underlined that “under our laws the police have not been conferred any right to take away the life of another person”.
  • And “if, by his act, the policeman kills a person, he commits the offence of culpable homicide whether amounting to the offence of murder or not unless it is proved that such killing was not an offence under the law”.
  • The only two circumstances in which such killing would not constitute an offence were-
  1. if death is caused in the exercise of the right of private defence, and
  2. under Section 46 of the CrPC, which “authorises the police to use force, extending upto the causing of death, as may be necessary to arrest the person accused of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life”.
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