NHRC Reforms

Oct, 11, 2018

[op-ed snap] More teeth for NHRC

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC),  Protection of Human Rights (PHR) Act 1993,  Paris Principles on Human Rights

Mains level: Proposed amendments to the PHR Act and how it would improve the functioning of NHRC


Context

25th anniversary of NHRC

  1. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
  2. The Commission, which draws its mandate from the Protection of Human Rights (PHR) Act 1993, has been mired in controversies since its formation
  3. The government seeks to introduce amendments to the Act in Parliament’s Winter Session

Proposed amendments

  1. The proposed amendment will strengthen human rights institutions for the effective discharge of their mandates, role and responsibilities
  2. The salient features of the proposed amendments bill include making the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights as deemed member of the National Human Rights Commission, adding a woman member in the composition of the commission, enlarging the scope of eligibility and scope of selection of chairperson, NHRC as well as State Human Rights Commissions (SHRCs)
  3. It also proposes to incorporate a mechanism to look after the cases of human rights violation in Union Territories, to amend the term of office of chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRCs to make them in consonance with the terms of chairperson and members of other commissions.
  4. The amendment to the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 will make NHRC and state human rights commissions more compliant with the Paris Principle concerning its autonomy, independence, pluralism and wide-ranging functions in order to effectively protect and promote human rights

Grading of NHRC

  1. In 1993, the UN General Assembly adopted the Paris Principles on Human Rights
  2. This led to the constitution of national human rights institutions in almost every country
  3. Every five years, India’s human rights agency, the NHRC, has to undergo accreditation by an agency affiliated to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR)
  4. The Commission’s compliance with the Paris Principles is ascertained in this process, which is similar to NAAC accreditation of Indian colleges — better the grade, higher the benefits
  5. In 2016, the accreditation agency deferred grading the NHRC because of the Commission’s poor track-record — especially, political interference in its working
  6. But the agency was satisfied with the government’s commitment to introduce necessary changes to the Commission and granted the NHRC A-status in 2017
  7. The PHR (Amendment) Bill, 2018 is an outcome of this commitment

Problems with NHRC

  1. The selection committee tasked with appointing the chairperson and the members to the Commission is dominated by the ruling party
  2. It consists of the prime minister, home minister, Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Deputy-Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
  3. NHRC’s selection process is very obscure
  4. Very often, the government does not publicise vacancies in the Commission & the criteria to assess candidates is also not specified
  5. As a result, appointments to the NHRC have been fraught with disputes

Changes required

  1. The much-needed diversification that the Amendment Bill seeks to introduce could be realised through the inclusion of civil society members and academicians with a proven track record in the improvement of human rights
  2. The NHRC could certainly benefit from the grassroots level experience, widespread community outreach and the expertise of these organisations or individuals

Need of officers

  1. Police officials investigating for the NHRC are sent on deputation by their forces
  2. Their allegiance lies with their home cadre to which they return after their tenure at the Commission is over
  3. This conflict of interest restricts the scope of their work, as they often are charged with investigating abuse of power by law enforcement personnel
  4. These officials are not answerable to anyone, there is no parliamentary oversight on their functioning, they do not owe financial accountability to the Comptroller and Auditor General, and have often been accused of human rights violations themselves
  5. The NHRC urgently requires officers of its own to carry out independent investigations, and the government should provide it resources for the same

Way forward

  1. The Amendment Bill intends to strengthen human rights institutions in this country. But it falls short of this objective by some distance
  2. A year after the Supreme Court called the NHRC a “toothless tiger”, the onus is on the government to bestow the Commission with more teeth
Apr, 05, 2018

Cabinet clears human rights Bill

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018, NHRC

Mains level: Issues related to human rights


News

Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018

  1. The Cabinet has cleared the long-pending Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018
  2. The Bill proposes to include the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights as a deemed member, besides adding a woman member to the panel

Proposed amendments

  1. The present law proposes to enlarge the scope of eligibility and selection of the chairperson of NHRC as well as the State Human Rights Commission
  2. The Bill also proposes to amend the term of the chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRC to make it in consonance with the terms of chairperson and members of other commissions
  3. The amendments will have to be ratified by Parliament

Back2Basics

National Human Rights Commission

  1. National Human Rights Commission of India was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993
  2. 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”
  3. The NHRC consists of:
  • A Chairperson who should be retired Chief Justice of India
  • One member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India
  • One member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
  • Two members to be appointed from among persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights
  • In addition, the Chairpersons of four National Commissions (Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Women, and Minorities) serve as ex officio members

4. The Chairperson and members of the NHRC are appointed by the President of India, on the recommendation of a committee consisting of:

  • The Prime Minister (Chairperson), The Home Minister, The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, The Speaker of the Lok Sabha, The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
Aug, 19, 2017

NHRC issues notice on Rohingyas

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the NHRC

Mains level: It is a hot topic these days. after comments from NHRC, it has become more important. UPSC can ask any question on this topic.


News

Notice by National Human Rights Commission

  1. NHRC has issued a notice to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs
  2. Why: over the planned deportation of about 40,000 Rohingya immigrants from Myanmar
  3. NHRC has asked for a detailed report within four weeks, from the Ministry

Government’s Plan to deport Rohingya immigrants

  1. The government is planning to deport the Rohingyas by setting up “detention centres”

Back2basics

NHRC

  1. The Rights Commission (NHRC) of India is an autonomous public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993
  2. The NHRC is the National Human Rights Commission of India, 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”
Sep, 12, 2016

Why more complaints in NHRC than FIRs?

  1. Source: National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)
  2. There is unwillingness among the police to file an FIR against one of their own
  3. Allegations of human rights violations by the police in India are investigated by the police themselves
  4. Need: A body similar to the Independent Police Complaints Commission as in the United Kingdom or the Independent Police Investigative Directorate in South Africa
  5. The NHRC’s investigative unit draws its members from the State police forces who are on deputation
  6. The unit does not have the powers for active investigation- it cannot collect or preserve physical evidence itself but has to ask the local police for it
Sep, 12, 2016

Do police get away with rights violations?

  1. Source: National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)
  2. As many as 35,831 cases were registered against the police with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2015-16
  3. Only 94 first information reports were registered in 2015
  4. Cases against the police involve illegal detentions, extortion, torture, fake encounters and others
  5. The numbers do not include deaths in police custody, for which 153 cases were registered with the NHRC
Aug, 26, 2016

NHRC registering more cases, says there is more awareness

  1. Cases registered by the National Human Rights Commission have gone up over the past three years
  2. Monetary Relief: However, those where monetary relief was recommended have in fact declined
  3. Why? Some cases had been taken up by the courts or State human rights commissions, others were closed or disposed off for lack of a clear offence being established
  4. While the NHRC cannot prosecute, the best case scenario for complainants is when NHRC recommends monetary relief for them
  5. Stats: The cases where relief was recommended fell 26% from 2013-2014 to 2015-2016
  6. For the same time period, the number of cases registered by the Commission rose 20%
  7. People’s faith in the Commission has been increasing because of the way it has been dealing with cases
  8. Awareness: Has increased because of the NHRC’s own efforts and the media
Feb, 26, 2016

Ex-CJI Justice Dattu to head NHRC

  1. News: Committee headed by PM has selected former CJI H L Dattu as the next chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for 5 yr
  2. Context: Post of NHRC chairperson had been lying vacant since May 2015 after Justice K G Balakrishnan completed his nearly 5-year-long tenure
  3. Which Act? Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993
  4. Appointment: President appoints the chairperson and members of the NHRC on the recommendation of a committee
  5. Selection committee: PM, Lok Sabha Speaker, Home Minister, Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha
Nov, 27, 2015

Government may offer NHRC top job to CJI Dattu

  1. The government is likely to offer the post of chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to Chief Justice of India H L Dattu.
  2. The post of NHRC chairperson has been vacant since May after Justice K G Balakrishnan completed his nearly five-year-long tenure.
  3. One post of member is also vacant since the retirement of Satyabrata Pal in March last year.
  4. Among the former CJIs eligible for consideration are Justices S H Kapadia, Altamas Kabir, P Sathasivam and R M Lodha.
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