National Human Rights Commission

National Human Rights Commission

The National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) is an independent statutory body established on October 12, 1993, in accordance with the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, which was later amended in 2006.

National Human Rights Commission

The NHRC (National Human Rights Commission)

  • The National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) is an independent statutory body established on October 12, 1993, in accordance with the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, which was later amended in 2006.
  • On October 12, 2018, NHRC celebrated its Silver Jubilee (25 years). The company's headquarters are in New Delhi.
  • It is the country's watchdog for human rights, which are the rights to life, liberty, equality, and dignity guaranteed by the Indian Constitution or embodied in international covenants and enforceable by Indian courts.
  • It was set up in accordance with the Paris Principles, which were adopted in Paris in October 1991 for the promotion and protection of human rights. The United Nations General Assembly affirmed it on December 20, 1993.

Human rights: According to the United Nations, these rights are inherent in all humans, regardless of race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.

Human rights entail, among other things, the right to life and liberty, the freedom from slavery and torture, the freedom of thought and expression, the right to work and education, and many others.

These are available to everyone, without exception.

What caused the formation of the NHRC?

  • The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Paris on December 10, 1948.
  • It was a watershed moment in human rights history because it established fundamental human rights as universally protected for the first time.
  • Every year on December 10, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights anniversary, Human Rights Day is observed. Human Rights Day commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights in 2018.
  • The growing importance of strengthening national human rights institutions was recognized over time. In 1991, a United Nations meeting in Paris developed a detailed set of principles, i.e. The Paris Principles.
  • These principles were used to establish and run national human rights institutions.
  • In accordance with these principles, India enacted the Protection of Human Rights Act of 1993 to increase accountability and strengthen human rights in the country.
  • This act also empowered state governments to form state human rights commissions.

What Constitutes the NHRC?

Major Members:

It consists of a chairperson, five full-time Members, and seven deemed Members.

A former Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge can be appointed chairman.


The President appoints the chairman and members based on the recommendations of a six-member committee headed by the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, leaders of the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament, and the Union Home Minister.


The chairman and members serve for three years or until they reach the age of 70, whichever comes first.

Under certain conditions, the President can remove the chairman or any other member from office.


They can be eliminated only based on proven misbehaviour or incapacity, as determined by an interrogation conducted by a Supreme Court Judge.


In addition, the Commission has five specialised divisions: the Law Division, the Investigation Division, the Policy Research & Programs Division, the Training Division, and the Administration Division.

What is the purpose of the State Human Rights Commission?

  • The Governor appoints the chairman and members of the State Commission in consultation with the Chief Minister, State Home Minister, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and Leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Assembly.
  • The chairperson and members serve for three years or until they reach the age of 70, whichever comes first.
  • Whereas the Governor appoints the chairperson and members of a State Human Rights Commission, the President can only remove them.

What are the NHRC's role and functional areas?

  • It possesses all of the powers of a civil court and conducts judicial proceedings.
  • The NHRC investigates complaints about human rights violations either on its own or after receiving a petition.
  • It has the authority to intervene in any judicial proceedings involving allegations of human rights violations.
  • It has the authority to employ any officer or investigation agency of the Central Government or any state government to investigate complaints of human rights violations.
  • It may investigate a matter within one year of its occurrence; however, the Commission is not authorised to investigate any matter after one year has passed from the date on which the alleged violation of human rights occurred.
  • The Commission's functions are mostly advisory.
  • It lacks the authority to punish human rights violators or to grant any relief, including monetary relief, to victims.
  • It has a limited role, powers, and jurisdiction when it comes to violations of human rights by members of the armed forces.
  • It lacks the authority to act when private parties violate human rights.
  • It has the authority to visit any jail or other institution under the control of the State Government to inspect the inmates' living conditions and make recommendations.
  • It can review the safeguards the constitution provides or any law to protect human rights and recommend appropriate corrective measures.
  • The NHRC conducts and promotes human rights research.
  • Through publications, media, seminars, and other means, the NHRC promotes human rights literacy among various segments of society and raises awareness of the safeguards available to protect these rights.

The Commission's annual reports are as follows:

  • The Commission shall submit an annual report to the Central Government and the State Government concerned.
  • The Central Government and the State Government, as appropriate, shall cause the Commission's annual reports to be laid before each House of Parliament or the State Legislature, respectively, along with a memorandum of action taken or proposed to be taken on the Commission's recommendations and the reasons for non-acceptance of the recommendations, if at all.

What are the NHRC's Limitations?

  • The NHRC lacks an investigation mechanism. In most cases, it requests that the concerned Central and State Governments investigate cases of human rights violations.
  • Due to its inability to provide practical relief to the aggrieved party, Soli Sorabjee (former Attorney-General of India) referred to it as "India's teasing illusion."
  • The NHRC can only make recommendations and cannot impose decisions.
  • NHRC is frequently viewed as a post-retirement destination for judges and bureaucrats with political affiliations; additionally, the inadequacy of funds impedes its operation.
  • Many grievances go unresolved because the NHRC cannot investigate complaints filed more than a year after the incident.
  • The government frequently rejects NHRC recommendations outright or only partially follows them.
  • State human rights commissions cannot request information from the national government, implying that they lack the authority to investigate armed forces under national control.
  • The National Human Rights Commission's authority over human rights violations by the armed forces has been severely limited.

What changes can be made to improve the NHRC's effectiveness?

  • The NHRC must be completely restructured to become a more effective watchdog of human rights violations in the country.
  • Government can improve NHRC's effectiveness by making commission decisions enforceable.
  • The composition of the Commission should be changed to include members of civil society and activists.
  • The NHRC must build an independent cadre of staff with relevant experience.
  • Numerous Indian laws seem to be very old and archaic, and by amending them, the government can bring more transparency to regulations.
  • State and non-state actors must collaborate to improve and strengthen India's human rights situation.

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