The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) mooted the idea 01 the creation of an impartial institution for the protection of human rigfits in the States as early as 1946. In pursuance of the resolution of the General Assembly adopted in 1966,’ the Economic and Social Council requested the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations to consider the question of creating a National Commission of Human Rights to perform certain functions related to the observance of the International Covenants on Human Rights. The question was taken up by the Commission in 1970 and it recommended that the question of establishment of National Commission of Human Rights in each Member State of the United Nations ought to be decided by each Government of the Member State keeping in view the traditions and institutions of each country. The Commission in 1978 again emphasized the need for the creation of a National Institution. But all these attempts, however, were fruitless.
Realising the importance of such an institution or commission, the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 urged Governments to strengthen national structures ,and institutions of society, which play a role in promoting and safeguarding human rights. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference prompted a number of States to establish such institutions.
The Human Rights Commission Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha on May 14, 1992 was referred to the Standing Committee on Home Affairs of the Parliament. The President of lndia promulgated an Ordinance, which established a National Commission on Human Rights on September 27, 1993, owinc to pressure from foreign countries as well as from the domestic front. Thereafter, a Bill on Human Rights was passed in the Lok Sabha on Dlxember 18, 1993 to replace the ordinance promulgated by the President The Bill became an Act, having received the assent of the President, or January 8, 1994 (Act 10 of 1994) and was published in the Gazette of lndia.
National Human Rights Commission (N.H.R.C.)
Chapter II of the Act deals with the constitution of the National Human Rights Commission (N.H.R.C.). Section 3 of the Act lays down that the Central Government shall constitute a body known as the National Human Rights Commission. N.H.R.C. is an eight-member body. The Commission consists of:
- A Chairperson who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
- One Member who is, or has been a judge of the Supreme Court 100
- One Member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
- Two Members to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights.
Procedure for Dealing with Complaints
Regulation 8 of the National Human Rights Commission (Procedure) Regulations, 1994 lays down the following procedure for dealing with complaints of alleged violation of ‘human rights’:
- All complaints in whatever form received by the Commission shall be registered and assigred a number and placed for admission before a bench of two niembers constituted for the purpose not later than two weeks of receipt thereof.
- No fee is chargeable on complaints.
- Every attempt should be made to disclose a complete picture of the matter leading to the complaint and the same may be made in English or Hindi to enable the Commission to take immediate action. To facilitate the ,;iling of the complaints, the Commission shall, however, entertain complaints in any language included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. It shall be open to the Commission to ask for further information and affidavits to be filed in support of allegations whenever considered necessary.
- The Commission may, in its discretion, accept telegraphic complaints and complainl:~ conveyed through fax.
- The Commission shall lave the power to dismiss a complaint in limine.
- Upon admission of a coniplaint, the ChairpersonlCommission shall direct whether the matter could be set down for inquiry by it or should be investigated into.
State Human Rights Commissions (S.H.R.C’s)
The Protection of Human Rights Act under Chapter V also provides for the setting up of State Human Rights commission in States consisting of a Chairperson whois or has been a Chief Justice of a High Court, one member who is, or has been, a Judge of a High Court, one member who is, or has been a District Judge in that State and two members to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of or practical experience in matten; relating to human rights. The Governor shall appoint the Chairperson and other members of the Commission.
The State Commission is empowered to perform all those functions, which have been entrusted to the National Human Rights Commission. However, paragraph C of Section 29 excludes the study of treaties and other lnternational Instruments on human rights from the purview of S.H.R.C. The study of such treaties and the eligibility to make recommendations for their effective implementation are the exclusive domain of the N.H.R.C. The state Commission may inquire into violations of human rights only in respect of matters related to any of the entries enumerated in List II and Ill in the Seventh Schedule of the constitution.’ Section 36(1) of the Act, states that the State Human Rights Commission shall not enquire into any matter which is pending before a National Commission or any other statutory Commission duly constituted under any law in force.