Establishment of Human Right Commission
- The National Human Rights Commission is a statutory (and not a constitutional) body. It was established in 1993 under a legislation enacted by the Parliament, namely, the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. This Act was amended in 2006.
- The commission is the watchdog of human rights in the country, that is, the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the international covenants and enforceable by courts in India.
The specific objectives of the establishment of the commission are :
- To strengthen the institutional arrangements through which human rights issues could be addressed in their entirety in a more focussed manner;
- To look into allegations of excesses, independently of the government, in a manner that would underline the gover-nment’s commitment to protect human rights; and
- To complement and strengthen the efforts that have already been made in this direction.
Constitution of a National Human Rights Commission
- The Central Government shall constitute a body to be known as the National Human Rights Commission to exercise the powers conferred upon, and to perform the functions assigned to it, under this Act.
- The Commission shall consist 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;
- 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.
- The Chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities, [the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes, the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes]and the National Commission for Women shall be deemed to be Members of the Commission.
- There shall be a Secretary-General who shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission and shall exercise such powers and discharge such functions of the Commission [except judicial functions], as may be delegated to him by the Commission or the Chairperson as the case may be.
- The headquarters of the Commission shall be at Delhi and the Commission may, with the previous approval of the Central Government, establish offices at other places in India.
Appointment of Chairperson and other Members
- The Chairperson and [the Members] shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal; Provided that every appointment under this sub-section shall be made after obtaining the recommendations of a Committee consisting of–
- The Prime Minister — Chairperson
- Speaker of the House of the People — Member
- Minister in-charge of the Ministry of Home Affairs in the Government of India — Member
- Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People — Member
- Leader of the Opposition in the Council of States — Member
- Deputy Chairman of the Council of States — Member
Provided further that no sitting Judge of the Supreme Court or sitting Chief Justice of a High Court shall be appointed except after consultation with the Chief Justice of India
- No appointment of a Chairperson or a Member shall be invalid merely by reason of any [vacancy of any member in the Committee referred to in the first proviso to sub-section (1)]
Resignation and removal of Chairperson and Members
- The Chairperson or any Member may, by notice in writing under his hand addressed to the President of India, resign his office.
- Subject to the provisions of sub-section (3), the Chairperson or any Member shall only be removed from his office by order of the President of India on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity after the Supreme Court, on reference being made to it by the President, has, on inquiry held in accordance with the procedure prescribed in that behalf by the Supreme Court, reported that the Chairperson or the Member, as the case may be, ought on any such ground to be removed.
- Notwithstanding anything in sub-section (2), the President may, by order, remove from office the Chairperson or any Member if the Chairperson or such Member, as the case may be
- is adjudged an insolvent;
- or engages during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his office;
- or is unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body;
- or is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court;
- or is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for an offence which in the opinion of the President involves moral turpitude
Term of office of Chairperson and Members
- A person appointed as Chairperson shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office or until he attains the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.
- A person appointed as a Member shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office and shall be eligible for re-appointment for another term of five years. Provided that no Member shall hold office after he has attained the age of seventy years.
- On ceasing to hold office, a Chairperson or a Member shall be ineligible for further employment under the Government of India or under the Government of any State
Member to act as Chairperson or to discharge his functions in certain circumstances
- In the event of the occurrence of any vacancy in the office of the Chairperson by reason of his death, resignation or otherwise, the President may, by notification, authorise one of the Members to act as the Chairperson until the appointment of a new Chairperson to fill such vacancy.
- When the Chairperson is unable to discharge his functions owing to absence on leave or otherwise, such one of the Members as the President may, by notification, authorise in this behalf, shall discharge the functions of the Chairperson until the date on which the Chairperson resumes his duties.
Terms and conditions of service of Chairperson and Members
- The salaries and allowances payable to, and other terms and conditions of service of, the [Chairperson and] Members shall be such as may be prescribed. Provided that neither the salary and allowances nor the other terms and conditions of service of [the Chairperson or] a Member shall be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.]
Vacancies, etc., not to invalidate the proceedings of the Commission
- No act or proceedings of the Commission shall be questioned or shall be invalidated merely on the ground of existence of any vacancy or defect in the constitution of the Commission
Procedure to be regulated by the Commission
- The Commission shall meet at such time and place as the Chairperson may think fit.
- Subject to the provisions of this Act and the rules made thereunder, the Commission shall have the power to lay down by regulations its own procedure
- All orders and decisions of the Commission shall be authenticated by the Secretary-General or any other officer of the Commission duly authorised by the Chairperson in this behalf
Officers and other staff of the Commission
- The Central Government shall make available to the Commission:
- an officer of the rank of the Secretary to the Government of India who shall be the Secretary-General of the Commission; and
- such police and investigative staff under an officer not below the rank of a Director General of Police and such other officers and staff as may be necessary for the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission.
- Subject to such rules as may be made by the Central Government in this behalf, the Commission may appoint such other administrative, technical and scientific staff as it may consider necessary.
- The salaries, allowances and conditions of service of the officers and other staff appointed under sub-section (2) shall be such as may be prescribed.
Functions of the Commission
The Commission shall perform all or any of the following functions, namely:-
- inquire, suo motu or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf [or on a direction or order of any court], into complaint of
- violation of human rights or abetment thereof; or
- negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant;
- intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court with the approval of such court;
- visit, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, any jail or other institution under the control of the State Government, where persons are detained or lodged for purposes of treatment, reformation or protection, for the study of the living conditions of the inmates thereof and make recommendations thereon to the Government;
- review the safeguards provided by or under the Constitution or any law for the time being in force for the protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation;
- review the factors, including acts of terrorism that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures;
- study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation;
- undertake and promote research in the field of human rights;
- spread human rights literacy among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other available means;
- encourage the efforts of non-governmental organisations and institutions working in the field of human rights;
- such other functions as it may consider necessary for the protection of human rights
Powers relating to inquiries
- The Commission shall, while inquiring into complaints under this Act, have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and in particular in respect of the following matters, namely :
- summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath;
- discovery and production of any document;
- receiving evidence on affidavits;
- requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
- issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents;
- any other matter which may be prescribed.
- The Commission shall have power to require any person, subject to any privilege which may be claimed by that person under any law for the time being in force, to furnish information on such points or matters as, in the opinion of the Commission, may be useful for, or relevant to, the subject matter of the inquiry and any person so required shall be deemed to be legally bound to furnish such information within the meaning of section 176 and section 177 of the Indian Penal Code.
- The Commission or any other officer, not below the rank of a Gazetted Officer, specially authorised in this behalf by the Commission may enter any building or place where the Commission has reason to believe that any document relating to the subject matter of the inquiry may be found, and may seize any such document or take extracts or copies therefrom subject to the provisions of section 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in so far as it may be applicable.
- The Commission shall be deemed to be a civil court and when any offence as is described in section 175, section 178, section 179, section 180 or section 228 of the Indian Penal Code is committed in the view or presence of the Commission, the Commission may, after recording the facts constituting the offence and the statement of the accused as provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, forward the case to a Magistrate having jurisdiction to try the same and the Magistrate to whom any such case is forwarded shall proceed to hear the complaint against the accused as if the case has been forwarded to him under section 346 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- Every proceeding before the Commission shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of sections 193 and 228, and for the purposes of section 196, of the Indian Penal Code, and the Commission shall be deemed to be a civil court for all the purposes of section 195 and Chapter XXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- Where the Commission considers it necessary or expedient so to do, it may, by order, transfer any complaint filed or pending before it to the State Commission of the State from which the complaint arises, for disposal in accordance with the provisions of this Act; Provided that no such complaint shall be transferred unless the same is one respecting which the State Commission has jurisdiction to entertain
- Every complaint transferred under sub-section(6) shall be dealt with and disposed of by the State Commission as if it were a complaint initially filed before it
Annual and special reports of the Commission
- The Commission shall submit an annual report to the Central Government and to the State Government concerned and may at any time submit special reports on any matter which, in its opinion, is of such urgency or importance that it should not be deferred till submission of the annual report.
- The Central Government and the State Government, as the case may be, shall cause the annual and special reports of the Commission to be laid before each House of Parliament or the State Legislature respectively, as the case may be, along with a memorandum of action taken or proposed to be taken on the recommendations of the Commission and the reasons for non-acceptance of the recommendations, if any
HUMAN RIGHTS (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2006
The Parliament has passed the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006. The main amendments carried out in the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, relate to the following issues:
- Reducing the number of members of State Human Rights Commissions (SHRCs) from five to three
- Changing the eligibility condition for appointment of member of SHRCs
- Strengthening the investigative machinery available with Human Rights Commissions
- Empowering the Commissions to recommend award of compensation, etc. even during the course of enquiry
- Empowering the NHRC to undertake visits to jails even without intimation to the state governments
- Strengthening the procedure for recording of evidence of witnesses
- Clarifying that the Chairpersons of NHRC and SHRCs are distinct from the Members of the respective Commission
- Enabling the NHRC to transfer complaints received by it to the concerned SHRC
- Enabling the Chairperson and members of the NHRC to address their resignations in writing to the President and the Chairperson and members of the SHRCs to the Governor of the state concerned
- Clarifying that the absence of any member in the Selection Committee for selection of the Chairperson and member of the NHRC or the SHRCs will not vitiate the decisions taken by such Committees
- Providing that the Chairperson of the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and the Chairperson of the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes shall be deemed to be members of the NHRC
- Enabling the Central Government to notify future international covenants and conventions to which the Act would be applicable