Human Rights Watch India

NHRC: From Watchdogs To Paper Tigers

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Humans are guaranteed basic human rights under the constitution of India related to life, liberty and equality.

National Human Right Commission

Through the Human Rights Act, the constitution ensures protection of an individual’s right to life, liberty, equality and dignity by legal means within the Indian Territory. The Act includes inquiries into human rights violations, research, increasing awareness, inspecting prisons, juvenile homes, etc. Even though it has greatly contributed towards the protection of Human Rights, its performance and effectiveness over the years has come under the scanner several times.

1. NHRC is a toothless tiger:

Lack of absolute powers has left NHRC to just be an advisor who imparts suggestions and recommendations to the state authorities. The NHRC makes recommendations like compensation payments, registration of criminal cases, etc. However, it does not have the power to enforce decisions and can only make recommendations. This means that the recommendations could either get rejected, get partially implemented or delayed. The NHRC also does not hold any penalizing powers over the authorities to implement the decisions. These lack of powers is exactly what makes the NHRC toothless.

2. The commission is facing a serious lack of funds and staff:

Efficient functioning requires efficient and adequate resources, both human and monetary. Lack of funds and staff to deal with as many as 450 complaints a day, furthers their inefficiency while dealing with human rights violation cases. Most human rights commissions are functioning with less than the prescribed five members and a major chunk of their budget goes in maintaining the office and the members, leaving very little for research and programmes. Vague qualification criteria for the members adds to the inefficient culture.

3. Poorly drafted complaints and reports:

The functioning of NHRC also depends on the complaints received by them. Instances have been where few complaints by the state government were poorly drafted, illegible and incomplete. Also, NHRC is not allowed to directly investigate the complaints of violations by the armed forces and can only make recommendations to the central government.

Another problem lies in the absence of regular and consistent reports maintained by the commission, the last one published in 2013, clearly showcases the inefficiency in the commission.

4. Tied and gagged by the government:

After a delay of nine months, the Chief Information Commissioner and central vigilance commissioner was appointed. The delay in announcing the chairperson, who is supposed to be a retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, came because the government waited for their chosen nominee Justice HL Dattu to retire as the CJI. This clearly shows how the position is extremely compromised. BJP vice-president Avinash Rai Khanna was appointed as a member of NHRC in 2016, with merely a qualification of past few years experience with Punjab Human Rights Commission. Although justified by the party heads, this suspects crawling up of politics into the country apex commission for human rights protection.

5. Blind towards the human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir:

Since Independence, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed innumerable conflicts internally as well as externally due to which there have been various human rights violations. However, the Human Rights Act of 1993 has negligible jurisdiction over Jammu and Kashmir as NHRC is only entitled to cover the subjects on thecentere and concurrent list and not the state list subjects of Jammu and Kashmir. Because of this the state government does not take into notice any of the suggestions put forth by the NHRC and all the human rights violations are happily ignored.

Well, the glory with which the NHRC was formed didn’t come out in its actual sense due to a number of reasons. The overall condition of it at present state makes one question what actually is the fundamental problem – restrictions, resources, ill-management or something else?

NHRC: From Watchdogs To Paper Tigers was last modified: by
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