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National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • Context (TH): NHRC will defend its “A status” at the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) meeting in Geneva.
  • It will be carried out as part of the five-year peer review for each member.

Concerns raised in NHRC’s accreditation

  • Since being accredited in 1999, India has retained its A ranking in 2006 and 2011, while its status was deferred in 2016 and restored after a year.
  • NHRC’s ratings were put on hold in 2023 with the objection that the NHRC has failed to create conditions required to be “able to operate independent of government interference”.
  • In India, police officers’ involvement in the investigative process was seen as a “conflict of interest.
  • Lack of “pluralism” and “gender representation” was also cited.
  • The lack of representation of India’s largest minority is also objected to.
  • Civil society has pointed out that most members are politically affiliated with the ruling party.
  • NHRC’s rating would affect its ability to vote at the UN Human Rights Council.

India’s counter-argument

  • NHRC has defended that it has a female member as well as a minority member.
  • India also cited the “undue influence” of international civil society organisations that have been critical of India since 2014.
  • It also reacted sharply to the U.S. State Department’s latest global report, which spoke of “significant” human rights concerns in India.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI)

  • It is a UN-recognised human rights alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs).
  • The Paris Principles were drafted in 1991 at the UN International Workshop on National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
  • The second international workshop (1993) of NHRIs in Tunis, Tunisia led to the formation of GANHRI.
  • It was previously known as the International Coordinating Committee of Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC).
  • Currently, it has 120 members, of whom 88 have “A” status accreditation and 32 have “B” status.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • It was constituted under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993, which was later amended by the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA) 2006.
  • Section 2(1)(d) of the PHRA act defines Human Rights as those 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.
  • PHRA complies with the Paris Principles (1991).
  • The act lays down qualifications for the appointments in the Commission.

Composition, Appointment and tenure

  • Chairperson must be a former Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge.
  • Ex-officio members: Chairpersons of National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Women, National Commission for Backward Classes, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.
    • Apart from these, it has five full-time members.
  • The appointment is made by the President based on the recommendations of a six-member committee.
  • Six-member selection committee: Prime Minister, Speaker (Lok Sabha), Deputy Chairman (Rajya Sabha), leaders of the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament, and Union Home Minister.
  • Term: Three years or until they reach the age of 70.

Powers and functions

  • Powers of a civil court with judicial proceedings.
  • Investigation of human rights violations with the help of central or state government officers or investigation agencies.

Issues in the NHRC mechanism

  • The nature of action to be taken is only recommandatory, not binding.
  • Matters are to be raised within one year of the incident.
  • It does not have its own investigation agency. It has to rely on other government agencies for it.
  • It does not have jurisdiction in cases related to armed forces.
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