The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is a statutory body, established in 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Act,1993. This act was amended in 2006.
The NHRC is the watchdog of human rights in India. The chairman of NHRC should be a retired chief justice of India.
Hearing a petition on extrajudicial killings in Manipur, the Supreme Court noted that the National Human Rights Commission, the “protector, advisor, monitor and educator of human rights”, had referred to itself as “a toothless tiger” – an abject admission of the statutory body’s helplessness and failure.
Why NHRC is called as a toothless tiger?
–> NHRC has informed the court that it had no power to act against persons or authorities who did not follow the guidelines laid down by it nor did it have the power to issue directives or pass orders but could only make recommendations.
–> It is because NHRC investigates human rights violation cases with very limited resources. The evidence collected is put to forensic judicial adjudication by its chairman and members, who are former judges. But at the end, when NHRC arrives at a finding, it can only recommend remedial measures or direct the state concerned to pay compensation.
Some Important Functions of NHRC:
(1) It can intervene in human rights proceedings, which may be pending before the court. NHRC officials visit jails to inspect living conditions for inmates incarcerated for treatment, reformation or protection.
(2) The NHRC can review and make recommendations in Constitutional and legal safeguards. It can also review international treaties and events that may compromise human rights.
(3) The NHRC also serves as the basis of human rights literacy in India, initiating awareness of rights through publications, media channels, seminars etc.
Problems being faced by NHRC:
–> Most human rights commissions are functioning with less than the prescribed Members. This limits the capacity of commissions to deal promptly with complaints, especially as all are facing successive increases in the number of complaints.
–> Scarcity of resources is another big problem. Large chunks of the budget of commissions go in office expenses, leaving disproportionately small amounts for other crucial areas such as research and rights awareness programmes.
–> NHRC is deluged with too many complaints. Hence, in recent days, NHRC is finding it difficult to address the increasing number of complaints.
–> As human rights commissions primarily draw their staff from government departments – either on deputation or reemployment after retirement – the internal atmosphere is usually just like any other government office.
–> Strict hierarchies are maintained, which often makes it difficult for complainants to obtain documents or information about the status of their case.
–> NHRC does not have power to enforce its orders in spite of established by statute.
–> The provisions of act do not applicable to the state of J & K, hence the NHRC has to keep its eyes closed to human rights violations there. (Recent controversy on the use of plastic pellets by CAPFs in Kashmir).
–> Delayed compliance or even outright rejection of its recommendation.
–> NHRC does not effectively adjudicate some matters such as human rights violations by private parties and by the armed forces. (Attacks by self–styled cow vigilantes).
–> Large number of genuine grievances go unaddressed if the complaint was made more than one year after the incident.
–> Granting institutional autonomy to Human Rights Commission.
–> Immediate enforcement of directives & recommendations of NHRC.
–> Providing independent cadre of staff with adequate infrastructure.
India’s “toothless tiger” might need drastic dental surgery, but nothing stops it from raising its hackles now and then.
In order to ensure Individual’ rights, Government must take steps to reform NHRC by solving the hurdles that NHRC is facing presently.