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Human Rights in India

2024 MAY 19

Mains   > Polity   >   Institutions/Bodies   >   Miscellaneous


GS 2 >> Non-constitutional Bodies >> NHRC


The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), the foremost international organization on human rights, has once again deferred the “A” status accreditation of India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). This decision was made by GANHRI’s Sub Committee on Accreditation (SCA), marking the second consecutive year that India’s “A” status accreditation has been postponed.


Issues Leading to GANHRI's Deferral of NHRC's Accreditation

  1. Lack of Transparency in Appointment of Members: GANHRI has raised concerns over the amendments to the NHRC Amendment Act 2019, citing a lack of transparency in the process of appointing members to the NHRC. Transparency in appointments and functioning is crucial for ensuring the credibility and impartiality of human rights investigations and interventions.
  2. Inadequate Gender and Minority Representation: GANHRI has highlighted the insufficient representation of gender and minority groups within the NHRC’s member panel. Inclusivity is vital for ensuring that diverse perspectives are considered in effectively addressing human rights issues.
  3. Appointment of Police Officers for Human Rights Investigations: GANHRI has objected to the practice of appointing police officers to oversee human rights investigations. This practice could compromise the independence and integrity of investigations, raising concerns about the impartiality of the NHRC.


NHRC is a statutory body established under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. The Commission is the watchdog of human rights in the country. It is a multi-member body consisting of a chairperson and five members.

Mandate of NHRC

1. Investigation- Investigating complaints or failure of any public official regarding the rights’ violation, either suo moto or after receiving a petition.

2. Prevention and Safeguard- Monitoring the living conditions of the inmates and to make recommendations thereon. Reviewing statutory safeguards or treaties for the protection of human rights.

3. Intervention- NHRC intervenes in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court with the approval of such court.

4. Human rights- NHRC review the factors, including acts of terrorism, that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures.

5. Awareness- NHRC spreads human rights literacy amongst various sections of society and promotes awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other available means.



Human rights- Human rights are 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

Provisions for Protection of Human Rights in India

1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights- The UDHR principles have been adopted by India to guarantee human rights.

2. Right to equality (Art 14-18) of the Constitution- This guarantees equality before
law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment, abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles.

3. Right to freedom (Art 19-22)- This guarantees the freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association or union or cooperatives, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation, right to life and liberty, protection in respect to conviction in offences and protection against arrest and detention in certain cases. 

4. Right against exploitation (Art 23 and 24)- This prohibits all forms of forced labour, child labour and traffic of human beings.

5. Bandhua Mukti Morcha V. Union of India (1984)- SC held that Art. 21 guarantees Right to Life. The meaning of life under this article means a life of not only animal existence but life with human dignity.

Successes of NHRC

1.Campaigns against discrimination of HIV patients.

2.Intervention in the cases of Child sexual abuse and violence such as Nithari Village in Noida, UP.

3.Suo-moto cognisance in the case of killing of 10 people in police firing during Anti-Sterlite protest in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu.

4.Intervention in the case of killing of Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari after an appeal via press, by a network of editors and media practitioners.

Failures of NHRC

1. Existence of Custodial Torture and extrajudicial killings- The recent Sathankulam case in Tamil Nadu is proof of existence of custodial torture. Extrajudicial Killings like fake encounters, mob lynching, etc. have not stopped in India.

2. Arbitrary Arrest and Detention- Both the NHRC and SHRC both have failed to control them due to their lack of powers.

3. Prevelance of Gender based Violence- Violence and discrimination against Women, Children like rape, murder, sexual abuse are also prevalent in India.

4. Prevalence of Manual scavenging- According to the 2011 Census, there are more than 26 Lakh insanitary latrines in the country.



  1. Limited Authority as a Recommendatory Body: The NHRC is primarily a recommendatory body without the power to enforce its decisions. This lack of enforcement authority can result in its decisions being outrightly rejected.
  2. Ineffective Investigation Powers: The NHRC lacks an independent investigative machinery to probe complaints. Additionally, the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, restricts the NHRC from investigating complaints if they are made more than one year after the incident, leaving many genuine grievances unaddressed.
  3. Jurisdictional Constraints: The NHRC cannot address human rights violations committed by private parties. It is also restricted from investigating violations involving the armed forces and must rely on reports from the central government in such cases.
  4. Insufficient Enforcement Powers: The NHRC lacks the authority to penalize authorities that fail to implement its orders, limiting its effectiveness.
  5. Perception as a Post-Retirement Haven: The NHRC is often seen as a post-retirement destination for judges, police officers, and bureaucrats with political connections. Its composition, which is heavily judicial, gives it a court-like character.
  6. Inadequate Resources: The NHRC suffers from a lack of adequate funds, personnel, and a bureaucratic approach to functioning, all of which hinder its effectiveness.


  1. Enhanced Enforcement Powers: The decisions of the NHRC should be made enforceable by the government. Ensuring the enforceability of its decisions would significantly enhance the commission's efficacy.
  2. Revamping Membership Structure: The NHRC's membership should be diversified to include representatives from civil society, human rights activists, and minority groups, rather than just ex-bureaucrats. The search and selection committee must ensure transparency in the selection process.
  3. Independent Staffing: The NHRC should have its own independent investigative staff, recruited directly by the commission. The current practice of deputing staff from other agencies should be discontinued.
  4. Developing a Scientific Human Rights Framework: The NHRC should explore creating a scientific human rights framework tailored to the specific needs and context of India.


Q: The deferral of the “A” status accreditation of India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) by GANHRI highlights significant challenges in its functioning. Discuss these challenges and suggest a way forward to enhance the effectiveness of NHRC in protecting human rights in India.(15M,250W)