Q . The recent amendments are being termed as regressive that reduces the effectiveness of Human Rights Commissions. Critically analyze the role and functions of the Human Rights Commission and the amendments.   23RD, NOVEMBER,2020  (10 marks, 150 words, GS-2)



  • The introductory para to include details about the NHRC and SHRC
  • Second para to be about the roles and features of Human Rights Commission.
  • The next para could include the recent amendment and its analysis
  • Concluding with the measures needed to improve the functioning and effectiveness of Human Rights Commissions.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was constituted in 1994 following the enactment of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.  

It observed that there had been “growing concern in the country and abroad about issues relating to human rights”. With regard to this, and the changing social realities and emerging trends in the nature of crime and violence, it had been considered essential to review the existing laws and procedures and the system of administration with a view to bring about greater efficiency and transparency.

The Human Rights Protection Act, 1993 facilitates that State Government may constitute State Human Rights Commission to exercise the power conferred upon, and perform functions assigned to it under the Act.

The limitations of NHRC includes-

  • Limited time period to enforce investigation: One of the major drawbacks is that the commissions cannot investigate an event if the complaint was made more than one year after the incident. Therefore, a large number of genuine grievances remain unaddressed.
  • Lack of Tooth: The functions of the commission are largely re-commendatory in nature. It lacks the power to enforce decisions.
  • Less value to its recommendations: Governments often ignore the recommendations completely or furnish a long bureaucratic discourse on how compliance with the recommendation is not in the public interest.
  • Lack of Clarity for recruitment of judges: The Act requires that three of the five members of a human rights commission must be former judges but does not specify whether these judges should have a proven record of human rights activism or expertise or qualifications in the area.
  • Limited scope for SHRC: State Human Rights Commissions cannot call for information from the national government, which means that they are implicitly denied the power to investigate armed forces under national control. 
  • Lack of powers with respect to investigations: Even the powers of the National Human Rights Commission relating to violations of human rights by the armed forces have been limited to simply seeking a report from the Government, (without being allowed to summons witnesses), and then issuing recommendations.
  • Lack of Manpower: Most Human Rights Commissions are functioning with less than the prescribed five Members. This limits the capacity of commissions to deal promptly with complaints, especially as all are facing successive increase in the number of complaints.


The recent amendment to the Human Rights Protection Act 1993 includes-

Composition of NHRC the chairperson of the NHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.   A person who has been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a Judge of the Supreme Court will be the chairperson of the NHRC.
Inclusion of woman member for two persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC. three members to be appointed, of which at least one will be a woman.
Other members chairpersons of various commissions such as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and National Commission for Women are members of the NHRC Inclusion of the chairpersons of the National Commission for Backward Classes, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as members of the NHRC.
Chairperson of SHRC a person who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court a person who has been Chief Justice or Judge of a High Court will be chairperson of a SHRC.  
Term of office five years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier reduces the term of office to three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.  
reappointment of members of the NHRC and SHRCs five-year limit for reappointment. The Bill removes the five-year limit for reappointment.
Powers of Secretary-General of the NHRC and a Secretary of a SHRC exercise powers as may be delegated to them exercise all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), subject to the respective chairperson’s control.
Union Territories central government may confer on a SHRC human rights functions being discharged by Union Territories Functions relating to human rights in the case of Delhi will be dealt with by the NHRC.      


The benefits of the amendments includes-

  • The Amendment will strengthen the Human Rights Institutions of India further for effective discharge of their mandates, roles and responsibilities.
  • Moreover, the amended Act will be in perfect sync with the agreed global standards and benchmarks towards ensuring the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual in the country.
  • The amendment will also make National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) more compliant with the Paris Principle concerning its autonomy, independence, pluralism and wide-ranging functions in order to effectively protect and promote human rights.


Way forward-

  • Reducing the emergence of conflict of interest in appointments and allegiance.
  • A cadre for the NHRC for investigation.
  • Financial accountability to the CAG to ensure proper utilization of funds.
  • Stipulated time to investigate and take action.
  • Reducing the control of executives over the Commission for fair play.




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