Global Agency Affiliated to UN Rights Body Defers NHRC Accreditation
May 25, 2023

Why in News?

  • For the second time in a row, an organisation affiliated to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has deferred re-accreditation of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India for a year.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About NHRC (Objectives, Composition, Powers, Functions, Achievements, etc.)
  • News Summary (About GANHRI, Accreditation by GANHRI, etc.) 

About National Human Rights Commission (NHRC):

  • The National Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
  • The Commission is the watchdog of human rights in the country.
    • Human Rights amount to the 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.
  • Objectives:
    • To strengthen the institutional arrangements through which human rights issues could be addressed in their entirety in a more focused manner;
    • To look into allegations of excesses, independently of the government, in a manner that would underline the government’s commitment to protect human rights;

Composition of NHRC:

  • The Commission is a multi-member body consisting of a chairperson and five members.
    • The chairperson should be a retired chief justice of India or a judge of the Supreme Court.
    • Members should be a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court, a serving or retired chief justice of a high court and three persons (out of which at least one should be a woman) having knowledge or practical experience with respect to human rights.
  • The chairperson and members are appointed by the President on the recommendations of a six-member committee consisting of:
    • Prime Minister as its head
    • Speaker of the Lok Sabha
    • Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
    • Leaders of the Opposition in both the Houses of Parliament
    • Central Home Minister
  • The chairperson and members are appointed for the term of 3 years or till the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier.
  • The chairperson and members are eligible for reappointment.

Functions of NHRC:

  • Inquire, on its own initiative or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf, into complaint of-
    • Violation of human rights or abetment or
    • Negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant;
  • Intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court with the approval of such court;
  • Visit any jail or any other institution under the control of the State Government, where persons are detained or lodged for purposes of treatment, reformation or protection to study the living condition of the inmates and make recommendations thereon;
  • Spread human rights literacy among various sections of society;
  • Study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation;

Powers of NHRC:

  • While inquiring into complaints under the Act, the Commission shall have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and in particular the following, namely:
    • Summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath;
    • Discovery and production of any document;
    • Receiving evidence on affidavits;
    • Requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
    • Issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents;
    • Grant compensation to the victims of police brutality.

Major Accomplishments of the NHRC:

  • The Commission has kept a consistent watch on incidences of encounter killings and deaths in custody.
    • In May 2010, the Commission had issued guidelines wherein every death in police action has to be reported to the NHRC within 48 hours of the incident.
  • The NHRC has also been vocal in its opinion against laws such as the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA) – which had scope for misuse and possible human rights violations.
  • The Commission also visits different states to organise open hearings to take cognisance of the problems of people there.

News Summary:

  • The Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) is an organisation affiliated to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • GANHRI brings together and supports national human rights institutions to promote and protect human rights.
  • GANHRI represents more than 100 national human rights institutions (NHRIs) from around the world.
  • Recently, the Sub Committee on Accreditation (SCA) to the GANHRI has deferred re-accreditation of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India for a year.
    • Earlier, in 2016, the committee had deferred India’s NHRC’s accreditation for a year.
  • Without the accreditation, NHRC will be not be able to represent India at the UN Human Rights Council.

Accreditation by the GANHRI:

  • In a unique peer-review-based accreditation process, GANHRI ensures individual NHRIs’ compliance with internationally recognised standards – the Paris Principles– to ensure their independence, pluralism and accountability.
    • The Paris Principles set out internationally agreed minimum standards that NHRIs must meet to be considered credible.
    • The six principles require a country‘s human rights agency to be independent from the government in its structure, composition, decision-making and method of operation.
    • The principles were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993.
  • GANHRI, through the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA), is responsible for reviewing and accrediting NHRIs in compliance with the Paris Principles.
  • An NHRI is reviewed by the SCA when –
    • It applies for initial accreditation
    • It applies for re-accreditation every five years
    • The circumstances of the NHRI change in any way that may affect its compliance with the Paris Principles.
  • NHRIs that are assessed as complying with the Paris Principles are accredited with ‘A status’, while those that partially comply are accredited with ‘B status’.
  • India’s NHRC got ‘A’ status of accreditation for the first time in 1999, which it retained in 2006, 2011, and in 2017 after it was deferred for a year.