Is NHRC A Toothless Tiger?
The national human rights commission based on the theme of "Sarve Bhavantu
Sukhinah" was established on 12 October 1993 in order to protect and promote
human rights. The main reason behind the establishment of this organization was
domestic and international pressures due to the ratification of India to Paris
principles in 1992. This PHRA is an act under which NHRC was established thus it
is a statutory body.
Further, human rights violations at the hands of public servants was also
increasing at an exponential rate which advocated widespread demand of human
rights saviour and protector organization. But the spirit that led the
establishment of the NHRC is not continued in the practical field. India's
rights watchdog NHRC labelled as toothless tiger by its own chairperson, former
chief justice H.L.Dattu.
National human rights commission is known as watchdog of human rights which
means an organisation that ensures protection and promotion of human rights
defined in section 2(1)(d) of the Protection of human rights act as rights
relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of individuals. In the first
year of its establishment NHRC received around 345 cases however with the
passage of time cases have been increasing and in 2017 it was reported that NHRC
has received more than 3lakh cases that shows the high credibility of NHRC and
on the other hand it's also presenting the high rate amount of human rights
Cognizance Taken By NHRC:
Set up in 1993, in the backdrop of several criticism the NHRC has played four
key roles: protector, advisor, monitor and educator of human rights.
NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that 8 persons, including
women and children were allegedly burnt to death in Bogtui village in Rampurhat
area of Birbhum district, West Bengal on 22nd March, 2022. This made a force on
the government to take the incident seriously.
Another suo motu taken by NHRC was cognizance of media reports that the four
accused, arrested by the police in connection with the rape and murder of
veterinarian doctor in Telangana, have died in an encounter with the police.
In Punjab there were more than 2,097 cases of killing of youth and mass
cremation of their bodies by the Punjab police during the peak of militancy in
the State, and has ordered a relief of Rs.27.94 crore to the families of 1,513
victims of such extra-judicial killings.
The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of a media
report that 70 Adivasi families in Parsahidadar Village in Mahasamund district
of Chhattisgarh had been rendered homeless by the excesses of Forest Department
officials and policemen who subjected them to beatings forcing them to leave
their places or face arrest on allegations of encroachment upon forestland.
How it has become toothless.
These are some cases that have been taken into consideration by the NHRC but the
question is about the efficiency of the NHRC. It more that 26 years of its
establishment and the cases that should be dealt by this are unexpected. Every
year we celebrate human rights day on 10th of December and still the human
violations are uncounted. In the first appearance NHRC looks like a powerful
organisation seeks to protect liberty, equality and dignity of individuals,
standing in between state and individual.
As A.V. Dicey said that only writing rules on legalframe can not secure law
there is need of organisation to implement it powerfully. We got same glimpse in
the PERA where NHRC has been constituted as a potential body to secure human
rights but in reality its foundations are too weak to handle cases by itself.
The NHRC owefully lacks the infrastructure its mandate. NHRC is also facing the
same problem as our judiciary is facing i.e. lack of staff which leads to a peak
of pendency of cases. In a submission made to the Supreme Court in 2017, the
NHRC admitted that despite a 1,455 per cent increase in complaints between 1995
and 2015, its staff strength had decreased by 16.94 per cent in the same period.
In 2015, NHRC's strength was 49, down from 59 in 1995 while the number of
complaints in the same period saw a massive increase to 1,14,167 from 7,84. Even
the commission officials itself have candidly admitted in the Supreme Court that
with its current staff capacity, it cannot investigate more than 100 cases a
Another loophole is that from the limited sanctioned strength, almost 54% of the
NHRC staff are indulging in other work fields as well and they keep changing,
leaving constantly the commission.
No economic independency and it has become one of the most important reasons for
its failure. It has been depending upon government for any initiative.
Famous scholar Gonsalve has criticised NHRC as lapdog instead of watchdog.
According to him, the NHRC is a lap baby of the government. It does not have its
own recognition as it works on the directions of the government.
Political involvement in appointment of members is another loophole of NHRC.
This criticism has cropped up specially when Deepak mishra was appointed as Head
of the NHRC. Unless the NHRC is made truly autonomous and there is political
will to strengthen human rights, its powers will remain on paper .K.G.
Balakrishnan,who has been chairman of the NHRC was accused of corruption and a
case seeking his removal was pending in SC while he was heading NHRC.
Moreover the NHRC also has no powers to investigate human rights violations
regarding the armed forces. Since the commission can only send queries to the
Defence Ministry, Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur — two states where the Armed
Forces (Special Powers) Act has been in effect
It can be aptly concluded that there is a need for revamping NHRC. The value and
spirit it consists of in the PERA act should be applied while dealing with
cases. NHRC is one of the most important hands that are trying to secure the
values of democracy in India. Political interference, lack of staff , lack of
knowledge in the field of human rights have led it towards toothless tiger, but
it is still a tiger and by certain amendments it can become tiger with tooth.
Written By: Tanu Mishra - Law Student
Law Article in India
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