National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

The National Human Rights Commission is an of India’s effort for the protection and promotion of human rights. It came into being in October, 1993 under The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 and hence it is a statutory body (and not constitutional).

Human Rights Defenition:-

  • As per Section 2 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, “human rights” means the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed under the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.
  • “International Covenants” means the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on the 16th December, 1966.

Composition of National Human Rights Commission :-

  • A Chairperson and Four Memberswho can hold the office for 5 years or 70 years of age whichever is earlier.
  • The Chairperson should be a retired Chief Justice of India (CJI) and other member should be a serving or retired judge of SC, serving or retired Chief Justice of High Court (HC) and two persons having knowledge or practical experience w.r.t. Human Rights.
  • Chairpersons of National Commission for (Women), NC-SC (scheduled caste), and NC-ST (scheduled tribes), NC-M (minorities) are the other four ex-officio members.
  • President can remove the chairperson or the members but in the case the reason of removal is proved misbehaviour or incapacity then the President can remove them only after a Supreme Court Inquiry.


State Human Rights Commissions:-

The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 makes provisions for the establishment of State Human Rights Commissions

  • State Human Rights Commission can inquire into violation of human rights only in respect of subjects mentioned in the State List (List-II) and the Concurrent List (List-III) of the seventh schedule of the constitution.

Functions of National Human Rights Commission:-
The Commission shall, perform all or any of the following functions, namely:-

  • 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 abatement 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, under intimation to the State Government, 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 ;
  • Review the safeguards by or under the Constitution or any law for the time being in force for the protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation;
  • Review the factors, including acts of terrorism that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures;
  • Study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation;
  • Undertake and promote research in the field of human rights;
  • Spread human rights literacy among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other available means;
  • Encourage the efforts of Non – Governmental organisations (NGO’s) and institutions working in the field of human rights;
  • Such other functions as it may consider necessary for the promotion of human rights.

Powers of National Human Rights Commission:- 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
  • Any other matter which may be prescribed

Note: –

  • The Commission is not empowered to enquire into any matter after the expiry of one year from the date on which the act constituting the violation of human rights alleged to be committed.
  • The recommendation of the commission are not binding on the govt. or authority but they must give an action taken report (ATR).
  • The commission may approach the SC or HC for the necessary directions, orders or issue of writs.
  • Under the Protection of the Human Rights Act, 1993 (PHRA) it can only make recommendations and not issue orders penalizing persons or authorities responsible for violation of human rights or award compensatory relief to victims. 
  • It has to depend upon state or central governments for giving effect to its recommendations.

Investigation:-The Commission has its own investigating staff headed by a Director General of Police for investigation into complaints of human rights violations.

  • Under the Act, it is open to the Commission to utilise the services of any officer or investigation agency of the Central Government or any State Government.
  • The Commission has associated, in a number of cases, non – Governmental organizations in the investigation work.

Appointment of Members:-

The Chairperson and Members of the Commission are appointed by the President on the basis of recommendations of a Six (6) Member Committee comprising the

  • Prime Minister as the Chairperson,
  • Speaker of Lok Sabha,
  • Home Minister,
  • Leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha
  • Leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha and
  • Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha


Paris Principles (1991):- The Paris Principles were defined at the first International Workshop on National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights held in Paris on 7-9 October 1991.

  • They were adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Commission by Resolution 1992/54 of 1992, and by the UN General Assembly in its Resolution 48/134 of 1993.
  • The Paris Principles relate to the status and functioning of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights.

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action:- Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993. 

  • The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna represented a turning point for NHRIs.
  • For the first time NHRIs compliant with the Paris Principles were formally recognized as important and constructive actors in the promotion and protection of human rights and their establishment and strengthening were formally encouraged.
  • National Human Rights Institutions are funded by the State but are independent of it: they are not non-governmental organizations but they act as “bridge” between civil societies and Governments. They are known by different names in different countries, for instance they may be called Human Rights Commission, Committee or Council, Ombudsman, Public Defender, Provedor or Defensor.
  • The internationally agreed Paris Principles define the role, composition, status and functions of national human rights institutions.