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September 5, 2011
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                        India is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 16th December, 1966.   Even though the human rights embodied in the aforesaid covenants stand substantially protected by the constitution these has been growing concern in the country and abroad about issues relating to Human Rights.   Considering the social realities and the merging trends in the nature of crime and violence the government of India has reviewed the then existing laws, procedures and system of administration of justice with a view to bring about greater accountability and transparency in them and devising more efficient and effective methods of dealing with the situation.   After having a deliberate discussion on the subject the Human Rights Commission Bill, 1993 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 14.5.1994 and it was referred to the Standing Committee of Parliament on Home Affairs.   In view of the urgency of the matter, the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance, 1993 was promulgated by the President of India on 28.9.1993.   Later on 8.1.1994 the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 was enacted.   This Act extends to whole of India.


                        Sec. 2 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (‘Act’ for brevity) defines the term ‘human rights’ as the rights relating to-

-         life;

-         liberty;

-         equality and

-         dignity of the individual

guaranteed under the Constitution or embodied in the international covenants on civil and political rights and international covenant on Economic, social and cultural rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 16.12.1966 and enforceable by Courts in India.   As such the Court is empowered to protect the human rights as mentioned above.


                        Sec. 3 of the Act provides that the Central Government shall constitute a body known as the ‘National Human Rights Commission’ to exercise the powers conferred upon and to perform the functions assigned to it under the Act.   The said Commission is functioning at New Delhi. Sec.21 of the Act provides that a state may constitute a body to be known as the (Name of the State) Human Rights Commission to exercise the powers conferred upon and to perform the functions assigned to a State Commissioner.   14 States already have set up such bodies.


                        The Commission shall perform all or any of the following functions:

  • to inquire, on its own motion or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf into the complaint of-
  • violation of human rights or abatement; or
  • negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant;
  • to intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation or human rights pending before a court with the approval of such court;
  • to visit, under an 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 or the inmates and make recommendations thereon;
  • to 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 various measures for their effective implementation;
  • to review the factors, including acts of terrorism that inhibit the employment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures;
  • to study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation;
  • to undertake and promote research in the field of human rights;
  • to spread human rights literacy among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publication, the media, seminar and available means;
  • to encourage the efforts of non governmental organizations and institutions working in the field of human rights;
  • such other functions as it may consider necessary for the protection of human rights.


                        Sec. 13 provides the powers of the Commission which are as follows:

  • powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908;
  • to require any person to furnish information on such points or matters subject to any privilege which may be claimed by that person under any law for the time being in force;
  • enter into any building or place where the commission has reason to believe that any document relating to the subject matter or the inquiry may be found and may seize any such document or take extracts or copies there from subject to the provisions of Sec.100 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.


  • A complaint may be in English or Hindi or in any language included in the eight schedule of the Constitution;
  • The complaints are to be self contained;
  • No fee is charged on complaints;
  • Complaints may also be made by means of telegram, fax, e-mail;
  • Complaints can also be made on the mobile number of the Commission;
  • The following complaints will not be entertained by the Commission-

v  in regard to events which happened more than one year before making of the complaints;

v  with regard to matters which are sub-judice;

v  which are vague, anonymous or pseudonymous;

v  which are frivolous in nature;

v  which pertains to service matters.

  • All complaints in whatever form received by the Commission shall be registered and assigned a number and placed for admission as per the special or general directions of the Chair person not later than one week on receipt thereof;
  • The Commission shall have power to dismiss a complaint in limini;
  • Upon admission of a complaint the Commission shall direct whether the matter would be set down for inquiry by it or should be investigated into;
  • Then the Secretariat shall call for reports/comments from the concerned Government/Authority giving the latter a reasonable time therefor.  If the report is not received within the time stipulated, it may proceed to inquire on its own; for the purpose the Commission shall have its own team of investigation;
  • On receipt of the report a detailed note on the merits of the case shall be prepared for consideration of the Commission;
  • The Commission in the disposal of the complaint affords a reasonable opportunity to the concerned parties to represent his case;
  • On completion of the inquiry the Commission may take the following steps-

v  where the inquiry discloses the commission of violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of violation of human rights by  a public servant, it may recommend the concerned Government or authority to initiation of the proceedings for prosecution or such other action as the Commission may deem fit against the concerned person or persons;

v  approach the Supreme Court or the High Court concerned for such directions, orders or writs as that Court may deem necessary;

v  recommend to the concerned Government or authority for the grant of such immediate interim relief to the victim or the member of his family as the Commission may consider necessary;

v  send the copy of the inquiry report together with its recommendations to the concerned Government/authority; the concerned Government/authority within a period of one month or such further time as allowed, shall forward its comments on the report including the action or proposed to be taken thereon to the Commission;

v  send a copy of the inquiry report to the petitioner or his representative;

v  the Commission shall publish its inquiry, report together with the comments of the concerned Government or authority, if any and the action taken or proposed to be taken by the concerned Government or authority on the recommendation of the Commission.


                        The Commission may on its own motion or on the basis of the petitions made to it on allegation of human rights violation by armed forces, seek a report from the Central Government.   On receipt of the report, it may either not to proceed with the complaint or to proceed with the complaint as the case may be, make its recommendations to the Government.   According to the Act the Central Government shall inform the Commission of the action on the recommendations within 3 months or such further time as the Commission may allow.   It is further stipulated that the Commission shall publish its report together with its recommendations to the Central Government and the action taken by that Government on such recommendations.   A copy of the report so published shall be given to the petitioner.


                        The Commission from the date of its inception has handled various types of complaints.   The following are the major types of complaints:

  • In respect of Police Administration-

v  Failure in taking action;

v  Unlawful detention;

v  False implication;

v  Custodial violation;

v  Illegal arrest;

v  Other police excesses;

  • Custodial deaths;
  • Encounter deaths;
  • Harassment of prisoners;
  • Jail conditions;
  • Atrocities on SC and STs;
  • Bonded labor;
  • Child labor;
  • Child marriage;
  • Dowry death or its attempt;
  • Dowry demand;
  • Abduction, rape and murder;
  • Sexual harassment and indignity to women;
  • Exploitation of women.


By: Mr.M. GOVINDARAJAN - September 5, 2011



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