National Human Rights Commission


The real test of the rights given by any constitution is in their actual implementation. The poor, illiterate and the deprived sections of the society must be able to exercise their rights. Independent organisations like the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) or People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) have been working as watchdogs against the violations of rights.

In this background, the government had established an institution, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).



  • NHRC of India is an autonomous public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993.
  • It was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (TPHRA).
  • NHRC is responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as “rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants”.



“Human Rights” means 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.

Human right means different thing to different people. Human Rights are not static. New rights are recognized and enforced from time to time. Only persons fully conversant with the latest development about the expanding horizons of Human Rights can promote their awareness better than others.

“Commission” means the National Human Rights Commission constituted under section of All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights known as Human rights, as commonly understood, are the rights that every human being is entitled to enjoy freely irrespective of his religion, race, caste, sex and nationality, etc.



The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is composed of –

  • a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of India (Chairperson),
  • a former judge of the Supreme Court,
  • a former chief justice of a High Court, and
  • two other members who have knowledge and practical experience in matters relating to human rights.
  • additionally, the chairpersons of four National Commissions – Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Women and Minorities – serve as ex officio members.



The Chairperson and members of the NHRC are appointed by the President of India, on the recommendation of a committee consisting of –

  • The Prime Minister (Chairperson)
  • The Home Minister
  • The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (Lower House)
  • The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House)
  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha (Lower House)
  • The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House)



The commission’s functions include –

  • inquiry at its own initiative or on a petition presented to it by a victim into complaint of violation of human rights;
  • visit to jails to study the condition of the inmates;
  • undertaking and promoting research in the field of human rights;
  • review the safeguards provided 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;
  • to study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation;
  • engage in human rights education 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 NGOs and institutions working in the field of human rights



The commission does not have the power of prosecution. It can merely make recommendations to the government or recommend to the courts to initiate proceedings based on the inquiry that it conducts.



The commission receives complaints in thousands every year. These relate to –

  • custodial death,
  • custodial rape,
  • disappearances,
  • police excesses,
  • failure in taking action,
  • indignity to women etc.

Its most significant intervention has been on disappeared youth in Punjab and investigation and trial of Gujarat riot cases where its intervention proved effective.


State Human Rights Commission

A State Government may constitute a body known as the Human Rights Commission of that State to exercise the powers conferred upon, and to perform the functions assigned to, a State Commission.

At present, 24 states have constituted SHRC.



Bibliography : NCERT – Indian Constitution At Work  &  wikipedia

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