The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019

The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed in the Rajya Sabha on July 22. It had already been passed in the Lok Sabha on July 19. The Bill will now go to the President for his approval before becoming a law.

What is the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019?

  • The new bill seeks to amend the Protection of Human Rights (PHR) Act, 1993.
  • The earlier act provides for a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC), as well as Human Rights Courts. The new bill has introduced a few changes in the composition of the same organizations.
  • Under the PHR Act, the chairperson of the NHRC was to be a person who had been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The new bill now amends to allow for the elevation of either a retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or a Judge of the Supreme Court to be the chairperson of the NHRC.
  • A similar change has also been made in the composition of the SHRC. While earlier under the PHR Act, the chairperson of an SHRC could only be a person who had been a Chief Justice of a High Court, the new bill now that a person who has been Chief Justice or Judge of a High Court can be the chairperson of an SHRC.
  • The PHR Act had the provision for two persons who had knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC. The new Bill has amended this to allow for three members to be appointed, of which one member must be a woman.
  • The bill has also reduced the office of the members of NHRC and SHRC from five years to 3 years or till the age of seventy, whichever is earlier.

Powers of Secretary-General

The PHR Act had provided for a Secretary-General of the NHRC and a Secretary of an SHRC, who exercised their powers as delegated to them by the chairpersons of the NHRC or the SHRC. The new bill has amended this to allow the Secretary-General and Secretary to enable them to exercise all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), however, it will be subject to the respective chairperson s control.

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