National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in India can be most effective when its tasks are adequately supported by other mechanisms that ensure the accountability of a government. In light of the above observation assess the role of NHRC as an effective complement to the judiciary and other institutions in promoting and protecting human rights standards.

Published: January 22, 2015

The thrust of the NHRC, in accordance with the legislation that created it, is w.r.t civil and political rights, and not socio-economic ones. The NHRC cam review safeguards and treaties, inquire into violations of human rights by public servants, educate people and raise awareness on human rights issues, intervene in proceedings relating to human rights issues with the permission of the Court and also visit jails and other institutions controlled by the state government to evaluate the living conditions of inmates.

A HRC can be effective only when its independence is guaranteed. The NHRC is wholly dependent on the central government for funding and personnel, which raises questions of its independence. Also, the NHRC has very limited investigative powers, and not allowed to conduct any investigation against members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and the para-military forces. Additionally, the NHRC has the capacity to only provide advise and recommendations to the Government, and its rulings cannot be enforced. There is also a backlog of cases before the Commission, which further raises questions as to whether there is speedy disbursal of justice. Though the NHRC as a body is effective in itself, there are some structural and statutory limitations which prohibit it from being truly complementary to the judiciary and other institutions in promoting and protecting human rights standards.

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