By Mohd Naushad Khan

As per the website of NHRC, the vision and mission of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which was established by an Act of Parliament under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 was for the protection and promotion of human rights.

The functions of the Commission as per Section 12 of the Act are to enquire into complaints of violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant. The role of Commission is also to study treaties and international instruments on human rights and suggest recommendations to the Government for their effective implementation.

On October 12, the National Human Rights Commission celebrated its 28th Foundation Day at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi. Celebrating foundation day is a good idea but human rights defenders believe that the institution should introspect as to what extent the commission has worked on its objectives and has the Commission served the purpose. Many experts believe that the Commission should play proactive role and intervene, as and when required, in order to protect the rights of the people and to ensure that the rights of the people are not violated. NHRC should assert itself to protect the rights of the people, to keep the institution alive.    

According to A C Michael, former Member of Delhi Minorities Commission, Govt of NCT of Delhi and National Coordinator of United Christian Forum, India (UCF India), “If I remember rightly, NHRC was established in 1993 as a watchdog with an aim to promote and protect the human rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity as guaranteed in the Constitution of India by late Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao government. Its role is to especially stop disinformation campaigns, targeted attacks, vicious statements, orchestrated-bullying, and all that floats falsehoods and creating false equivalents.

“Its main job is to bring in a sense of reality through coordinated multiple narratives and crediting intellectual opponents while distinguishing between facts and fiction. The members of NHRC are expected to have control over both past and future without losing sight of what truth means. So that using propaganda becomes impossible to evade the identity of the truth and stop criminalising the dissent.”

Ravi Nair, Director of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, remarked, “The NHRC never spoke up for Human Rights. Under the first three Chairpersons there was a pretence of doing so. It is little surprise to any informed observer that the present Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has decided to take the alleged National Institution to a new low if that could be achieved at all from where it is now. The exuberant praise for Mr. Amit Shah, the Union Home Minister for the abolition of statehood of Jammu and Kashmir was the zenith of flattery.”

Nair added, “The NHRC is presently a waiting room for former judicial officers, retired heads of intelligence agencies and sundry diplomats and bureaucrats who live in the eternal hope that they will be pitchforked into gubernatorial positions in state capitals or as heads of diplomatic missions even if it be San Marino, Luxembourg or Paraguay. No posts in central or francophone Africa, please. The Hindutva Government also uses the Plumb Line quite effectively to take soundings on the bottom that a culpable international community can descend to in their connivance of the metamorphosis from an electoral democracy to a Hindu ethnocracy.

“The 2019 reaccreditation of the Indian NHRC with “A” status to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) was stupefying! More so when the Indian NHRC had not addressed any of the areas indicated for improvement in their NHRC as was assessed by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of GANHRI in November 2016 and the report published in January 2017.”

He further said, “The SCA decided to defer NHRC’s application for accreditation to its second session in November 2017. The SCA in its January 2017 report gave specific recommendations to NHRC and the Government of India concerning composition and pluralism, selection and appointment of members, appointment of senior staff (secondment from government), political representation, and engagement with civil society, annual reports and complaints. Willing Mir Jafars in the non-governmental community were not hard to find to sing hosannas to the NHRC.”

“While the other NGOs, many of them who do some work on the ground continue to importune the hard of hearing NHRC with their pleas. At the same time keep petitioning GANHRI about how useless the Indian NHRC is! Consistency will not be their epitaph!. The NGOs who run with the hare and hunt with the hound must do so as their European donor benefactors require them to do so. After all, what is a few hundred thousand Euros thrown at Indian NGOs to keep the figment of human rights scrutiny and engagement alive for public opinion in Europe! The NHRC should not be touched with a bargepole. If you have a problem, go to Law Courts. At least they function in fits and jerks,” Nair argued.

Advocate N.D. Pancholi, who is a senior standing Counsel in Delhi High Court and Supreme Court and  President of  Delhi National Office People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said, “The present dispensation at the Centre is intent on reducing such institutions as NHRC to non-entity and purposeless and NHRC is responding well. Though the violence against downtrodden and minorities is on the increase, the NHRC is under self-imposed inactivity where its intervention is needed most.”

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