Need for the amendment in the existing Act

  • The NHRC was denied A-grade accreditation in 2017 by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), a UN body based in Geneva, due Commission’s failure in ensuring gender balance and pluralism in its staff and lack of transparency in selecting its members and rising political interference.
  • Demand from the certain State Governments has also proposed for amendment of the Act, as they have been facing difficulties in finding suitable candidates to the post of Chairperson of the respective State Commissions owing to the existing eligibility criteria to the said post.

Significance of the recent amendment

The proposed amendments will enable both the National Commission as well as the State Commissions to be more compliant with the Paris Principles concerning its autonomy, independence, pluralism and wide-ranging functions in order to effectively protect and promote human rights.

  • Filling up the Vacancies: The age limit for appointment to the panel has been reduced to fill the vacancies. The amendment has ensured transparency in the appointment of Chairman and members of the Commission.
  • Enabling conditions to incorporate Civil Society: Effort is also to increase the presence of civil Society in the composition of the Commission.
  • Ease of accessibility: The applicants in Union Territories can now appeal to the Human Rights Commission of nearby states instead of coming all the way to Delhi.

Amendments to the original Act of 1993

ProvisionsOriginal Act of 1993Amended Act of 2019
 Composition of NHRCUnder the Act, the chairperson of the NHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The Act provides for two persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC.

Under the Act, chairpersons of various commissions such as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and National Commission for Women are members of the NHRC.
The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a Judge of the Supreme Court will be the chairperson of the NHRC.

The Bill amends this to allow three members to be appointed, of which at least one will be a woman.

The Bill provides for including the chairpersons of the National Commission for Backward Classes, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as members of the NHRC. 
Chairperson of SHRCUnder the Act, the chairperson of an SHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court.The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice or Judge of a High Court will be chairperson of an SHRC
Term of office The Act states that the chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRC will hold office for five years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.

Further, the Act allows for the reappointment of members of the NHRC and SHRCs for a period of five years.
The Bill reduces the term of office to three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.

The Bill removes the five-year limit for reappointment.
Union Territories The Bill provides that the central government may confer on an SHRC human rights functions being discharged by Union Territories. Functions relating to human rights in the case of Delhi will be dealt with by the NHRC.

Protection of Human Right Act, 1993

  • The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 came into force with retrospective effect from September 28, 1993.
  • It applies to the whole of India and in case of J&K, it applies to matters pertaining to Union List and the Concurrent List only.
  • The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 was enacted to provide for the constitution of:
    • National Human Rights Commission (NHRC),
    • State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and
    • Human Rights Courts for the protection of human rights.

Human Right

  • According to Section 2 of the act -“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.

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