NHRC: Institutional Design and Composition


BY PREMKUMAR HEIGRUJAM

Excerpts from a tutorial class discussion with Dr. Anupama Roy. 25 October, 2011. Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was instituted by a parliamentary statute. That means, NHRC is created by the Parliament and is dependant upon it.

There are many constraints and autonomies given by this statute with respect to the operating of NHRC.

But first, let’s see why these institutes came into existence in the 1990s.

NHRC was created for the state to present itself as one which is not just governing but also protecting. There were pressure from United Nations and the United States on issues related to Human Rights. Those who are seeking the US aid necessitated to set up such institutes.

The state is co-opting the language of rights. Now it defines what constitutes the rights. The institute designed is constrained or made possible by the state.

The membership, the composition of the institute is determined by bureaucracy. There is a “logic of bureaucracy.” Besides, the chairman of NHRC is always a political appointee.

This control of the government is always needed to be questioned.

It is upto the institute to convert its powers to functions. Does NHRC go beyond its powers or limit within it?

In the case of Chakma refugees, NHRC went beyond and was successful.

However, in the case of human rights violations by Salwa Judum, NHRC limits itself within its powers.

1993 onwards, NHRC was actively against extra-ordinary laws.

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