NHRC – composition , functions and role in safeguarding human rights

NHRC – composition , functions and role in safeguarding human rights

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National Human Rights Commission

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The most important development in India is the creation of the National Human Rights Commission on 29th September 1993 as the result of an ordinance promulgated by the President. Subsequently in the following year, the act of the Parliament provided this body a statutory status.


The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is consisting of a chairperson and seven other members. Out of the seven members, three are ex-officio members and four others are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a Selection Committee. The Committee is consisting of the Prime Minister who is the chairman of this Committee, Union Home Minister, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Leaders of the Opposition in both the Houses of Parliament.

The members of the NHRC are as follows:


1. The Chairperson is a retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

2. One member is either a working or a retired judge of the Supreme Court.

3. One member is either a working or a retired Chief Justice or a judge of a High Court.

4. Two persons having knowledge or practical experience in matters relating to Human Rights.


Besides them, the Chairpersons of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Minorities and National Commission for Women shall be its ex-officio members.


The Chairperson and the members of the NHRC have a tenure of five years. But if any member attains the age of 70 years before the completion of his tenure, he or she has to retire from the membership.


The Chairperson or any other member of this commission can be removed by the President even before the expiry of their full term. They can be removed only on the charge of proved misbehavior or incapacity or both, if it is proved by an inquiry conducted by a judge of the Supreme Court. The headquarters of the commission is at New Delhi. However, with the permission from the government, it can establish offices at other places in India.

Powers and Functions:

The NHRC has the following functions:

1. To investigate complaints regarding the violation of human rights either suo moto or after receiving a petition.

2. To investigate the failure of duties on the part of any public official in preventing the violation of human rights.

3. To intervene in any judicial proceedings involving any allegation of violation of human rights.

4. To visit any jail or any other institution under the control of the State Government to see the living conditions of the inmates and to make recommendations thereon.

5. To review the safeguards provided under the constitution or any law for the protection of the human rights and to recommend appropriate remedial measures.


6. To study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and to make recommendations for their effective implementation.

7. To undertake and promote research in the field of human rights.

8. To encourage the efforts of the non-governmental organisations working in the field of human rights.

9. To spread human rights literacy among various sections of society and to promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other means.

10. To review all facts related to the activities of the terrorists which obstruct the way of the protection of human rights and to make recommendations for their effective implementation.

While making an inquiry into the complaints submitted to it, the commission enjoys the powers of a civil court. It can recommend to both the central and state governments to take appropriate steps to prevent the violation of Human Rights. It submits its annual report to the President of India who causes it to be laid before each House of Parliament.

It usually sends a copy of the inquiry report to the petitioner and also to the concerned government. The government may be asked to inform it about the action taken or proposed to be taken on the concerned complaints.

The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, empowered the State Governments to set up their own commission for such a purpose. The chairman and the members of such State Commission are appointed by the Governor in consultation with the Chief Minister, Home Minister, Speaker and Leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Assembly.


Though the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission is a bold step, yet sometimes it fails to discharge its duties effectively and efficiently. It does not have any machinery of investigation. It always depends on the staff of the central and state governments. So its investigation sometimes fails to be impartial.

In most cases, it asks the concerned Central and State Governments to investigate the cases of the violation of Human Rights. It also approaches the Supreme Court and the High Courts to provide judicial relief to the victims. Soli J. Sorabjee criticized it as “India’s teasing illusion” due to its incapacity to render any practical relief to the aggrieved party.

On the issue of the violation of Human Rights, India is unnecessarily dragged to controversy. As a sovereign state, when it takes action against all disintegrating forces, the issue of Human Rights violation is raised. The maintenance of a proper balance between these two facts is the highest need of the time. The National Human Rights Commission, so far in India has successfully demonstrated its willingness to act as an effective organisation in the protection of Human Rights.

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National Human Rights Commission of India


Human Rights


What are the limitations on the powers of the National Human Rights Commission of India?

1 Answer

Jatin Verma

Jatin Verma , Educator, Unacademy

  1. The commission can take cognizance of complaints only against the action or inaction of a public authority and not a private authority.
  2. Also, civil and property disputes as well as service matters, except the pension and family pension issues, are beyond the commission’s jurisdiction. [Service matters are dealt with by Central Administrative Tribunals]
  3. It cannot take cognisance of an incident of human rights violation, if it is reported a year after its occurrence.

The Functioning of NHRC and its interventions are not adversarial to the functioning of the governments, as ultimately the aim of both- the Govt and NHRC is to work towards the promotion and protection of human rights through good governance.

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