The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993

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The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 was enforced on 28th January 1993.  The National Human Rights Commission in India is an autonomous public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993. “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.  The national Human Rights Commission is in New Delhi.

“Commission” means the National Human Rights Commission defined under section 2 sub clause (c) and established under section 3 of the Act. The Commission shall be constituted of members as laid under provisions of section 3 sub clause (2) which lay that there shall be a Chairperson who shall be a retired chief justice of India, 2 members who have been a judge in the Supreme Court and other member shall be chief Justice of a High Court apart from this there shall be two other members who have worked in the field of human rights. Apart from the Commission there shall be a National Commission for minorities and National Commission for women. The members of Commission shall be appointed by the President after obtaining recommendations from Prime Minister for appointment of chairperson and the members shall be appointed in consultation with Speaker of the House of the People, Minister in-charge of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People, Leader of the Opposition in the Council of States and Deputy Chairman of the Council of States. The Chairperson shall hold office till a period of five years or till obtaining seventy years of age, whichever is earlier and the members shall be hold office for five years and shall be eligible for reappointment. The act also regulates the conditions of services, salaries, allowance and appointment of additional staff under chapter II of the Act.

Chapter III of the Act deals with powers and functions of the Commission dealt in sections 12 to 16. The commission is granted powers to suo-motu look into matter concerning violation of human rights. The commission shall also take action in cases where victim has filed an application for violation of human rights. Apart from this the commission may look into court proceedings pending for violation of human rights, keep a check on jails, spread human rights literacy, and encourage non-governmental organisations to work in the field of human rights. The Commission under section 13, while inquiring into complaints under the Act shall have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. It shall have power to receive complaints, issue summons, receive evidence, examine witness and requisition any public document where after the Commission shall forward the matter to Magistrate who shall further try the matter.  Every proceeding before the Commission shall be a judicial proceeding under sections 193, 228, and 196 of the Indian Penal Code, and the Commission shall be deemed to be a civil court for all the purposes of section 195 and Chapter XXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The Commission is bestowed with investigation powers while taking help of government officer’s under section 14.

Chapter IV deals with the procedure after a complaint has come into notice of Commission. The Commission shall after receiving a notice of violation of human rights shall inquire into the matter. The State or Central Government shall inform commission of any such violation incase there is no such notice from the Government the Commission shall suo-motu look into the matter. Where the inquiry discloses the commission of violation of human rights or abetment thereof by a public servant it shall notify the government and demand compensation to complainant and initiate proceedings against such officer. The commission may also approach Judicial courts for any directions such as writs, orders etc. Recommend government authorities to look into the matter and initiate relief to victims. The commission shall make a report on inquiry and send the same to concerned authority. Commission under section 19 is granted special powers with respect to human right violations made by armed forces.

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Section 21 of the act provides for establishment of state Human Rights Commission headed by Chairperson who shall be retired Chief justice of a High Court, there shall be one other member who shall be a judge either in High Court or district Court. The State Commission shall inquire only into matters listed in List II and List III of seventh schedule. The chairperson of commission shall be appointed by the Chief Minister, the members shall be appointed by speaker of legislative assembly, minister in charge of department of home and leader of opposition. The members shall be appointed for a period of five years. The state shall appoint other officers as it deems necessary. The State Commission from time to time submits report on matters of concern and urgency.

Human Rights court is also established under section 30 of the Act for the purpose of providing speedy trial of offences arising out of violation of human rights. The State Government, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, by notification, specify for each district a Court of Session to be a Human Rights Court. A special public prosecutor shall also be appointed to try such cases.

The Central and State government shall provide the commission with grants  of which the state and the national commission shall maintain proper accounts which shall be audited by auditor general. The Commission shall not inquire into matters pending in State Commission. The State and Central from time to time shall make rules of regulation for the commission.

The Act is legislated to establish the National and State Human Rights Commission. The act gives immense powers to the Commission in furtherance of prevention of violation of human rights.

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by Vibhuti Nakta.