• Why no Human Rights Commission for states : SC questions Centre

    April 19, 2016

    The SC, on Monday, questioned the Centre over its commitment in honoring a year-old apex court ruling, directing the Centre to set up Human Rights Commission in various states, including Delhi. The SC also directed governments of the States of Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Delhi, among others, to set up State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC) within the next six months.

    Solicitor general Ranjit Kumar told a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice U U Lalit that for all practical purposes, Delhi, despite having an assembly, was constitutionally a Union Territory (UT) and, hence, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took care of rights violation complaints. He said despite enactment of Article 239AA and creation of the assembly, a nine-judge constitution bench of the apex court had held that Delhi was a UT. The Centre said human rights violations could be taken care of by the NHRC which also looked into complaints from other Uts.

    The bench said it was not discussing legislative power of UTs. “We are on human rights violations. Are Union Territories utopian islands where no human rights violations take place? Why would a person from Daman and Diu, Puducherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands have to come to Delhi to complain about human rights violations? Why should the Centre not set up human rights commissions in Union Territories and in Delhi?“ it asked. Finding it difficult to step around the questions, the SG told the bench that the government was alive to the issue and was “seriously considering amending Section 21 of the Human Rights Protection Act, 1993“. The provision talks about establishment of state human rights commissions.

    The bench said, “We have no problem if you amend the provision to set up HRCs in states and UTs. Otherwise, you could link the UTs with neighbouring states to empower the concerned State Human Rights Commission to en tertain complains of rights violations in UTs.“ It asked the SG to take instruction and inform the court by April 29.

    The need for SHRC has been an issue of national concern and the topic has also popped up in the media and the Parliament many a times. But the importance that is shown there is somewhat missing since at the moment, there are only 24 SHRC's set up. But the authorities have cited many reasons for the failure, some being problems of funding and logistics. For example, in the state of Nagaland, the problem of finding a suitable candidate has been a long one.

    “We have received applications from the State for the first two positions but they are not eligible. Where do we get an ex chief justice from?” wondered an exasperated senior bureaucrat of the State, who has been working closely to set up the SHRC. Nagaland State, he said, has been attempting to establish one for the past two years but many glitches have hindered the process.

    “We have tried to contact relevant persons from other states to take up the posts but those who are eligible are not willing and those who are willing are not eligible,” the officer lamented. Most judges and justices from other states are engaged in various similar posts, also on other commissions, elsewhere in the Indian Union; many others prefer to be in their own State, while others don’t make the age cut off.



    The problem is not about the intent but about finding the right people to be a part of this initiative. The State Human Rights Commission is an important institution deriving its authority from the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. But the SC rapping the Centre should be seen as a positive encouragement on the part of the apex court, so that the Centre hastens the process of setting up the SHRC's. Maybe the wait is too long. But the more important matter should be the integrity of the members of the Commission. The Commission should be an impartial body consisting of unbiased, democratic and legally biding members. We do not have the dearth of such people in our country of course, right? Then one asks – Why the delay?




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