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International Human Rights Day

  • 10 Dec 2018
  • 6 min read

On December 10, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) observes Human Rights Day. The day is celebrated every year to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1948 as the shared standard yardstick to protect human rights across the globe. This year marks the 70th anniversary of adoption of UDHR.

  • The five-yearly "United Nations Prize in the field of Human Rights", constituted in 1966, is also awarded on this day.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • Proclaimed under UNGA resolution 217 A in Paris, the declaration sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.
  • It states that ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’
  • It entitles everyone to all the rights and freedoms and prohibits slavery and slave trade in all forms.
  • Other rights recognized under the declaration are right to a nationality, right against arbitrary arrest, detention or exile, right to seek asylum from prosecution, right to freedom of movement and residence, etc.
  • The Universal Declaration is not a treaty, so it does not directly create legal obligations for countries. However, it is an expression of the fundamental values which are shared by all members of the International community.
  • Human rights are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as in the absence of human dignity, sustainable development cannot be achieved. Human Rights are driven by progress on all SDGs, and the SDGs are driven by advancements on human rights.
  • Most of the rights listed in the Constitution of India are in two parts: The Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • The NHRC was established in 1993 under the statute of Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
  • The Commission consists of:
    • A Chairperson who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
    • One Member who is or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court.
    • One Member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court.
    • Two Members to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights.
    • The Chairpersons of four National Commissions (Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Women and Minorities) serve as ex officio members.
  • As per the act, NHRC is a recommendatory body vested with the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
  • Though it is empowered to take suo moto cognizance of the human rights violation cases, it cannot entertain cases that are older than 1 year.
  • Apart from looking into the complaints of the human rights violations, it reviews safeguards provided under the Constitution or any Law, makes recommendations for effective implementation of International Conventions/ Covenants, undertakes research and organises seminars and discussion programmes on human rights issues.

Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2018

  • Recently, the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha which seeks to amend the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. The salient features of 2018 amendment Bill are:
    • Not only a person who has been Chief Justice of India, but also a Judge of the Supreme Court can be the chairperson of the NHRC. This will enlarge the scope of eligibility and scope of selection of Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission.
    • Three members to be appointed (from two), of which at least one will be a woman. It also seeks to include 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.
    • The Bill reduces the term of office to three years (from five years) or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.
    • The Act provides for a Secretary-General of the NHRC and a Secretary of a SHRC, who exercise powers as may be delegated to them. The Bill allows the Secretary-General and Secretary to exercise all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), subject to the respective chairperson’s control.
  • The Amendment will strengthen the Human Rights Institutions of India further for effective discharge of their mandates, roles and responsibilities. Moreover, the amendment will make National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) more compliant with agreed global standards and benchmarks concerning its autonomy, independence, pluralism and wide-ranging functions in order to effectively protect and promote human rights.
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