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ALL INDIA RADIO (AIR) DISCUSSION : Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019

The Topic covers GS paper 2 [Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation]

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Introduction

  • The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Amit Shah. 
  • The Bill amends the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, and provides for a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC), as well as Human Rights Courts.

What is the composition of NGRC?

  • Under the Act, the chairperson of the NHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  
  • The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a Judge of the Supreme Court will be the chairperson of the NHRC. 
  • The Act provides for two persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC. 
  • The Bill amends this to allow three members to be appointed, of which at least one will be a woman.  
  • Under the Act, chairpersons of various commissions such as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and National Commission for Women are members of the NHRC. 
  • The Bill provides for including 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.
  • Under the Act, the chairperson of a SHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court.  
  • The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice or Judge of a High Court will be chairperson of a SHRC.   

What is the term of the office and the powers?

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  • The Act states that the chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRC will hold office for five years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.  
  • The Bill reduces the term of office to three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.
  • Further, the Act allows for the reappointment of members of the NHRC and SHRCs for a period of five years.  
  • The Bill removes the five-year limit for reappointment.  
  • 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 amends this and allows the Secretary-General and Secretary to exercise all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), subject to the respective chairperson’s control.
  • The Bill provides that the central government may confer on a SHRC human rights functions being discharged by Union Territories.  
  • Functions relating to human rights in the case of Delhi will be dealt with by the NHRC.  

What is the issue?

  • Several Opposition parties objected to the Bill in its present form, saying it has many gaps and was not in conformity with the Paris Principles — Paris Principles are a set of international standards which frame and guide the work of human rights institutions. 
  • The Bill fails to address the issue of autonomy of the commission. 
  • Opposing the proposal to reduce the tenure of chairperson of the national human rights body from five years to three years, the opposition mentioned that the curtailment in tenure will bring inconsistency in the functioning of the panel.
  • The reappointment clause will make chairman and members toe the government line so that they get another term.

Conclusion

  • The NHRC is the National Human Rights Commission of India, responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as “Rights Relating To Life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants”.
  • It applies to the whole of India and in case of J&K, it applies to matters pertaining to Union List and the Concurrent List only.
  • According to Section 2 of the act -“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.