Jun 4, 2020

On July 2017, while hearing cases related to alleged encounter killing in Manipur, the Apex Court observed that there’s no doubt that the NHRC has been most unfortunately reduced to a “Toothless Tiger”. The Chairman of the NHRC and former CJI, H L Dattu said that the Rights watchdog needed some teeth to enforce its orders on remedial measures in cases relating to violation. The main reason behind this is because the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (PHR Act) does not empower NHRC to penalise the offenders. There’s a conflict of interest, as the Police officials on deputation, investigating for the NHRC remain attached to their home cadre. Moreover, NHRC cannot directly investigate alleged human rights violations by the armed forces but can only seek a report from the Government on matter. Functions of the Commission are mainly recommendatory in nature and not binding on the concerned authorities. Also the PHR Act categorically does not empower the Commission to act when human rights violations through private parties take place. Unless it is made truly autonomous and there is a political will to strengthen human rights, it will still be labelled as a “toothless tiger”.