Autonomy of NHRC,SHRCs in interest of country, says Rajnath Singh (Update)

New Delhi, Sept.18 (ANI): Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today said that maintaining the autonomy of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the State Human Rights Commissions (SHRCs) is in the interest of the country and assured all possible cooperation from the Centre to make them more strong and effective.

Inaugurating a day-long meeting of the NHRC and SHRCs in New Delhi, he said that India has a long tradition of attaching importance to not only the human rights but also to the rights of all present in this universe.

He said that he fully agrees with the suggestion that in order to make the SHRCs effective, it is necessary to provide them with infrastructure, financial and human resources and would look in this regard into the recommendations of Justice G.P. Mathur Committee as well as the suggestions emanating from today’s meeting. Vacancies in the SHRCs should be filled.

Singh said that there should be no problem in moving the recommendation before Parliament for an amendment in the Protection of Human Rights (PHR) Act, 1993 for constitution of Human Rights Commissions in Union Territories also.

Referring to some of the concerns on human rights, he said that the Centre is seriously looking into the problem of convicted prisoners languishing in jails even after completing their sentences and is trying to find out ways to solve it. Holding it as an inadequacy of the system, Singh said the Centre is issuing advisories to the State Governments to release the prisoners who have completed their sentences.

The Home Minister also expressed serious concern over human trafficking and urged upon all the stakeholders to sit together and prepare an elaborate Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to stop this menace. He also said that some people tend to give importance to the rights of a terrorist over the right of the self-defence of the security forces and questioned, how can some armed persons force the Government to accept their demands?

Earlier, Mr. Justice Cyriac Joseph, Acting Chairperson, NHRC, in his Presidential Address said that it is the constitutional obligation of the State to protect human rights. The NHRC and the SHRCs are recommendatory bodies but it is for the Government to ensure that these do not remain toothless or paper tiger. It may review the PHR Act, 1993 in the light of the experience during the last 22 years of the existence of the NHRC.

He said that the NHRC and SHRCs are autonomous bodies and not Government departments and the PHR Act, 1993 does not permit direct or indirect interference by the Governments in their functioning. However, the quality and the quantity of the activities of the Commissions will depend upon the attitude and support of the Government concern and its response to their recommendations. The effective functioning of the NHRC will enhance the image of India as a nation governed by the rule of law. He said that the Central Government has been, by and large, taking a supportive and positive attitude to the NHRC and expressed the hope that the same could be stated about the SHRCs.

Justice Cyriac Joseph said the NHRC and the SHRCs are not envisaged to be a substitute for the judiciary but these are complementary to the courts. The emphasis in a court of law for penalizing the offender whereas the emphasis of the Human Rights Commissions is on rehabilitation and monetary relief to the victims or their dependents, without prejudice to the criminal proceedings against the offenders. The court conducts trial after the offence is committed, the Commissions’ activities include steps to create awareness and to prevent violation of human rights.

He expressed the hope that the Government will consider expediting the Commission’s recommendations seeking amendments in Section 30 and 31 of the PHR Act, 1993 regarding the establishment and jurisdiction of the Human Rights Courts and the procedure to be followed. He said that the criticism against the NHRC deserves serious attention of the Government and Parliament that the special procedure under Section 19 of the PHR Act, 1993 relating to the complaints of violation of human rights by armed forces has made the Commission powerless and the procedure totally meaningless. The State Governments also urgently required to look into the grievances of the State Human Rights Commissions about the lack of infrastructure and filling of vacancies for their effective functioning.

Several important suggestions emerged during the day-long discussions, focused on making the NHRC and the SHRCs more strong and effective, which will be, after further due deliberations, sent to the Government(s).

NHRC Members, Mr. Justice D. Murugesan and Mr. S.C. Sinha, Mrs. Meera C. Saksena, Acting Chairpersons, Karnataka SHRC and Mr. Justice Jagdish Bhalla, Chairperson, Punjab SHRC chaired the four thematic sessions having participation from the Chairpersons, Members and senior officers of the NHRC and the SHRCs. (ANI)

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