NHRC to Complete 18 years Next Month; Many States Lagging
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will complete 18 years of its existence next month but many states and union territories are still to set up state panels or fill up vacancies of members and chairpersons.
Fifteen states and union territories, including Delhi, have not set up State Human Rights Commissions while the panels existing in nine states have no full time chairpersons or members, according to NHRC documents.
Worse is the case of Himachal Pradesh which the NHRC says is "non-functional" since 16th July 2005 due to non-filling of posts of chairperson and members.
Under Section 21 of The Protection of Human Rights Act of 1993, State Human Rights Commissions are required to be constituted by state governments.
According to a senior NHRC official, five of nine state commissions have no full time chairpersons. Out of the nine, five states -- Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur and Rajasthan -- do not even have acting chairpersons.
The northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura do not have SHRCs.
The other three states which do not have SHRCs are Goa, Haryana and Uttarakhand.
Noting that the NHRC can only "persuade" and "not force" state governments, the official said, "We have SHRCs in 20 states but only 11 have full time chairpersons. We feel that the spirit of the Act has to be replicated in all states."
In an Action Taken Report submitted by the Home Ministry in Parliament in the recent Monsoon session of Parliament, it said the NHRC is keen that every state sets up SHRCs.
Citing an example, the Home Ministry said there were 5,433 complaints of human rights violations from Delhi to the NHRC in 2008-09 and all these were filed with NHRC only.
"The NCT of Delhi did not have any SHRC during the period reported upon," it said.
According to the NHRC official, this burden of the Commission could have lessened if there was a state-level body in Delhi.
"We have disposed of 5,406 cases during that period. 27 cases are still pending," the official said.
NHRC statistics says that 2,525 complaints were received at the Commission from Delhi in the past six months since April.
"Of these, 534 cases are yet to be disposed off. We are dealing with all the cases," the official said.
In 2010-11, the Commission received 5,929 cases out of which 232 are still pending and the figures for 2009-10 were were 5,228 and 54.
"These statistics show the scope of state-level bodies," the official said.
There is a provision in the Act for setting up of human rights courts for the purpose of providing speedy trial of offences arising out of violation of human rights.
Uttar Pradesh had earlier set up such a court but it was not functioning now, he said.
Noting that many cases are now being forwarded to state commissions, the official said the disposal of cases in SHRCs were affected as they do not have the required infrastructure.
The NHRC also views strong and active SHRCs as a deterrent to "unscrupulous" NGOs cashing in on human rights issues and minting money.