Human Rights, Stories

Data: In About 90% Cases Registered by NHRC, the ‘Nature of Incident’ is Reported as ‘Others’


According to various media reports, the GANHRI, a UN linked body, has deferred the accreditation of India’s NHRC for the second consecutive year, signalling concerns over India’s human rights record. But what do the numbers say about the cases registered by the NHRC?

According to various media reports, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), a UN linked body, has deferred the accreditation of India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for the second consecutive year, signalling concerns over India’s human rights record. National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) with ‘A’ status can participate fully in international and regional activities. They have the right to speak at the UN Human Rights Council and UN treaty bodies, act as representatives in multilateral discussions, vote, and hold leadership roles in NHRI networks. NHRIs with ‘B’ status can join GANHRI meetings but cannot vote or hold leadership positions. India’s human rights watchdog, NHRC’s ‘A’ status is under the lens now.

India’s former Finance Minister P Chidambaram expressed his disappointment on Twitter regarding the GANHRI’s decision to decline accreditation to India’s NHRC for the second consecutive year. He tweeted, “It is sad – and a shame – that the GANHRI has declined accreditation to India’s NHRC. The status of NHRC as an accredited Human Rights body was suspended in 2023 and now again in 2024.” He noted that GANHRI concluded the NHRC failed to demonstrate its independence from government interference, calling it a rebuke to both the NHRC and the Indian government.

What is GANHRI’s accreditation and why is it significant? Why was NHRC’s status deferred? How has NHRC’s performance been over the years? This story aims to address these questions.

GANHRI promotes and strengthens NHRIs worldwide

Established in 1993, GANHRI, formerly known as the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, is an international body that promotes and strengthens NHRIs worldwide. GANHRI facilitates cooperation among NHRIs, enabling them to share best practices and collaborate on global human rights issues. It provides support, capacity building, and accreditation to ensure NHRIs comply with international standards, particularly the Paris Principles.

The Paris Principles emphasize pluralism, independence, and effectiveness

The Paris Principles establish the minimum standards that NHRIs must meet to be credible and effective. These principles emphasize three key pillars: pluralism, independence, and effectiveness. The Paris Principles outline several key requirements for NHRIs:

  • Broad mandate: NHRIs should be capable of promoting and protecting all human rights.
  • Broad functions: NHRIs should provide advice, report, monitor, handle complaints, and educate on human rights, among other responsibilities.
  • Independence from government: This should be ensured through legislation or constitutional provisions.
  • Pluralism: The composition of NHRIs should reflect the diverse social forces involved in human rights promotion and protection.
  • Adequate powers: NHRIs should be able to initiate inquiries and investigations, gather necessary evidence and documents, consult with NGOs and State institutions, and publicize their reports and recommendations.
  • Adequate resources: NHRIs should have sufficient funding, staffing, infrastructure, and institutional capacity to perform their functions.
  • Cooperative work: NHRIs should collaborate with other State institutions, NGOs, and civil society groups for effective human rights work.
  • International engagement: NHRIs should contribute their knowledge and expertise to international and regional human rights bodies and mechanisms.

Sub-Committee on Accreditation reviews and gives accreditations to NHRIs based on their adherence to principles

The compliance to the principles is monitored and reviewed by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA). It is also responsible for the accreditation. This process involves representatives from NHRIs across the four regions: Africa, Americas, Asia Pacific, and Europe, engaging in a rigorous, peer-based evaluation. NHRIs undergo SCA review when they apply for the initial accreditation, when seeking re-accreditation every five years, and when there are changes in the NHRI’s circumstances that could impact its adherence to the Paris Principles.

As of December 2023, GANHRI had 120 members including 88 NHRIs with ‘A’ status accreditation and 32 with ‘B’ status accreditation. In accordance with the UN Paris Principles and the GANHRI Statute, ‘A’ status is given when the NHRI is fully compliant with the Paris Principles and ‘B’ when it is only partially compliant with the Paris Principles.

NHRC achieved ‘A’ status accreditation for the first time in 1999

The NHRC of India achieved ‘A’ status accreditation for the first time in 1999. This accreditation was reaffirmed during reviews in 2006 and 2011. In the 2016 review process, the accreditation was deferred to the second session in November 2017. During this session, the SCA recommended that the NHRC be granted ‘A’ status accreditation once again.

In 2023, the review of NHRC was deferred for a year. Although the latest report about the recent deferment is pending, the Sub-Committee identified several areas of concern regarding the NHRC’s adherence to the principles in 2023, as outlined below.

  • Involvement of Police Officers: The NHRC’s reliance on police officers for investigations, as mandated by the Protection of Human Rights Act, raised questions about its independence from government interference. The SCA recommended amending the investigative structure to remove government secondments, ensuring independent appointment of qualified staff.
  • Composition and Pluralism: The NHRC’s composition lacked gender balance and representation from diverse backgrounds, contrary to the Paris Principles. The SCA urged filling vacant positions and amending PHRA to ensure pluralistic representation.
  • Selection and Appointment Process: The NHRC’s selection process lacked transparency, broad consultation, and formal involvement of civil society organizations. The SCA recommended a more inclusive and transparent process to enhance independence and public confidence.
  • Appointment of Secretary General: The NHRC’s practice of appointing a senior civil servant as Secretary General raised concerns about perceived independence. The SCA recommended amendments to enable independent recruitment for this role.
  • Cooperation with Civil Society: The NHRC’s engagement with civil society, particularly NGOs and human rights defenders, was deemed ineffective. The SCA advised enhancing collaboration and engagement outside core groups.
  • Addressing Human Rights Issues: The NHRC was urged to address concerns about reviewing laws, protecting marginalized groups’ rights, and handling complaints effectively, ensuring transparency and public accessibility of its positions on human rights issues. The SCA reported that it received a third-party submission highlighting concerns about the NHRC not fulfilling its mandate to review the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010, Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.

Cases of human rights violations registered in NHRC have increased

Data from NHRC’s website and Dataful indicate that the number of cases registered in NHRC has increased from about 76.6 thousand in 2019 to more than 112.3 thousand in 2022, registering an increase of 46%. However, the figure dropped to about 79 thousand cases in 2023, a reduction of more than 29%. In the first four months of 2024, a total of 21.64 thousand cases have been registered.

According to our previous analysis for the period from 2015-16 to 2019-20, there was a steep fall in the number of cases registered by the NHRC. However, in 2020 and 2021, the cases registered have increased to 2015-16 levels.

Among the cases registered between 2021 and 2024, close to 90% in each of the years were registered under the ‘others’ category. Cases related to women, children, SC/ST/OBCs, custodial deaths, police encounters, and bonded labour made up the remaining 10 to 12%. Categorizing a large portion of complaints under ‘others’ hampers the analysis of the nature of complaints received by NHRC. This lack of detailed categorization makes it difficult to identify and effectively address specific human rights issues.

Backlog of pending cases has dropped

Data also indicates that the backlog of pending cases has declined over the years. Cases pending and cases disposed of include those from preceding years and the current year. Except in 2021, more cases are being disposed of than those registered each year.

The role of NHRC and its effectiveness have always been a matter of discussion. Reports by various global bodies like the Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have highlighted that there have been human rights violations by the government. The reports of the deferment of NHRC’s status come at a time when the Ministry of External Affairs rejected US State Department’s report on alleged human rights abuses in India that spoke about the Manipur ethnic clashes. The government maintained that the report is deeply biased and reflects a very poor understanding of India. The US State Department’s report criticized the government for taking minimal credible steps or action to identify and punish officials who may have committed human rights abuses.


About Author

A bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s in social science, she is driven by ardent desire to work with this unique combination to create her own path instead of following the herd. Having served a stint as the college union chairperson, she is a strategist who is also passionate about nature conservation, art and loves solving Sudoku.

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