Wakeup NHRC, you are Up for Review of Accreditation


The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India was established in 1993. In 30 years of its history, it has undergone a process of accreditation in 2006, 2011, 2016, 2017 and 2023. Next week, i.e., the Last week of March 2024, NHRC India is going for re-accreditation before the Sub Committee of Accreditation (SCA) of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI). In March 2023, SCA – GANHRI deferred the accreditation status of NHRC India as it was found to be non-compliant with the Paris Principles, which are minimum standards for any National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) which are so basic and very much essential in fulfilling the NHRC Mandate of Protection and Promotion of Human Rights.

The Paris Principles were adopted by the United General Assembly in 1993, which relate to the status of NHRI and set out the minimum standards that NHRIs must meet in order to be considered credible and to operate effectively. Pluralism, independence, and effectiveness are the three key pillars of the Paris Principles, which indicate a strong institution capable of protecting and promoting human rights.

Indian NHRC was accredited with ‘A’ status in 2008, 2011, and 2017.  It was deferred for one year in 2016 and 2023. In March 2023, SCA deferred accreditation on the grounds of Pluralism and engagement of various stakeholders at the international, regional and national levels. The SCA Asked the NHRC to furnish information and evidence about the involvement of police officers in investigation, composition and pluralism, selection and appointment of Chairperson and members of NHRC, appointment of the secretary general, NHRC’s Cooperation with other human rights bodies and NHRC’s effectiveness in addressing human issues by review of discriminatory laws.

The Indian NHRC has been given one year to address the issues raised by SCA, and NHRC tried to show that it addressed the issues:

1.     Former Indian Police Service officers head the Investigation Division of NHRC; last month, NHRC appointed Shri Jay Bhatnagar (Jharkhand cadre IPS officer) as Director General for the Investigations division.

2.     Appointing one women member, Smt Vijaybaharathi Sayani, right before its submission to SCA GANHRI on December 28, 2023. This appointment was delayed 633 days after Smt. Jyotika Kalra was demitted to the office on 04.04.2022 and highlighted by SCA in its March 2023 recommendations. Currently, NHRC has 2 member positions vacant since Justice Prafulla Chandra Pant, who demitted office on 925 days ago on 11.09.2021, and Justice D. Murugesan, who demitted office 2006 days ago on 20.09.2018.

3.     The President of India appoints the members and chairpersons based on the recommendation of the selection committee, which does not provide any formal involvement of civil society in the process. The recent appointment of a women member failed to adhere to the recommendations of SCA in 2017 and 2023 by advertising vacancies and having broad consultation in the selection/appointment process.

4.     SCA recommends that NHRC members must not be seasoned from public service but yet its two members Dr. Danyaneshwar Manohar Mulay who is an Indian Foreign Service officer and Shri Rajiv Jain a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. Even the NHRC Secretary General, Shri Bharat Lal, was a former Indian Forest Service Officer.

5.     NHRC hosted a civil society consultation on September 5, 2023, to show that it is engaging with Civil Society Organisations. The Indian Civil Society, led by the All-Indian Network of National and State Human Rights Intuitions (AiNNI), boycotted the consultation as it was just a box-ticking exercise by having a meeting with 8 representatives who were members of NHRC core group and chairperson without NHRC members and deemed members.

6.     NHRC failed to review discriminatory laws which are passed in the parliament by suspending the opposition members and without having any reasonable discussion on various laws such as Criminal Law Amendment Bills, Rules formulated for the Citizen Amendment Act, Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, Personal Data Protection Bill and Forest Conversation Amendment Bill.  Despite having the powers to intervene in any court or judicial proceeding before any court the NHRC failed to intervene in Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, Citizenship Amendment Act, Manipur violence and many other cases where gross human rights violations and civic freedoms are involved. NHRC is not even the member of Asia Pacific Forum Human rights Defenders (HRDs) Working Group, the working group submitted its 2023 report in which India topped the list of HRD violations. The APF working group report 241 violations but NHRC India considered only HRD violations 5 cases in 2023.

Without addressing any of the issues which are highlighted by SCA GANHRI in March 2023, NHRC India is going for accreditation. It has already hosted the 26th Biannual Asia Pacific Conference on the 20th and 21st of September 2023 despite the deferral by SCA GANHRI. The hosting was done after NHRC India increased its funding more than 3 times when compared to last year (From 90,000 $ to 3,20,000 $) to APF in 2023. The Indian Civil Society led by AiNNI has repeatedly raised how NHRC India has failed to uphold its mandate and maintained silence on gross human rights violations in the country, failed to engage with stakeholders at international, regional and national levels and boycotted the APF conference.

At present, Indian civil space is completely shut, and this is mentioned in a joint statement on March 7, 2024 by fifteen UN special rapporteurs, human rights defenders and civil society facing unprecedented challenges due to the restriction of civic freedoms. AiNNI interest is not only in NHRC, but also in 160 National and State Human Rights Institutions. call now is for the NHRC to incorporate the recommendations of SCA GANHRI into its statute and procedural regulations, until then not to ask for an ‘A’ grade.

A country which wants to be a global leader in economic front necessarily should have a better track record, while asking for its review of accreditation, NHRC allow yourself sufficient humility to offer you time to change the statutes and procedural regulations rather than force the SCA to downgrade you.  

Ashish Reddy is an Advocate and legal researcher who is currently serving as a Regional Coordinator of Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA)for southern India. He is also a member of the All India Network of Individuals and NGOs working with State and National Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI).


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