NHRC Deferred for Third Time: A Major Setback for India


The Sub Committee of Accreditation of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) decided to defer the accreditation of India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC-India) for the second consecutive year. This decision, made during a meeting of the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) with representatives from New Zealand, South Africa, Honduras, and Greece,(The Hindu 13, May, 2024), marks a significant setback for NHRC-India.

GANHRI: Role and Importance:

GANHRI was established in 1993 as the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (ICC). It has been known as the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) since 2016, and is a member-based network organization. It is largest human rights organization in the world and the head quarter is based at Geneva, Switzerland. At present GANHRI has 120 members among them 88 are having “A status”, which means full compliance of Paris principles the others are having “B status”, it means partial compliance.   The A status members can participate in voting and hold governance but B status member just participate in the meetings.

GANHRI ensures individual NHRIs’ compliance with internationally recognized standards known as the Paris Principles. These principles set out minimum standards that NHRIs must meet to be considered credible.

Paris Principles:

The Paris Principles were defined at the first International Workshop on National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights held in Paris on 7 – 9 October 1991. They were adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Commission by Resolution 1992/54 of 1992, and by the UN General Assembly in its Resolution 48/134 of 1993. In addition to exchanging views on existing arrangements, the workshop participants drew up a comprehensive series of recommendations on the role, composition, status and also functions of national human rights institutions (NHRIs).

The following are highlights:

          The Paris Principles require NHRIs to be independent in law, membership, operations, policy, and control of resources. They also emphasize a broad mandate, pluralism in membership, adequate powers, resources, cooperative methods, and engagement with international bodies.

Accreditation process:

          Accreditation takes place through a rigorous, peer-based process conducted by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA). The Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) is the body responsible for making recommendations on accreditation. The SCA is comprised of one ‘A’ status institution from each of the four NHRIs regional networks i.e., Africa, America, Asia Pacific and Europe.

NHRC-India: A historical perspective

          NHRC-India was established under the parliament Act of Protection of Human Rights in 1993. From 1999 onwards India had A status, the accreditation had reviewed 2006, 2011, 2016 and 2017. According to The Hindu (13, May, 2024), In 2016 India status was deferred but restored in 2017

Reasons for deferment:

          The SCA’s recommendation for deferral could be reason out from last year’s report because the latest report is yet to be released. There are various reasons, pointed out;

Lack of transparency in appointing members to the NHRC:

The appointment of members and other staffs to the Commission has been criticized by media and others due to its political in nature. This complete violates the principle of autonomy.

Conflicting Interest:

The appointment of police officers to oversee human rights investigations is considered conflicting interest moreover, these appointments were opposed by various civil society organizations, human rights activists and political parties, Thus the principle of broader mandate and norms of human rights standard is violated.

The lack of gender and minority representation on the member panel:

Pluralism is one of the significant principle of Paris principles. During last 30 years There were four women appointed in the Commission. India is land of diversity of religions, linguistic and culture but this pluralistic aspect does not reflect in the Commission’s membership panel. For instance, lack of minorities and other marginalist sections like Dalits and tribes do not have their representation. In the mean time In the March, 2024 some of the Human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to SCA expressing their deep concern regarding human rights situation in India. The New Indian Express points out that (dated on 21st May, 2024) “…The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, [has] raised concerns about the increasing restrictions on the civic space and discrimination against minorities in India ahead of the country’s General Elections,” the letter said. These concerns were also raised by UN human rights experts who drew attention to “attacks on minorities, media and civil society” in India, it said.

Implications and the Way Forward:

The Indian government must take the deferment of GANHRI accreditation seriously. As India aspires to attain superpower status by 2047, it cannot afford to ignore its human rights conditions. Multinational companies often consider a country’s human rights record before investing, and as a UN member, India must abide by various conventions and rules, including the 1993 GA resolution on NHRIs and the GANHRI agreement.

India has historically been a forerunner for many developing countries, adopting parliamentary democracy, universal suffrage, secularism, and non-alignment during the Cold War. It is crucial for NHRC-India to implement all SCA recommendations to reaccredited with ‘A’ status and continue its leadership role in human rights.

Let us hope for a swift and effective response from NHRC-India to address these concerns and restore its prestigious standing in the international human rights community.

Dr. P. Sekar, Researcher in Human Rights Defender AlertIndia (HRDA)

Email- [email protected] 


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