Human rights commision

From Justice Definitions Project

What is NHRC?

The National Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Protection of Human Rights Act.[1] Afterwards, it was amended by the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2019.[2] The purpose of establishing the National Human Rights Commission was to give effect to the UN Declaration on Human Rights 1948[3] and ensure the protection of citizens from cruelty, torture, indignity, and inhuman treatment.

The NHRC's main functions include raising awareness through various means, intervening in human rights violations by government officials and armed forces, and advocating for justice in delayed cases[4]. It also holds the authority to direct the court in cases of delayed justice, ensuring compensation for victims and addressing major human rights violations. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in combating violations against marginalized groups such as women, children, religious and caste minorities, people with disabilities, prisoners, refugees, and the LGBTQ+ community.

Official Definition of NHRC

A definition for the term “National Human Rights Commission” has not been codified but the NHRC's official website defines it as the “embodiment of India’s concern for the promotion and protection of human rights”[5]. The Protection of Human Rights Act defines “Human Rights” as the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India[6].

Legal Framework related to NHRC

Protection of Human Rights act 1993

The Protection of Human Rights Act of 1993 is a pivotal legislation in India that not only constitutes the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) but also delineates its function and powers[7]. The Act serves as a crucial framework for addressing human rights violations and promoting the protection of fundamental rights. As per Section 12 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in India has significant functions and powers. It can investigate complaints related to Human Rights violations, intervene in judicial processes involving such allegations, and inspect state-controlled institutions, making recommendations based on its observations. The NHRC is authorized to scrutinize constitutional articles protecting human rights, suggest punitive measures, and examine hindrances to the enjoyment of human rights, offering recommendations for appropriate remedies, including those related to acts of terrorism.

State Human Rights commission

The Protection of Human Rights Act outlines the framework for creating State Human Rights Commissions at the state level. These commissions are empowered to investigate violations of human rights. Specifically, those falling within the purview of subjects covered under both the state list and concurrent list in the seventh schedule of the Indian constitution. This legislation is aimed at ensuring a dedicated and systematic approach to addressing concerns related to human rights violations at the state level. Presently, 25 states have taken steps to constitute their respective State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC).

According to the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the State Human Rights Commission is endowed with various functions. These include inquiring suo motu or on a petition presented to it, intervening in any proceeding related to allegations of human rights violations before a court, subject to the approval of that court. The commission is also tasked with reviewing factors, including acts of terrorism, that impede the enjoyment of human rights and recommending appropriate remedial measures. Additionally, the commission is authorized to undertake and promote research in the field of human rights.

Appearance in Official Databases

National human rights commission – official website

The official website of the National human rights commission[8] provides the act and rules related to the National human rights commission. Additionally, it offers monthly reports where one can find statistics such as the cases registered and disposed of, and Suo-Motu cognizance cases. The statistics also cover cases where the NHRC recommended monetary relief during the same month.  

A screenshot of Monthly statistics as shown on the NHRC website
A screenshot showing statistics such as Suo-moto cognizance and monetary relief as recommended by NHRC


HRCNet is an online portal developed and maintained by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) with the aim of simplifying the management of complaints submitted by concerned citizens. Through this platform, users can easily file complaints, search for existing ones, and check the status of their cases. The comprehensive user manual guide to lodge complaint under HRC Net is also provided.

A screenshot of HRCnet webpage

NHRC Dashboard

The Dashboard provides statistics on number of cases registered, disposed off, cases under process, monetary relief awarded, suo moto cases, human rights defenders cases, spot enquiries, and other such activities by NHRC.

The NHRC Dashboard provides statistical information relating to all schemes and projects by NHRC.
Detailed report on complaints disposed off by NHRC detailing the nature of such disposals.

Research that engages with NHRC

India Justice Report 2022[9]

The study evaluates the capacity of 25 State human rights commissions based on four key themes: human resources, diversity, workload, and budgets. Seven evenly distributed indicators are employed as benchmarks for fair comparisons against states' self-established standards. The total score, obtained by summing the performance on each indicator, enables a comparative ranking of State Human Rights Commissions (SHRCs) in the effective delivery of justice.

, India Justice Report assessed (but did not rank) the user-friendliness of SHRCs' websites. Except for Uttarakhand, no state offered its citizens a complete bouquet of services.

Assessing the effectiveness of the National human rights commission, India, vis-a-vis the Paris principles relating to the status of national human rights institutions[10]

This research paper critically examines the effectiveness of India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in line with the Paris Principles governing National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). It covers the historical context, the development of human rights law in India, and the establishment of the NHRC through the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993. The paper then conducts a detailed analysis of the NHRC's compliance with the Paris Principles, exploring aspects like representation, selection procedures, financial autonomy, and its overarching mandate. Furthermore, it highlights statutory limitations, encompassing legal and jurisdictional constraints, to provide a comprehensive assessment of the NHRC's efficacy as a national human rights institution.

Needed: More Effective Human Rights Commissions in India[11]

This research paper discusses the establishment of India's National Human Rights Commission in 1993 and its evolution in response to national and international concerns about human rights violations. It highlights structural and practical limitations faced by the commissions, including the inability to enforce recommendations, composition criteria issues, time constraints, and challenges related to funding and bureaucratic functioning. The paper emphasizes the need for advocacy to bring about changes in the structure and functioning of human rights commissions for improved efficiency, with proposed reforms including enhancing their authority and addressing practical challenges. Despite the National Human Rights Commission proposing amendments, no significant action has been taken to implement reforms.

International experiences

United States of America

In the traditional sense, the United States doesn't have a national human rights institution, but it has the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (CCR)[12]. Established by the Civil Rights Act of 1957[13], the CCR is an independent, bipartisan commission. It investigates claims of discrimination in areas such as race, colour, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, including issues related to voting rights and justice administration[14]. Although the commission doesn't have enforcement powers, its commissioners work to enhance the enforcement of federal civil rights laws. The recommendations from the CCR often lead to actions in Congress.


Established in 1977 by the Government of Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC)[15] operates under the Canadian Human Rights Act[16]. Its authority includes investigating and resolving complaints of discrimination in employment and service provision within federal jurisdiction[17]. Additionally, the CHRC enforces the Employment Equity Act[18] to ensure equal opportunities for designated groups: women, Aboriginal people, the disabled, and visible minorities among federally-regulated employers. The Commission plays a key role in upholding human rights, disseminating information about these rights to the public and employers.

United Kingdom

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)[19] is a public body in Great Britain, formed under the Equality Act 2006[20]. It serves as a national human rights institution, striving to protect and promote human rights throughout Great Britain. Section 3 of the Equality Act 2006 outlines the EHRC's duty to work towards a society where everyone has an equal chance, free from prejudice or discrimination, with respect for human rights, equal opportunities for all, and mutual respect based on diversity and shared values[21]. Section 30 enhances the EHRC's ability to seek judicial review and intervene in court proceedings[22].

Also known as

National human rights Institutes (NHRIs)



  1. Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993
  2. LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK (2019). Lok Sabha Passes Protection Of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill [Read Bill]. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Dec. 2023].
  3. Universal Declaration of Human Rights | United Nations. [online] United Nations. Available at: [Accessed 27 Dec. 2023].
  4. Vision & Mission | National Human Rights Commission India. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Dec. 2023].
  5. About the Organisation | National Human Rights Commission India. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Dec. 2023].
  6. The Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA) 1993, § 2(d).
  7. The Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA) 1993, § 12.
  9. India Justice Report: Ranking States on Police, Judiciary, Prisons and Legal Aid (2022). available at:
  10. Assessing the Effectiveness of the National Human Rights Commission, India, vis-à-vis the Paris Principles Relating to the Status of National Human Rights Institutions | The Age of Human Rights Journal. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Dec. 2023].
  11. Tiwana, M. (2004). Needed: More Effective Human Rights Commissions in India. [online] Available at:
  12. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Dec. 2023].
  13. Public Law 85-315
  14. Our Mission | U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Dec. 2023].
  15. (2023). Home | Canadian Human Rights Commission. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Dec. 2023].
  16. Canadian Human Rights Act, RSC 1985, c H-6.
  17. (2016). About Us. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Dec. 2023].
  18. Employment Equity Act, SC 1995, c 44.
  19. Homepage | EHRC. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Dec. 2023].
  20. The Equality Act 2006.
  21. The Equality Act 2006, §3.
  22. The Equality Act 2006, §30.
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