Author: Deepanjali Singh
Sharda University, Uttar Pradesh
WHAT IS NHRC?
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India is a statutory public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights. The NHRC is the National Human Rights Commission of India, responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as 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.
President appoints the chairperson and members of the NHRC on the recommendation of a six member committee consisting of:
(i) The Prime Minister (chairperson).
(ii) The Home Minister.
(iii) The Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
(iv) The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
(v) The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
(vi) The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
FUNCTION OF NHRC
According to the protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, below are the functions of NHRC:
(A) Undertake and promote research in the field of human rights.
(B) Spread human rights literacy among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights.
(C) Encourage the efforts of Non-Governmental organizations and institutions working in the field of human rights.
(D) Undertake such other functions as it may consider necessary for the promotion of human rights.
National Human Rights Commission has already become an outstanding human rights institution with its national reputation and by performing the main roles to guard rights. It is one of the important groups that take responsibility through creating total awareness and to promote the rights which have been given the key importance in the Act.
MISSION AND OBJECTIVE OF NHRC
To promote e-Governance for empowering citizens, promoting the inclusive and sustainable growth of the Electronics, IT & IT’s industries, enhancing India’s role in Internet Governance, adopting a multipronged approach that includes development of human resources, promoting R&D and innovation, enhancing efficiency through digital services and ensuring a secure cyber space.
NHRC was constituted under Section 3 of the 1993 Act for better protection of human rights. The term ‘human rights’ is defined in Section 2(d) of the 1993 Act, which reads as follows:
2. (d) “Human rights” means 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. NHRC has the powers of a civil court. It has the Authority to grant interim relief.
ROLE OF NHRC DURING COVID-19
The National Human Right Commission has averted an active participant during this pandemic. In the worst scenario it has taken cognizance of the several acts that reflect the violation of human rights.
NHRC asked Centre to make special facilities for mentally ill people who are not conscious regarding Lockdown: The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, has taken cognizance of a complaint on the alleged violation of human rights of the mentally ill people roaming on the streets across the country amid COVID lockdown. Centre must give necessary guidelines in order to ensure that persons suffering from any kind of mental ailments under their jurisdiction are provided with proper counselling towards necessary precautions for their personal care and protection from the virus and not deprived of basic amenities like food, shelter and medical care etc. At this time of crisis, it becomes the duty of the State to ensure food, shelter and social security for the people belonging to such vulnerable classes. This becomes more necessary because not only the people suffering from mental illness may be deprived of basic amenities but also become easy carrier of the deadly virus posing life threat to many.
NHRC has questioned Delhi Govt. regarding non- availability of beds in Delhi Hospitals: NHRC issues notice to Delhi and Union government on complaint making serious allegations about the difficulties being faced by the general public in Delhi, due to non-availability of beds in the hospitals for the COVID-19 patients and the inadequate number of tests leading to a grim state of affairs and mismanagement, resulting in the death of a large number of people.
NHRC also fought for right to life of constable who died due to improper treatment: National Human Right Commission issued notices to the Delhi Chief Secretary and the Union Home Secretary over the alleged negligence in the treatment of Delhi police constable Amit Kumar, leading to his death from COVID-19 on May 5. The NHRC took cognizance of a complaint alleging that the constable died after being turned away from multiple government hospitals and COVID-19 checking centres, while on the way to another government hospital. Starving a constable to death and that also when he was serving the Nation sincerely is a negligent behavior. Timely treatment to the constable would have saved his life. This incident reflects negligent behavior of hospital authorities.
NHRC sends notice to Delhi govt, Centre on Covid-19 situation in national capital: The commission states that allegedly, there has been massive delay in conducting the last rites of those who died during the pandemic; tests on the bodies of the symptomatic deceased are also not being conducted violating the WHO and ICMR norms, which can be extremely dangerous, NHRC has said that the situation raises an issue of inappropriate approach of the government agencies towards the plight of the public amounting to violation of human rights. “The data indicates that there is urgent need for taking effective steps immediately by the government agencies.”
NHRC issues notice to UP govt in connection with Auraiya accident: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sent notice to the Uttar Pradesh government over reports that bodies of victims in the recent Auraiya road accident and those injured were being carried in the same vehicle by authorities. In a statement, the Commission said it is indeed “unethical and inhuman on the part of authorities” to put the dead bodies in the same vehicle in which the injured migrant labourers were asked to travel. The public servants “failed to deal with the situation sensibly and acted in a cruel manner violating the right to dignity of the poor labourers,”
NHRC issued notice to states regarding release of Prisoners: The Commission issued notice to Maharashtra government regarding inappropriate approach adopted for the release of prisoners to avoid the SARS-CoV-2 infection. The Commission observed that in many jails, the prisoners as well as the staff members have fallen prey to COVID-19 owing to overcrowding, lack of manpower and medical facilities.
NHRC also taken suo motu action for the migrant labours: The NHRC issued notice to govt of Bihar and Gujarat in relation to delay in trains and death of shramik labour's due to hunger. It was reported by media that the trains which were started to ferry labourers to their hometown are arriving late at their destination and also passengers are not provided with food facilities. The Commission observed that the Railways’ attitude towards the migrant workers “borders on barbarism”. “The labourers cannot be treated in such an inhuman manner, just because they are poor and the government has paid for their tickets.”
RECOMMENDATION OF NHRC TO CURB THE SITUATION
The NHRC also urged and encouraged every citizen as well as government to work together through compliance with the law, respect for human rights and dignity to overcome this pandemic. The commission also listed several recommendations with respect to Covid-19. These are:-
1. The Government to provide adequate resources to the National Health Emergency Committee, for effective national response to COVID-19. This Committee should be the coordinating body for all parties or bodies involved in the fight against COVID-19, to maximize impact and efforts as well to prevent the dissemination of confusing information to the public.
2. To strengthen public safety and confidence, the government should ensure that people suspected of having the coronavirus or coming from high risk countries are quarantined as per national or WHO guidelines. Such places of quarantine, however, should meet standards which preserve human dignity and wellbeing.
3. Commission suggested that for the benefit and general good of the public, the Government should put in place measures to enforce the banning of public gatherings. However, these measures should take into account the standards of legality, necessity and proportionality in accordance with risks being evaluated.
4. They suggested that the Ministry of Health, through its Health Education Directorate, should have in place an effective public education and awareness strategy or mechanism through which proper and timely information is communicated to the people, including those with physical limitations, learning difficulties or other challenges. Misinformation and disinformation must be effectively addressed to prevent a social panic.
5. The commission recommended the government to provide adequate essential personal protective equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks, alcohol-base hand sanitizers, and other protective equipment to the Ministry of Health, for quick distribution to medical and public health personnel who are combating COVID-19.
6. They proposed that the Ministry of Trade should work with the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the business community, to ensure the general public is able to have access to and easily purchase essential needs including masks and hand sanitizers at a fair price.
7. They asked the government to provide special social safety, net measures targeting; low income earners, people living in rural and remote areas, persons with disabilities, the aged and elderly and prisoners to ensure that they are able to have access to necessary health protection equipment, health care and overall protection in a timely manner.
8. They listed that people should carefully consider information which is received from sources that are not official or authentic in order not to forward inaccurate information to the general public causing fear, panic and misunderstanding.
9. In addition to other recommendations, the media and citizens should avoid using words or content which can discriminate against or cause social stigmatization against those who have COVID-19, which can potentially increase the contraction of the virus.
In this havoc pandemic, NHRC has played a vital role in creating awareness among the people regarding safety measures that need to be taken care of in order to prevent oneself from being a victim of this. The Commission has also rendered services for human rights protection and at every instance indulged itself in matters where government failed to operate. It has not only issued notices for preserving health and safety but also fought where the human lives were threatened. NHRC acts as a stimulating body for people who are sufferers of this pandemic. This commission guarantees that every human's human right shall be accessed in an exclusive manner wherever it is need of the hour.