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The Environmental Aspect of Justice

Context

  • President Droupadi Murmu recently stated that society must now consider the environmental dimension of justice, and she also emphasised the importance of humans learning to treat nature and biodiversity with dignity and respect.
  • She was speaking at a Human Rights Day event hosted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

Relevance

GS Paper 2: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

Mains Question

Examine critically the role of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in India’s protection and promotion of human rights. (250 Words)


About NHRC

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is a statutory body established under the Protection of Human Rights Act of 1993.
  • The Commission is the country’s human rights watchdog.
    • Human Rights are the rights to life, liberty, equality, and dignity guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in international covenants and enforceable by Indian courts.

NHRC objectives:

  • To strengthen institutional arrangements that allow human rights issues to be addressed in their entirety in a more focused manner;
  • To investigate allegations of excesses independently of the government, in a way that highlights the government’s commitment to protecting human rights.

Composition of NHRC

  • The Commission is a multi-member body consisting of a chairperson and five members.
    • The chairperson should be a retired Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge.
    • Members must be a serving or retired Supreme Court judge, a serving or retired chief justice of a high court, and three people (at least one of whom must be a woman) with knowledge or practical experience in human rights.
  • The President appoints the chairperson and members based on the recommendations of a six-member committee comprised of – o the Prime Minister as its head o the Speaker of the Lok Sabha o the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha o the Leaders of the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament o the Central Home Minister
  • The chairperson and members are appointed for a three-year term or until they reach the age of 70, whichever comes first.
  • The chairperson and members are re-appointable.

Functions of the Commission

  • Inquire, on its own initiative or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf, into a complaint of- o Violation of human rights or abetment or o Negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant;
    • Intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court with the approval of such court;

Powers of NHRC

  • When investigating complaints under the Act, the Commission shall have all of the powers of a civil court hearing a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
    • It has the authority to summon and compel witnesses to testify under oath, as well as to compensate victims of police brutality.

The Commission’s Major Achievements:

  • Since its inception, the Commission has undertaken several significant projects.
    • It has championed the cause of prisoners, patients in mental health institutions, bonded labourers, people with disabilities, women and children, and the economically and socially disadvantaged sections of the country.
    • The Commission issued guidelines in May 2010 requiring every death in a police action to be reported to the NHRC within 48 hours of the incident.
  • The NHRC has also spoken out against laws such as the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA), which had the potential for abuse and human rights violations.
  • The Commission also travels to different states to hold open hearings to learn about people’s problems.
  • In support of environmental conservation, President Droupadi Murmu has urged the public to treat nature and biodiversity with dignity and respect.
  • Speaking at the National Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Day function, she urged people to strive to broaden their understanding of justice.
    • Human Rights Day commemorates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
  • On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly approved and proclaimed it.
  • This year’s Human Rights Day theme is ‘Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All.’

February 2023
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