The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is a statutory body, established in 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Act,1993. This act was amended in 2006.

The NHRC is the watchdog of human rights in India. The chairman of NHRC should be a retired chief justice of India.


Hearing a petition on extrajudicial killings in Manipur, the Supreme Court noted that the National Human Rights Commission, the “protector, advisor, monitor and educator of human rights”, had referred to itself as “a toothless tiger” – an abject admission of the statutory body’s helplessness and failure.


Successful examples:


  • Some of the famous interventions of NHRC include campaigns against discrimination of HIV patients.
  • It also has asked all State Governments to report the cases of custodial deaths or rapes within 24 hours of occurrence failing which it would be assumed that there was an attempt to suppress the incident.
  • An important intervention of the Commission was related to Nithari Village in Noida, UP, where children were sexually abused and murdered.
  • Recently, NHRC helped to bring out in open a multi crore pension scam in Haryana.
  • It also is looking up the sterilization tragedy of Chattisgarh.
  • NHRC seeks factual report from Defence Ministry on allegations of human rights violations of armed forces by stone pelters in Jammu and Kashmir.




  • Painstakingly investigates human rights violation cases, sometimes in remote areas, with its limited resources. But at the end when NHRC arrives at a finding, it can only recommend remedial measures or direct the state concerned to pay compensation. It does not have power of prosecution.
  • Even in the Rohingya refugees case, where the notice issued by it to the central government may serve to open up a space of dissonance within the dominant status quo on the issue,
  • but not be able to achieve anything more.
  • It is dependent on the Government for manpower and money. The Central Government shall pay to the Commission by way of grants such sums of money as it may consider fit.
  • NHRC cannot investigate an event if the complaint was made more than one year after the incident. Hence, a large number of genuine grievances go unaddressed.
  • Violations by armed forces cannot be effectively investigated (no power to summon witnesses)
  • Overburdened with complaints: It has limited strength. With increase in complaints it becomes difficult to address the cases


India’s “toothless tiger” might need drastic dental surgery, but nothing stops it from raising its hackles now and then. In order to ensure Individual’ rights, Government must take steps to reform NHRC by solving the hurdles that NHRC is facing presently.


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