The Protection of Human Right Act, 1993 has been enacted pursuant to the directive under Article 51 of the Constitution and also the commitments taken at Vienna conference. It defines human right as the right relating to liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Indian constitution as embodied in the fundamental rights and the International covenants.
Section 37 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 empowers the Government to constitute one or more special investigative teams consisting of such police officers as it thinks necessary for the purpose of investigation and prosecution of offences arising out of violations of human rights. The Commission’s power to utilize the services of any officer or investigating agency of the Government for conducting any investigation pertaining to the inquiry is however made dependent on the concurrence of the Government by section 14(1).
The Human Rights Courts constituted under section 30 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 is competent to entertain any complaint or take cognizance of any case complaining violation of right to privacy due to obtrusive surveillance of police and give appropriate relief both under criminal as well as civil law. Human Rights Court is also competent to award compensation under section 357, Cr.P.C.
The National Human Right commission (NHRC) has been conferred a wide range of tasks in securing basic freedom to all citizens. It has called for “Stringent action against those who are responsible for perpetrating inhuman treatment and torture” to persons while in custody and award of immediate relief to the victim’s family. The commission passed this order while awarding Rs.2 lakhs as compensation to the family of a 38-year-old person who died as a result of torture during custody. The Jammu and Kashmir Govt .was directed to pay this amount and was asked to cover it from “those delinquent officers”
Under the Human Rights Protection Act of 1993 (amended in 2006), the NHRC has the power to “visit, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, any jail or other institution under the control of the State Government, where persons are detained or lodged for purposes of treatment, reformation or protection, for the study of the living conditions of the inmates thereof and make recommendations thereon to the Government.”
On 14 December 1993, Vide Letter No. 66/SG/NHRC/93, NHRC issued directions on “Custodial Deaths/Rapes which are as under:
“In view of the rising number of incidents and reported attempts to suppress or present a different picture of these incidents with the lapse of time, the Commission has taken a view that a direction should be issued forthwith to the District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of every district that they should report to the Secretary General of the Commission about such incidents within 24 hours of occurrence or of these officers having come to know about such incidents. Failure to report promptly would give rise to presumption that there was an attempt to suppress the incident.”
On 10 August 1993, responding to concerns over the poor quality of post mortem inquiries the NHRC further instructed Chief Ministers of States that all postmortems of custodial deaths would now need to be videoed and sent to the Commission. The NHRC stated that:
“Scrutiny of the reports in respect of all these custodial deaths by the Commission very often shows that the postmortem in many cases has not been done properly. Usually the reports are drawn up casually and do not at all help in the forming of an opinion as to the cause of death.”
The establishment of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) under the Protection of Human Rights Act has also helped focused on the issue of custodial violence committed by police in India and ill-treatment of detainees, constituting a serious denial of basic human rights by the police. The NHRC took prompt measures to monitor incidents of custodial violence leading to death. It ordered that all cases of death or rape in custody should be reported to it within 24 hours. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984 passed by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1984 and came into force on June 26, 1987. India signed the convention ten years later, in 1997. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) obliges signatory states to “ensure” that rights set out in that treaty, including the right to freedom from torture is available to one and all.
Objectives of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
Relevant objectives of the Commission’s Previsions which have bearing on custodial violence are as under-
1. To study, investigate and review all matters relating to the safeguards provided under the Constitution and the Laws for protection and promotion of Human Rights of all sections of the Society, and make recommendations on the steps necessary for effective implementation of the safeguards provided for this purpose.
2. To study and review existing constitutional and legislative provisions relating to the preservation and promotion of Human Rights, and recommend amendments thereto so as to overcome any lacunae, inadequacies or shortcomings in such legislation.
3. To recommend enactment of new laws, as may be considered necessary by the commission, to further strengthen the legal framework for protection and preservation of human rights of all sections of society.
4. To look, suo-moto or on complaint, into matters relating to deprivation, of human rights, non-implementation of Laws enacted to provide protection and prevention of violation of Human Rights, and non-compliance of police decisions, guidelines, or instructions issued to ensure the protection of human rights of the Citizens.
5. To inquire, suo-moto or on complaint by the victim or anyone else on his behalf, into specific complaints of violations of the civil and political rights, abetment thereof or negligence in performance of duties connected therewith
6. To study and make recommendations in respect of the system of criminal administration and prison reforms etc., which may be relevant in the context of prevention of violation of human rights.
Major thrust seems to lie in elevating awareness on human rights issues in general and the objective of inculcating the rights values amongst the bureaucratic wings in particular.
Powers of the National Human Rights Commission
The Commission shall while enquiring into complaints under this Act, have powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure and particularly of the following matters namely-