LS nod to Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill

LS nod to Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill

Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai speaks in the Lok Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

The Lok Sabha on Friday passed a bill to revamp the process of appointment of chairpersons of the National and state human rights commission and also to make the institutions more representative.

The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill was passed by a voice vote after the government gave assurances to the Lok Sabha about its commitment to upholding human rights amid concerns by the Opposition about the “piecemeal” legislation.

Responding to a short discussion on the Bill, Minister of State for Home, Nityananda Rai said the amendments to the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 would help the government fill vacancies in the National Human Rights Commission and a number of state human rights commissions.

“Out of the 25 State Human Rights Commissions, 13 do not have chairpersons. These amendments will ensure that no post remains vacant,” Rai told the Lok Sabha.

The amendments to the 1993 Act would pave the way for the appointment of a retired Supreme Court judge as the chairman of the NHRC, and a former High Court judge as the chairman of the SHRC. Currently, only a retired Chief Justice of India can be appointed as the NHRC Chairman and a retired Chief Justice of the High Court can become the SHRC Chairman.

The amendments also provide for a reduction in the tenure of chairpersons of national and state human rights bodies to three years from the current span of five years.

The new bill provides for including the chairpersons of the National Commission for Backward Classes, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as members of the NHRC.

The amendments also increase the representation members of the civil society to the Commission from the present two to three, of which at least one member should be a woman.

Opposition members demanded a complete review of the Protection of Human Rights Act which was first enacted in 1993, more than 26 years ago.