National Human Rights Commission

National Human Rights Commission
The National Human Rights Commission is an autonomous statutory body* that came into being under the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 (September 28) primarily for the well-being of Indian citizens. It was later amended in 2006.

Along with the NHRC, State Human Rights Commissions and Human Rights Courts for protection of Human Rights were also set under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993. 

The National Human Rights Commission is an important topic included in the forthcoming Kerala PSC 10th Preliminary exam syllabus. 

We attempted to keep the matter as basic as possible in order to minimise confusion regarding the no. of NHRC members and other details, so we hope this helps.

Basic Facts

  • Established in October 12, 1993.
  • HeadquartersSardar Patel Bhavan, New Delhi (Formerly Manav Adhikar Bhawan).
  • EpithetWatch Dog of Human Rights in India.
  • Motto – Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah (May All be Happy).*
  • Total Members 6 (Chairman & 5 members).
  • Rangnath Mishra
    First Chairman of NHRCJustice Ranganath Misra.
  • Current Chairman of NHRC Justice Arun Kumar Mishra (11th).
  • First Malayali Member of NHRC – Fathima Beevi (1993).
  • First Malayali Chairman of NHRCJustice K.G. Balakrishnan (6th).
  • Longest-serving Chairman of NHRCJustice K.G. Balakrishnan.
  • Current Secretary-General of NHRCR.K. Bhargava.
  • Article pertaining to NHRC – Part III of the Constitution (Article 12 to 35; Fundamental rights).

What are Human Rights?

According to Section 2 of the Protection of Human Right Act, 1993:

“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.


In 1992, all the chief ministers across the states in India were summoned by then President R. Venkataraman in order to lay the foundation for the National Human Rights Commission.

Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 was based on the Paris Principles (Category A) of October 1991.

Paris Principal was the first of its kind international workshop conducted on 7–9 October 1991 for the protection and promotion of human rights. These are later endorsed by the UN General Assembly as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 20 December 1993 via Resolution 48/134.

Structure of NHRC

The national human rights commission is comprised of 9 members. Out of which one is chairman, 4 are ex-officio/deemed members, and the other 4 full-time members.
  • Appointed byPresident of India. (Section 4, Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993)
  • Term3 years or till the age of 70 years. (Section 6, Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993)
  • Removed byPresident of India. (Section 5, Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993)
  • Selection Committee Members: (Section 4, Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, 6 members)
    • Prime Minister (Head / Chairman),
    • Union Home Minister,
    • Speaker of the Lok Sabha,
    • Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha,
    • Leaders of the Opposition in both the Houses of Parliament.
  • Divisions – Commission also has five Specialized Divisions.
    1. Law Division, 
    2. Investigation Division, 
    3. Training Division,
    4.  Administration Division,
    5. Policy Research & Programmes Division.

Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019

The Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 was amended two times in history so far. One was in 2006 and the other was in 2019. Details of the Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 are given below:
  • Presented by – Amit Shah (Home Minister).
    • Presented on – 2019 July 8.
    • Passed by Lok Sabha – 2019 July 19.
    • Passed by Rajya Sabha – 2019 July 22.
    • President signed the Bill on – 2019 July 27.
    • Enforced as the law on – 2019 August 02.
  • The term of office was reduced from 5 to 3 years.
  • Total no. of members – 6 (Chairman & 5 members; excluding  ex-officio members).
    1. Chairman of NHRC – Judge /Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and is also eligible for re-appointment.  (Section 7, Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993)
    2. One member – is/was a Judge of the Supreme Court of India.**
    3. One member – is/was a the Chief Justice of a High Court.**
    4. Three Members –  persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights.
      • Out of the 3 members, one must be a woman.
  • Increased no. of ex-officio members to 7. They are as follows:
    • Chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities,
    • Chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes,
    • Chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, 
    • Chairperson of the National Commission for Women,
    • Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, &
    • Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.
  • The Secretary-General can now exercise all the administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions) under Chairman’s guidance.
  • Removed the 5 year limit of reappointment.
**Only after consultation with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court can a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court or a serving Chief Justice of any High Court be nominated.

The chairman or the members may resign after submitting the resignation letter to the President. The President can also remove a member of the commission for proven misbehavior or incapacity.

List of Chairman & Acting Chairmans of NHRC

The Former chairpersons of the National Human Rights Commission were as follows:

Sl. No.NameTerm

Justice Ranganath Mishra

26 Oct 199324 Nov 1996


Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah

26 Nov 199624 Oct 1999


Justice J. S. Verma

4 Nov17 Jan 2003


Justice A. S. Anand

17 Feb 2003 31 Oct 2006


Justice S.. Rajendra Babu

2 April 2007 31 May 2009


Justice K. G. Balakrishnan

7 June 201011 May 2015


Justice H. L. Dattu

29 Feb 2016 2 Dec 2020


Justice Arun Kumar Mishra

2 June 2021 Incumbent

There have been 3 acting chairpersons for the National Human Rights Commission so far, of which one is from Kerala:

Sl. No.NameTerm

Dr. Justice Shivaraj Patil

1 Nov 2006 – 1 April 2007


Justice G.P. Mathur

1 June 2009 – 6 June 2010


Justice Cyriac Joseph

11 May 2015 – 28 Feb 2016

Functions of NHRC

Section 12 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, lays down functions of NHRC, namely:
  • Proactively or re-actively inquire into infringements of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant.
  • Undertake and promote research in the field of human rights.
  • Review the factors, including acts of terrorism that violate human rights, and recommend appropriate remedial measures.
  • Can study international treaties/instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation,
  • By leave of the court, to intervene in court proceedings relating to human rights.
  • To visit 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 and make recommendations.
  • Review the safeguards provided by or under the Constitution or any law for the time being in force for the protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation.
  • Engage in human rights education among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars, and other available means.
  • Support the efforts of NGOs and institutions working in the field of human rights.
The NHRC is a reckoning force when it comes to its power over child rights, whether it may child abuse (POCSO) or child labor like that happened in the case of Nithari village of Noida (Uttar Pradesh), where children were sexually abused and murdered.

Limitations of NHRC

  • The NHRC cannot hold jurisdiction in the following cases:
    • Frivolous cases,
    • Cases older than one year,
    • Cases pertaining to service matters,
    • Cases that are anonymous, pseudonymous, or vague.
  • Has limited jurisdiction over cases pertaining to the armed forces, BSF, or any other paramilitary forces.
  • Recommendations made by the NHRC are not binding.
  • Doesn't have the power of prosecution over authorities that if they don’t implement NHRC's recommended orders.
  • Can't take any action against Human rights violations by private parties.
  • Despite being an autonomous body, it is dependent on the Government for manpower and money.
The National Human Rights Commission submits its annual report to the President of India who in turn forwards it to each house of the Parliament.


  • Human Rights DayDecember 10.
  • The document that is widely recognized as the start of Modern Democracy and the cornerstone for Human rights – Magna Carta of 1215 / the Great Charter.
  • *Autonomous Body – an organization set up by the Govt. for a specific purpose. In this case, it should be specified NHRC is not a constitutional body.
  • *Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah – Source unclear; but not from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
  • Chairperson of the National Commission for Women – Rekha Sharma.
  • Chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes – Vijaya Sampla.
  • Chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes – Harsh Chouhan.
  • Chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities – Syed Shahezadi.
  • Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities – Kamlesh Kumar Pandey.
  • Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights – Priyank Kanoongo.
* updated as per current statistics:2022

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