For centuries past, women all over the world have not only, been denied full justice, social, economic and political but as ?weaker section? they have been used, abused, exploited and, then discarded to lead immoral, street vagrant and destitute life till their death. Although they constitute about half the total population and have contributed and sacrificed not less than men in the national freedom struggles at any point of time but they have been deprived of their due shares in various areas of activities and have been subjected to inhuman and humiliating wrongs frombirth to death for no sin.

The general though unfortunate impression has ever since, been that women are sub-human societies, an object of contempt and ridicule, a commodity for barter, an expendable asset and a plaything for mere sexual enjoyment. The ancient Judo-Christian Society regarded women as ?a scorpion ever ready to sting?, and pagan Arab saw in her the devil's whip. The Indian regarded women social evil to be burnt at pyre of her husband. Nowadays, however, women have broken their ill-social shackles and are ready to face the contemporary challenges without any help and hesitation and, consequently, March 8, is formally observed and celebrated in several countries, including India, as a mark of integrated achievements towards the equality of rights, status and dignity of women and their equal participation in economic, social and cultural development in contemporary world scenario.

Women constitute about one-half of the global population, but they are placed at various disadvantageous positions due to gender difference and bias. They have been the victims of violence and exploitation by the male dominated society all over the world. Ours is a tradition-bound society where women have been socially, economically, physically, psychologically and sexually exploited from time immemorial, sometimes in the name of religion, sometimes on the pretext of writings, in the scriptures and sometimes by the social sanctions. The concept of equality between male and female was almost unknown to us before the enactment of the Constitution of India. Of course, the Preamble of the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the landm seeks to secure to its citizens including women folk, justice ? social, economic and political, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, equality of status and opportunity, and promote fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual.

History is a mute witness to the most inhuman suffering that man has inflicted on man.

A man's right to his liberty is the most sacred right for him and therefore, it should not be restrained without the sanction of law. A fruitful and meaningful life presupposes full of dignity, honour, health and welfare, in the modern philosophy. The treatment of human being which offends human dignity, imposes avoidable torture and reduces the man to the level of beast would certainly be arbitrary and is impossible as a code of human conduct in all religion.

Justice P.N. Bhagvati, Supreme Court of India in the ?Seminar of Human Rights? organised by I.L.A. Allahabad submitted in his inaugural address that protection of rights of man was deeply inserted in the Babylonian Laws, Assyrian Laws, hittiti Laws and Dharm of Vedic Time in India. Description of protection right was widely and wisely discussed by Plato, Greek and Roman Philosophers. Their discussion were based on religious foundation. Right to Vote, Right to Trade, Right of access to justice to their citizen etc., were given by City of State of Greece.

King John of England granted Magna Carta to the English baron on June 15, 1215 that their privileges will not be encroached and hammered. The Importance of Magna Carta's resulted into confirmation by Parliament in the year 1216-17 during the period of John's Son, Henry III, the confirmation was done in the year 1297 and was modified by Edward I. Parliamentary supperiority was formed in 1689 by the petition of Rights and Bill of Rights over the Crown and rule of law in England were controlled by documentary authority. Declarations and constitutional branches of many States are supported by the expression ?fundamental right?. The declaration of Independence of Thirteen United States of America in 1776. The Virginia Bill of Rights, 1776, the Constitutions of the United States of 1787 with amendments in 1789, 1865, 1865, 1869 and 1919 of Man of 1789 enlighten other country and accelerated to add provisions in their laws for the Protection of Human Rights.

It was the golden rays of sun enlightening the world of Nineteenth Century to human being to know about Human Right they possess. Worth of human personality began to be realized.

The resultant of Human Rights Movement was experienced by human being after the World War II. During the war whole humanitism was shocked due to heneious crimes committed against the humanity and human rights was perished. The History witnessed silently tyranny and complete lawlessness of Nazi leaders of Germany. Human values and dignities and morality were barbarously negated. Rights to the people became the need of hour to be established for internatioal peace and security.

President Franklin d. Ruosevelt on January 6, 1941 reflected in the Proclamation of Four Freedom and mentioned as :

  1. Freedom of Speech
  2. Freedom of religion
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from Fear

Declaration of President carries weight he said - ?Freedom means the Supremacy of human rights everywhere our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them.?

The growth and evolution of Human Rights and Internatioal Law had achieved a remarkable progress since the year 1945. Several charters, treaties, etc., came into existence for effective enforcement of Human Rights like.


Continuous attempts are being made by the Commission to address various Human Rights Issues.Some of these issues are being monitored as Programmes on the directions of the Supreme Court.

The Programmes in pursuance of Supreme Court Remit are :-

Abolition of Bonded Labour
Functioning of the Mental Hospitals at Ranchi, Agra and Gwalior
Functioning of the Government Protective Home (Women), Agra
Right to Food

Other Programmes and Human Rights issues taken up by the Commission include :-

Review of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Preventing Employment of Children by Government Servants: Amendment of Service Rules
Abolition of Child Labour
Guidebook for the Media on Sexual Violence against Children Trafficking in Women and Children : Manual for the Judiciary for Gender Sensitisation Sensitization Programme on Prevention of Sex Tourism and Trafficking Maternal Anaemia and Human Rights Rehabilitation of Destitute Women in Vrindavan Combating Sexual Harassment of Women at the Work Place Harassment of Women Passengers in Trains Abolition of Manual Scavenging Dalits issues including atrocities perpetrated on them Problems faced by Denotified and Nomadic Tribes Rights of the Disabled Right to Health HIV/AIDS Relief Work for the Victims of 1999 Orissa Cyclone Monitoring of relief measures undertaken after Gujarat Earthquake 2001 District Complaints Authority Population Policy- Development and Human Rights

Abolition of Bonded Labour

The Commission has been involved in the monitoring of the implementation of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act as per the directions of the Supreme Court in WP (Civil) No. 3922 of 1985 (PUCL v State of Tamil Nadu & Others).

The Commission is presently monitoring the BLS (Abolition) Act by calling for information from the States on a quarterly basis on identification, release and rehabilitation of bonded labour.

In September 2000, the NHRC constituted a Group of Experts to closely examine the matter and to prepare a report on the status, suggest methods of improving the existing schemes and make recommendations to effectively implement the laws for abolition of bonded labour system and other connected matters.

The Report of the Expert Group was submitted to the Supreme Court. The Report contained a status of the work relating to the abolition of the bonded labour system in the various States. It detailed the position of the various existing schemes and made several recommendations to amend the Act so as to make it more effective.

The NHRC through its Special Rapporteurs has been interacting with the State Governments and with the Ministry of Labour to evolve suitable measures to eradicate the problem of bonded labour.

The Commission is involved in sensitizing the District Magistrates, Deputy Commissioners, Deputy Development Commissioner and other Senior Officers of the State Government by holding Sensitization Workshops. These workshops are presided over by the Chairperson and Members of the Commission. During 2003-04 sensitization workshops for the District Magistrates were held in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Karnataka. During 2004-05, four additional workshops are proposed to be held.

Functioning of the Mental Hospitals at Ranchi, Agra and Gwalior

The Management of the mental hospitals at Ranchi, Agra and Gwalior came under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court through Writ Petitions (C) No.339/96, No.901/93, No.80/94 and No.448/94 in the matter of Rakesh Chandra Narain etc. v. State of Bihar etc.. The Supreme Court in its Order dated 11 November, 1997 requested the National Human Rights Commission to be involved in the supervision of the functioning of these three hospitals. In pursuance of the Order of the Supreme Court, the Commission remains deeply involved in overseeing the functioning of the Ranchi Institute of Neuro Psychiatry and Allied Sciences (RINPAS), Institute of Mental Health and Hospital (IMHH), Agra and the Gwalior Mansik Arogyashala (GMA), Gwalior. The Commission continues to monitor the implementation of the tasks assigned to these Institutions by the Supreme Court while granting them autonomous status in September 1994.

A Member and Special Rapporteur of the Commission visit these Institutions periodically and submit detailed reports on the working of various services and facilities, treatment and care of patients, training and research activities and community health services as specified by the Supreme Court.

As a result of the monitoring by the Commission, improvements have since been noticed in the working of these Institutions. Admissions and discharge have been streamlined in accordance with the provisions of the Mental Health Act, 1987. A clear shift from custodial to treatment and care concerns is noticeable in the functioning of these institutions. Cell admissions have been totally stopped. Switch over from close to open system of custody of patients is being steadily improved. Incidence of death of patients has come down as a result of close scrutiny of every case by the Commission. Library facilities, training activities and research works have shown appreciable improvement at RINPAS, Ranchi and the IMH&H, Agra. The aspect of Community Mental Healthcare is receiving greater attention than before.

A Core Group headed by a Member of the Commission has been set up for rehabilitation of mentally ill cured patients languishing in the three mental hospitals.

Functioning of the Government Protective Home (Women), Agra

As per the directions of the Supreme Court of India in the Writ Petition No.1900/81 - Dr. Upendra Bakshi & Others v State of Uttar Pradesh vide Order dated 11-11-1997, the Commission has been supervising the functioning of the Government Protective Home (Women), Agra. The District Judge of Agra has been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting monthly inspections and submitting a visit report to the Commission. The Reports are scrutinized by the Commission and appropriate directions given to the State Government for overall improvement of the functioning of the Home.

A Member of the Commission as well as a Special Rapporteur of the Commission frequently visit the Home to make a broad assessment of the functioning of the Institution. The Home was last visited on 5th May, 2003 and certain discrepancies were noticed during the visit. The Commission has taken up the matter with the State Government.

The Commission called the Director (Women's Welfare), Govt. of Uttar Pradesh for a discussion alongwith the Superintendent of the Home and the District Probation Officer, Agra to review the functioning of the Home on 20-01-2004. The Director (Women's Welfare) was directed to take pro-active steps in Agra and elsewhere in the State for effective cooperation between the concerned wings of the administration for effective implementation of the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act. The Director (Women's Welfare) was asked to draw up an action plan within a given time frame for implementation of the Act in law and spirit.

Right to Food

On 3rd December, 1996, the Commission took cognizance of a letter from Shri Chaturanan Mishra, the then Union Minister for Agriculture regarding starvation deaths due to the drought in Bolangir district of Orissa. On 23rd December, 1996, the Indian Council of Legal Aid and Advice and others filed a Writ Petition (Civil) No.42/97 before the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Constitution, alleging that deaths by starvation continued to occur in certain districts of Orissa.

When the Writ Petition came up before the Supreme Court of India on 26th July, 1997, the Court directed as under:-

"In view of the fact that the NHRC is seized of the matter and is expected to give its report after an enquiry made at the spot, it would be appropriate to await the report.Learned Counsel for the petitioner submitted that some interim directions are required to be given in the meantime. If that be so, the petitioner is permitted to approach the National Human Rights Commission with its suggestion."

Pursuant to the Orders of the Supreme Court, the Indian Council of Legal Aid and Advice filed a petition before the Commission on 1st September, 1997 making a number of suggestions in regard to interim relief to the affected population.

After due consideration of the matter, the Commission, on 17-02-1998, arrived at the view that some interim measures should be undertaken for an overall period of two years. The Commission also requested the Orissa State Government to constitute a Committee to examine all aspects of the Land Reform question in the KBK Districts. Further the Commission with the assistance of one of its Special Rapporteur has been regularly monitoring the progress of implementation of its directions.

The Commission observed that as starvation deaths reported from some pockets of the country are invariably the consequence of mis-governance resulting from acts of omission and commission on the part of the public servant, they are of direct concern to the Commission under the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. The Commission holds the view that to be free from hunger is a Fundamental Right of the people of the country. Starvation, hence, constitutes a gross denial and violation of this right.

Following this, the Commission felt the need to formulate a programme of action for making Right to Food a reality in the country. With this in view, a meeting was organized, with leading experts on the subject, in January, 2004 to discuss issues relating to ‘Right to Food’.

The Commission has approved the constitution of a Core Group on Right to Food, that can advise on issues referred to it and also suggest appropriate programmes, which can be undertaken by the Commission.

Review of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929

In order to curb the practice of child marriage in the country, the Commission recommended to the Central Government (Department of Women & Child Development) a number of amendments to the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 in July 2002. In pursuance of these recommendations, the Central Government (Legislative Department, Ministry of Law & Justice) introduced a Bill entitled the Prevention of Child Marriage Bill, 2004 in the Rajya Sabha on 20.12.2004 incorporating almost all the recommendations of the Commission. The Bill is at present under consideration of the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice. The salient features of the Bill are as follows:

  1. To make a provision to declare child marriage as voidable at the option of the contracting party to the marriage, who was a child.
  2. To provide a provision requiring the husband or, if he is a minor at the marriage time, his guardian to pay maintenance to the minor girl until her remarriage.
  3. To make a provision for the custody and maintenance of children born of child marriages.
  4. To provide that notwithstanding a child marriage has been annulled by a decree of nullity under the proposed section 3, every child born of such marriage, whether before or after the commencement of the proposed legislation, shall be legitimate for all purposes.
  5. To empower the district court to add to, modify or revoke any order relating to maintenance of the female petitioner and her residence and custody or maintenance of children, etc.
  6. To make a provision for declaring the child marriage as void in certain circumstances.
  7. To empower the courts to issue injunctions prohibiting solemnization of marriages in contravention of the provisions of the proposed legislation.
  8. To make the offences under the proposed legislation to be cognizable for the purposes of investigation and for other purposes.
  9. To provide for appointment of Child Marriage Prevention Officers by the State Governments.
  10. To empower the State Governments to make rules for effective administration of the legislation.

Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations General Assembly adopted two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 26 March 2000, viz. (1) Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict; and (2) Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Commission recommended these Protocols to the Government of India for adoption. Ministry of External Affairs has informed that the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, New York was authorised to sign the said Optional Protocols, and in whose favour the instrument of Full Powers was obtained from the President of India for signing the same. Accordingly, the above-mentioned Optional Protocols were signed on 15 November 2004, but they are yet to be ratified.

Preventing Employment of Children by Government Servants: Amendment of Service Rules

With a view to preventing employment of children below 14 years of age by Government servants, the Commission recommended that the relevant Service Rules governing the conduct of Central and State Government employees be amended to achieve this objective. The Union Ministry of Personnel and Public Grievances and Pensions (Department of Personnel & Training), has informed the Commission that the Central Government has amended the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968 as well as the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964. Except for the State of Manipur, all the States/UTs have also brought out the required amendments to the Conduct Rules of their employees.

The Commission intends to monitor the issue and see whether the Central and State Governments actually take action against those public servants who continue to employ children as domestic servants.

Abolition of Child Labour

The NHRC has been deeply concerned about the employment of child labour in the country as it leads to denial of the basic human rights of children guaranteed by the Constitution and the International Covenants.

The Commission on ‘child labour has observed that – “No economic or social issue has been of such compelling concern to the Commission as the persistence, fifty years after Independence, of widespread child labour in our country. It prevails, despite articles 23,24,39(e) & (f), 41, 45 and 47 of the Constitution and despite the passing of various legislations on the subject between 1948 and 1986. It has defied the terms of six Conventions of the International Labour Organization to which India is a party and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in addition. Despite the announcement of a National Child Labour Policy in 1987, the subsequent constitution of a National Authority for the Elimination of Child Labour (NAECL) and the undertaking of National Child Labour Projects (NCLP) in an increasing number of areas of our country, the goal of ending child labour remains elusive, even in respect of the estimated two million children working in hazardous industries who were to be freed from such tyranny by the year 2000”.

The Commission focusing its attention on the following industries where from rampant reports of child labour were received. These interalia include the :-

  • Bangle/glass industry
  • Silk industry
  • Lock industry
  • Stone-Quarries
  • Brick Kiln
  • Diamond cutting
  • Ship-breaking
  • Construction-work
  • Carpet-weaving

The Commission monitors the child labour situation in the country through its Special Rapporteurs, visits by members, sensitization programmes and workshops, launching projects, interaction with the industry associations and other concerned agencies, coordination with the State Governments and NGOs to ensure that adequate steps are taken to eradicate child labour.

The Commission believes that unless and until the reality of free and compulsory education for all upto the completion of the age of 14 years is realized, the problem of child labour shall continue. The Commission has involved the NGO sector in the non-formal education of child labourers and a number of such schools/training centres are functioning in the districts of the carpet belt. There has also been a distinct improvement in the level of awareness among the general public about child labour issues.

Guidebook for the Media on Sexual Violence against Children

In order to encourage media professionals to address the issue of sexual violence against children in consistent, sensitive and effective manner, consonant with the rights and best interest of children, the Commission and Prasar Bharati with support from UNICEF have jointly developed a Guidebook for the Media on Sexual Violence against Children. The Guidebook is the culmination of four workshops organised in Goa (1999), Ranchi (1999), Jaipur (2000) and Puri (2000) in which professionals, legal functionaries, police personnel, communication specialists and media professionals participated. The Guidebook aims to facilitate media intervention to protect the rights of children against sexual violence.

Trafficking in Women and Children: Manual for the Judiciary for Gender Sensitisation

The Commission and the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of India in partnership with UNICEF have prepared a Handbook for sensitizing the subordinate judiciary on the issue of Trafficking of Women and Children for Commercial Sexual Exploitation. The purpose of the Handbook is to sensitize the Judicial Officers to the actual situation of the trafficked victims and to provide them with a perspective so that they could proactively safeguard the rights of victimised women and children, through a sensitive interpretation of the law. The Handbook has been finalised and is being printed by the UNICEF.

Sensitization Programme on Prevention of Sex Tourism and Trafficking

In order to sensitize senior representatives of the hotel and tourism industry on various issues relating to sex tourism and trafficking, the Commission in collaboration with UNIFEM and the Women’s Institute for Social Education, Mumbai organised a one-day Sensitisation Programme on Prevention of Sex Tourism and Trafficking. The recommendations that emerged out of this programme were adopted by the Commission and follow-up action is now being taken on them.

Maternal Anaemia and Human Rights

The Commission has been concerned about the right to health, in particular about the deleterious effects of maternal anaemia both on the mother and on the child. It thus took up the issue of the widespread prevalence of iron deficiency among expectant mothers, which has resulted not only in high infant and maternal mortality but also in low birth weight related developmental disabilities, especially among economically disadvantaged sections of the society. In order to evolve a plan of action for systemic improvement in the health care delivery system, it organised a two-day Workshop on Health and Human Rights, with special reference to maternal anaemia in the year 2000, in partnership with the Department of Women & Child Development and UNICEF. The recommendations of the workshop were forwarded to the concerned Ministries of the Central Government for appropriate action.

Rehabilitation of Destitute Women in Vrindavan

The Commission has been engaged in efforts to improve the status and uphold the rights of destitute and marginalized women, particularly widows, living in Vrindavan. Accordingly, it has held meetings with senior officials of the Department of Women & Child Development, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Governments of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal and representatives of NGOs to ensure that their accommodation, pension, health care, cremation, income generation and other needs are met.

Combating Sexual Harassment of Women at the Work Place

The Commission has been receiving a large number of complaints alleging sexual harassment of women at the workplace. It also observed that the Supreme Court guidelines in Vishaka v State of Rajasthan case [No.1997 (6) SCC 241 dated 13.8.1997] were not being implemented adequately in the States/UTs, either in the public sector or in the private sector. Many institutions are yet to set up Complaints Committee (CC) as envisaged in the Supreme Court guidelines. The Commission thus keeps monitoring with the States/UTs. Though most of the State Governments have amended their Conduct Rules and set up Complaints Committees, some States and Union Territories are yet to report.

There was also ambiguity with regard to the exact role of the CC as to whether such a committee could be equated with an Inquiry Committee set up in a disciplinary inquiry, or it would have a wider role. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court in its judgement in Medha Kotwal Lele & Ors. v Union of India & Ors. case [W.P.(Crl.) No.173-177/1999 dated 26.4.2004] has directed that the Complaints Committee as envisaged in Vishaka judgement will be deemed to be an inquiry authority for the purposes of Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964 and the report of the Complaints Committee shall be deemed to be an inquiry report under those rules. In pursuance of this direction, the Central Government (DOPT) has amended sub-rule (2) of rule 14 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965 to incorporate the necessary provision.

Harassment of Women Passengers in Trains.

The Commission has been deeply concerned about harassment of women passengers in trains. In order to find a solution, it held several meetings with the officials of the Ministry of Railways, Railway Protection Force, Government Railway Police and representatives of NGOs. In pursuance of the decisions taken in those meetings, the Ministry of Railways have made available FIR forms in Hindi, English and a few regional languages in trains. It has also incorporated a module on gender sensitisation in the training programmes for the Probationers of the Traffic and Security Department of the Railways. The Commission also recommended to the Ministry of Railways the following – (i) availability of FIR forms in all other regional languages, (ii) preparation and display of messages in the railway coaches, (iii) preparation and display of graphics and other publicity materials at the railway platforms, (iv) printing of the message on the back of the ticket saying that sexual harassment of women in trains is a crime, and (v) preparation of power point presentation that could be made in software for the television showing briefly the issue and its implications.

Abolition of Manual Scavenging

The Commission has been vigorously pursuing the need to end the degrading practice of manual scavenging in the country. It has taken up this matter at the highest echelons of the Central and State Governments through a series of interventions.

The Commission held a number of meetings with the State Governments. On the eve of Independence Day, 2002, the Chairperson, NHRC wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of India drawing his attention towards the problem. As a result, the Prime Minister in his Independence Day speech stressed the need to end the practice of Manual Scavenging . As a follow up of the Prime Minister's announcement, the Planning Commission has prepared a 'National Action Plan' for the Total Eradication of Manual Scavenging by 2007. Emphasis in this Action Plan is on -

  1. Proper identification of those engaged in manual scavenging
  2. Enforcement of the prohibition law
  3. Involvement of NGOs
  4. Better coordination at Central and State levels

According to information available with the Commission the following States have adopted the Central Act:-

Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat , Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal. The State of Punjab has adopted their own similar Act.

States who claim themselves to be "Manual Scavenging Free" are :

Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim; and States who have not yet adopted the Central Act are :

Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Manipur, Rajasthan, West Bengal.

The Union Territories of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu,Lakshadweep and Pondicherry have not furnished the information.

Dalits issues including atrocities perpetrated on them

Deeply concerned by the discrimination and other human rights violations faced by the Scheduled Castes, the NHRC has taken several initiatives to ameliorate their situation and protect their rights. They include the redressing of individual complaints; constitution of a Dalit Cell in 2003 headed by a Member of the Commission with the aim to monitor implementation of programmes; research studies on the socio-economic conditions of the Musahars, and the political and cultural status of dalit women in Haryana; and the preparation of a handbook on discrimination in order to sensitize teachers. The Commission requested Shri KB Saxena, IAS (Retd.), to conduct a study on the atrocities against the Scheduled Castes, which has been completed. The Commission proposes to mount an appropriate campaign in this regard.

Problems faced by Denotified and Nomadic Tribes

The communities designated as Denotified Tribes (DNT) and Nomadic Tribes (NT) of India were identified as "Criminal Tribes" (which included both castes as well as tribes) in pre-independence India. Though the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 was annulled soon after independence, the police, as well as members of the public, frequently and most regrettably continue to treat persons belonging to these communities as "born criminals" and "habitual criminals". They, therefore, remain amongst the most discriminated and disadvantaged groups in the country.

Acting on a petition filed by eminent activist and author, Smt. Mahasvetadevi, President, Denotified & Nomadic Tribals Rights Action Group in May, 1998, the Commission convened a meeting of the Chief Secretaries and senior officers of the concerned States on 15 February, 2000 to deal the matter.

The recommendations included that a retired senior police officer of high reputation may be appointed in every state to watch the cases of atrocities against DNTs. The National Police Academy and other institutions imparting training to police officers be advised to reorient their syllabi and Habitual Offenders Act be repealed. The States were asked to report the action taken on the recommendations made. These included proper enumeration providing education, employment and other infrastructural facilities to them, and work out action plans for DNTs.

The matter has been taken up with the State Governments, and is being pursued by the Commission.

Rights of the Disabled

The NHRC is deeply concerned about the fact that people with disabilities face various forms of discrimination, social exclusion and marginalization. The Commission has therefore taken several initiatives to protect the rights of the disabled. Notably, the NHRC has been redressing individual complaints from NGOs and others; the Commission reviewed relevant legislations and made recommendations for improvements thereon; it has successfully championed the need to enumerate the disabled in Census 2001. It has made recommendations to both Union Ministers and Chief Ministers of all States and Union territories requesting them to evolve a State Disability Policy and Plan of Action, to provide social security, employment opportunities, rehabilitation, and barrier-free infrastructure to benefit the disabled. In addition, the Commission has been taking steps to spread awareness of the rights of the disabled through publications, besides undertaking research studies. The Commission has been advocating the need for a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Right to Health

For the Commission it has been important to link the issue of health to that of human rights. When linked together, more can be done to advance human well-being than when health, and human rights, are considered in isolation. The Commission constituted a Core Advisory Group on Health, comprising of eminent medical experts with a request to prepare a plan of action for systemic improvements in the health delivery systems of the country. The Commission organized three major national consultations on maternal anemia, human rights and HIV/AIDS, and access to healthcare. Based on these consultations, detailed recommendations have been sent to the concerned authorities. Furthermore, the Commission has also been working on issues like sub-standard drugs and medical devices, illegal trade in human organs, emergency medical care, and fluorosis. In partnership with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, between July to December 2004, the Commission is organizing five regional and one national public hearing on access to healthcare.


Deeply concerned about the need to protect the human rights of those affected/infected by HIV/AIDS, the Commission has been redressing individual cases relating to discrimination faced by them. It has organized a national consultation on this issue and made recommendations to concerned authorities on issues like consent, testing, respect for confidentiality, protectionof vulnerable groups, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, etc. It has also launched a multi-media campaign to disseminate information on human rights and HIV/AIDS to various target groups. A Member of the Commission has been designated to serve as the Focal Point on HIV/AIDS related maters.

Relief work for the Victims of 1999 Orissa Cyclone

The Commission has been observing the system of providing relief by various Governmental and non-Governmental Organisations to the affected people of Orissa to ensure that relief reaches the deprived ones on a uniform basis. In the beginning, the Special Rapporteurs of NHRC were directed to keep a watch on the system of dispensation of the relief measures to the affected people and send reports to the Commission on daily basis. The Commission considered the reports submitted by the Secretary General and the Special Rapporteurs on 08.12.1999 and issued several directions/recommendations for implementation by the State Government. The directions/recommendations were also brought to the notice of concerned authorities of the State Government as well as in the Ministry of Agriculture. Chairperson, NHRC carried out a review of the Cyclone Relief and Reconstruction work in a meeting taken at Bhubaneswar on 29.1.2002. The Chief Secretary, Orissa was asked to send quarterly reports of the progress. Quarterly reports are being monitored by the Commission on a regular basis.

Monitoring of relief measures undertaken after Gujarat Earthquake 2001

The Commission took suo-motu cognizance of the calamity that arose from the devastating earthquake, which hit large areas in the State of Gujarat on 26th January, 2001. The Commissionobtained a report from one of its Special Rapporteurs on the relief and rehabilitation measures being under taken so as to enable the Commission to take steps for issuing appropriate directions/guidelines to the concerned authorities. The Secretary General, NHRC also visited the affected areas and submitted a report. The reports submitted by the Secretary General and the Special Rapporteur were considered by the Commission on 29.5.2001 and it gave certain directions and made recommendations for immediate attention and action by the concerned authorities in Gujarat and the Central Government.

In order to monitor closely the follow-up action taken by the State Governments to impact its directions, the Commission set up a Group consisting of Shri PGJ Nampoothiri, Special Rapporteur, NHRC; Shri Gagan Sethi, Managing Trustee of Jan Vikas Trust; Smt. Annie Prasad, President of Kutch Mahila Sangathan and Prof. Anil Gupta, IIM, Ahmedabad. The Commission considers the reports sent by the Committee in its meetings held from time to time.

District Complaints Authority

The Commission had mooted the idea of setting up of a district level setup to promote Police-Community relations and suggestions were invited from a number of Senior Police Officers. Shri Rajbir Deswal, then Superintendent of Police, Fatehbad informed the Commission that they had established an organization called "Fateh Dwaj", a registered organization to promote police-public relations with a membership of about 80 persons drawn from different walks of life. The Commission discussed the issue and the Kerala pattern of District Human Rights Authority, and recommended two measures to promote public confidence and means of redressal of the members of the public against increasing police incivility and high-handedness.

The composition of the "District Police Complaints Authority" was as under :-

  1. The Principal Judge of the District concerned - Chairman
  2. The Collector of the District - Member
  3. The Senior Superintendent of Police - Member In-charge of the district

The District Superintendent of Police shall be the ex-officio Member Secretary of the Committee.

The functions of the Authority are to examine grievances of the public in the matter of rude and uncivil behaviour towards the public, abuse of authority, misuse of power, wrongful arrests and detentions, custodial violence and to make appropriate recommendations to Government or the State or National Human Rights Commission. This system is in existence and is working in the State of Kerala.

As the approval of the High Courts of the concerned State Governments was required for the implementation of the proposal, Chief Justices of all High Courts and Chief Ministers/Administrators of States/UTs were addressed by the Commission to constitute a District Complaints Authority in each District.

Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Orissa and UT of Lakshadweep reported to have constituted the District Complaints Authority.

The matter is being pursued with the State Judiciaries and State Governments/Union Territory Administrations.

Population Policy – Development and Human Rights

In order to initiate a dialogue from the perspective of both development and human rights with regard to the implementation of effective population policies at the Centre and State levels as well as deliberate on the mechanisms to achieve this objective, the Commission in collaboration with the Department of Family Welfare, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the United Nations Population Fund organised a two-day Colloquium on ‘Population Policy – Development and Human Rights’. The Recommendations and Declaration that emerged from this Colloquium was adopted by the Commission and the same were sent to all the State Governments/Union Territories for compliance.

The Commission is following-up the matter with the State Governments/Union Territories.