The participation of civil society representatives will provide more strength to protect human rights, the minister said.
New Delhi: Despite serious concerns raised by the Opposition, the Lok Sabha on Friday passed a bill to expedite the process of appointment of chairperson and members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) after the government assured steps were being taken “round-the-clock” to protect human rights.
Introducing the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019, minister of state (home affairs) Nityanand Rai, said changes in the legislation will help in protecting human rights effectively.
Addressing concerns raised by members on the amendment Bill, the minister said the government has made humanity “rajdharam”, adding, during the era of Prime Minister Narendra Modi the women were coming forward and shouldering greater responsibilities.
The amendment provides for reduction in the tenure of chairpersons of national and state human rights bodies to three years from the current five years.
It also stipulates that besides a former chief justice of India, as is the current requirement, a former Supreme Court judge can also become NHRC chairperson.
Similarly, a former high court judge can also become a state human rights commission chairperson besides a high court chief, according to the bill.
Mr Rai said the bill also gives more administrative and financial powers to these bodies.
Under the existing Act, chairpersons of commissions such as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Com-mission for Scheduled Tribes and National Com-mission for Women are members of the NHRC.
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 participation of civil society representatives will provide more strength to protect human rights, the minister said. Earlier while participating in the discussion on the bill, Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor heavily criticised the legislation.
He raised the issue of National Register of Citizens, conditions of Assam’s detention centres, recent raids on advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, arrests of human rights activists like Sudha Bharadwaj during the discussion.
While describing it as a "piecemeal and cosmetic", Mr Tharoor said, "the bill does not even scratch the surface. I recommend the minister to withdraw it and fix it, and bring it back for consideration in the House. It's a damp squib.
There is a real fear that we might face an international embarrassment when the United Nations picks faults with the bill."
Mr Tharoor listed six flaws with the amendments in the bill. He cited lack of independence and autonomy to NHRC, reduction of tenure of members, failure to provide clarity to the NHRC and jurisdiction of the NHRC courts assome of the flaws.