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Human Rights Commission- Its Binding Decisions on the Government

On 12 October, 1993 The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India was established under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993. It is constituted to proactively promote and protect human rights in India. Section 2(1)(d) of the PHRA defines Human Rights as 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.

Recently, a full bench of the Madras High Court consisting of Justices SVaidyanathan,V Parthiban and M Sundar ruled that the orders and decisions given by the Human Rights Commission under S. 18 Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 are binding in nature making them mandatory for the government and the State to follow. The ruling was pronounced in the landmark case Abdul Sathar v. The Principal Secretary to Government.

The judgement mentioned that the recommendations of the Commission were to be treated as adjudicatory orders, legally and immediately enforceable. The judgement further states that if the concerned Government or authority fails to implement the recommendation of the Commission within the time stipulated under Section 18(e) of the Act, the Commission can approach the Constitutional Court under Section 18(b) of the Act for enforcement by seeking issuance of appropriate writ, order or direction. In cases where the State is aggrieved by the decision of the commission, its only remedy is seeking judicial review by the Courts. It further empowers the Commission, based on its findings, in cases of violation of human sights by a public servant, to recommend the State government to undertake any of the following measures-

First, was to pay compensation to the complainant or victim or the families of the complainant and victims. Secondly, to initiate proceedings for prosecution or such other suitable action against the concerned person or persons and lastly to take such further action as the commission may think fit.

The judges were of the opinion that there was a need of introducing statutory changes so that the above mentioned act becomes an independent law aiding the human rights commission in accomplishing and effectively enacting the recommendations. Due to the absence of inbuilt provisions in the act, their anxiety was that the act could be trifled with thereby suggesting suitable amendments. 

The main purpose of this is to ensure that the commission must not lose its independence, being a high judicial body and become subordinated to the executive and further, ensure that the recommendations of the Commission are not to be construed as recommendatory, open to acceptance or non-acceptance by the government.

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