03 December, 2019
Syllabus subtopic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
News: Expressing concern over the recent sexual assault cases, the National Human Rights Commission on Monday issued notices to the Centre, States and Union Territories seeking reports on the standard operating procedure (SOP) for dealing with such cases and the use of the Nirbhaya Fund. The NHRC has asked the governments to respond in six weeks.
Prelims and Mains focus: about NHRC, SHRC, their composition, functions and limitations, about Nirbhaya Fund
Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports, the NHRC observed that there was a “dire need for all stakeholders to work jointly to get rid of this evil.”
The Commission’s action comes in the wake of the gangrape and murder of a doctor in Hyderabad that has spurred a debate on the condition of women’s security in the country once again.
Remarks made by NHRC
Issuing the notices, the Commission said the “largest democracy of the world, which has adopted the longest written Constitution and has a rich cultural heritage of gender equality, is today being criticised for having the most unsafe environment for women.”
The NHRC said these cases were violations of the victims’ human rights.
“There have been constitutional and statutory provisions to ensure that women are not subjected to any kind of discrimination and harassment. But, there is an alarming trend indicating that things are getting worse, amounting to violation of right to life, liberty, dignity and equality of women across the country,” it said.
The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill 2019 passed by the Parliament aims to accelerate the process of appointment of chairperson and members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Salient Features of the Act:
The Act amends the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. It provides for a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC), as well as Human Rights Courts.
Composition of NHRC: Under the Act, the chairperson of the NHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a Judge of the Supreme Court will be the chairperson of the NHRC.
Inclusion of woman member: The Act provides for two persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC. The Bill amends this to allow three members to be appointed, of which at least one will be a woman.
Other members: Under the Act, chairpersons of various commissions such as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and National Commission for Women are members of the NHRC. The 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.
Chairperson of SHRC: Under the Act, the chairperson of a SHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court. The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice or Judge of a High Court will be chairperson of a SHRC.
Term of office: The Act states that the chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRC will hold office for five years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. The Bill reduces the term of office to three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. Further, the Act allows for the reappointment of members of the NHRC and SHRCs for a period of five years. The Bill removes the five-year limit for reappointment.
Powers of Secretary-General: The Act provides for a Secretary-General of the NHRC and a Secretary of a SHRC, who exercise powers as may be delegated to them. The Bill amends this and allows the Secretary-General and Secretary to exercise all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), subject to the respective chairperson’s control.
Union Territories: The Bill provides that the central government may confer on a SHRC human rights functions being discharged by Union Territories. Functions relating to human rights in the case of Delhi will be dealt with by the NHRC.
Functions and Powers of NHRC
Limitations of NHRC
About Nirbhaya fund
The Rs 1,000 crore Nirbhaya Fund was announced in Union Budget 2013 by the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
Issues with Nirbhaya Fund:
The government has been accused of keeping Nirbhaya Fund unutilised. With rise in cases of sexual harassment and crimes against women there is a crying need for implementation of such funds.
Source: The Hindu
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