Good governance cannot be implemented without transparency. Yet, the Centre which sets much store by this seems reluctant to adopt this at least where human rights violations and excesses by the police and Army are concerned. The Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has made it clear that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) cannot investigate such incidents either in Kashmir or Manipur with the odd caveat that firing could not be directed in any particular direction on the Line of Control. He was answering the Supreme Court which had said that extra-judicial killings by the Army and Manipur police must be probed though it did not make clear which agency would do so. The court made it clear that it was not referring to the LoC but the heart of Imphal.
The AG’s argument that the NHRC’s powers limit it to only making recommendations is hardly valid. How can it make recommendations without investigating an incident or incidents. The NHRC headed by a former chief justice of India is as good a body as any to carry out these tasks. The problem lies in the limited mandate of the rights body. It can investigate human rights violations with only very limited resources. The evidence collected is put to judicial adjudication by its chairman and members after which it recommends remedial measures or directs the state to pay compensation. Its powers however, do not extend to penalising the authorities who do not implement its orders or recommendations. The NHRC can be effective only if is decisions are made enforceable by the government. The fact that the Centre is not willing to bring excesses by the Army and police in sensitive areas like Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir under the ambit of the NHRC or a similar human rights body does it no credit. This almost suggests that it is being deliberately opaque on incidents which take place there and is not willing to either address these or make recompense for them. Justice HL Dattu the chairman of the NHRC himself described the organisation as a toothless tiger.
The NHRC does not have the backing of the Protection of Human Rights Act nor can it investigate an event if the complaint is made more than a year after an incident. The Centre should really reconsider the mandate of the NHRC in order to address the human rights challenges that India faces, especially in areas affected by militancy and social unrest. The NHRC given its current composition has the legitimacy and gravitas to protect and promote human rights. Instead of seeking to circumscribe its powers, Parliament should try and confer the kind of authority on the NHRC which would ensure that its recommendations are implemented.