The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has urged the Union government on multiple occasions to increase the Commission’s power so that it can have more teeth, rather than remain a “toothless tiger”, NHRC chairperson, former Chief Justice of India H L Dattu, said on Thursday.
Justice Dattu also said that the number of rights violation cases from Chhattisgarh are few. “By and large, Chhattisgarh has minimum human rights violation. I won’t say there are no human rights violations, because there have been,” he told the media after a day-long ‘Open Hearing and Camp Sitting’ by a full bench of the Commission — Justice Dattu, along with members Jyotika Kalra and D M Mulay — to hear complaints related to rights violations of people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities in the state.
Activists and complainants, however, criticised the proceedings, as the hearings were held confidentially.
Replying to a question on his statement describing the NHRC as a “toothless tiger”, Justice Dattu said, “I had said NHRC is a toothless tiger…. There is a provision in the Act, which only permits us to make recommendations.”
He said, “We have to make recommendations to governments, but in case they are not followed up, we have no further course of action. If by any reason the Central government contemplates giving appropriate powers to NHRC through amendment in the Act, NHRC will certainly become a Toothful Tiger.”
During the hearing of 54 cases by three individual benches, state officers said they have paid Rs 12.90 lakh as per the Commission’s recommendations in some cases to the victims. The full bench then heard 13 other cases; individual details of these were not made public. The NHRC said in a statement: “Matters heard in the ‘Open Hearing’ included non-implementation of compensation to 35 women, as recommended by the Commission, non-implementation of healthcare facilities in Maoist-affected districts of the State, air and water pollution, rehabilitation of people rendered homeless on account of implementation of mega project by NTPC, etc.”
But activists were not too happy. Shreya K, from the Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, said, “When I spoke about setting accountability for cases of mass sexual violence and gangrape of tribal women during combing operations, I was told they cannot change the mindset about rape.”
Responding to Justice Dattu’s claim of minimum rights violations in Chhattisgarh, PUCL secretary Shalini Gera said: “This is even more dangerous, as it means most cases of custodial violence, police brutality, land grabs and other issues don’t get reported. Once we complain of police brutality, NHRC asks the same police (force) to file a report, which means the victim is the one who is oppressed multiple times.”
Degree Prasad Chouhan, also from PUCL, said, “They were not even letting us go for cases in which we had been invited…. I accompanied six villagers, who were chosen to represent a hundred people in a tribal land grab case. (But) what’s the point of coming here if (they do) not meet such people.”
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