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NHRC appoints retired IAS, IPS as ‘rapporteurs’ in all states, to serve as its ‘eyes & ears’

NHRC has been recruiting special rapporteurs for years, but 'all states/UTs were not always covered and they were appointed on need basis'.

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New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), it is learnt, has appointed retired IAS and IPS officers as ‘special rapporteurs’ across all states/Union territories (UTs) to serve as its “eyes and ears”. The rapporteurs will “examine, monitor, evaluate, advise and report” human rights violations in the states, ranging from communal riots to LGBT communities.

The NHRC has been recruiting special rapporteurs for years, but all states/UTs were not always covered and they were appointed on need basis, a senior NHRC official told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.

In the fresh exercise, the statutory body has appointed 15 rapporteurs, of which three are former IAS officers and 12 are former IPS officers who retired as director generals of police (DGPs) or held senior positions in the central and state governments. The list was released last Friday.

Some rapporteurs have been given charge of more than one state or UT, the NHRC official said.

The decision was conveyed to the appointees in a communication from the NHRC, which ThePrint has accessed.

According to the communication, the appointees have been directed to report on issues ranging from communal riots, urban terrorism, crossborder terrorism, trafficking, violence against Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs), to “all matters related to transgenders and LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] rights” as well as tribal welfare and so on. 

The French word ‘rapporteurs’ translates to ‘investigators’, the communication adds.    

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Primary responsibilities

The “primary responsibility” of the rapporteurs, according to the communication, is to “examine, monitor, evaluate, advise and report on human rights problems through activities undertaken by special procedure, conducting visits and providing advice on emerging issues from the perspective of human rights”.

“As the commission is based in Delhi, it is not possible for it to be present in different parts of the country to ascertain the position of human rights in these areas,” it says. “In order to ensure the reach of the commission to all regions of the country, it has decided to engage special rapporteurs who function as the eyes and ears of the commission.”

Over the past few years, the NHRC has sent its teams to various states to probe and submit reports on political violence, incidents of communal tension, and some cases of human rights violations. 

In 2021, the NHRC sent a team to West Bengal to investigate incidents of violence after the assembly elections. Regional parties, including Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, had accused the NHRC-led committee appointed by the Calcutta High Court to look into the alleged political killings, of political bias.

Members of the committee had submitted a report to the high court recommending a probe by the CBI. However, the Mamata Banerjee government submitted an affidavit in court countering the NHRC report.

According to NHRC data, in 2021, it received 38.2 per cent of its total complaints from Uttar Pradesh, followed by 7 per cent from Delhi, and 5 per cent each from Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal.

However, the senior NHRC official quoted earlier said that most of the body’s counterparts in the states are lying “defunct”. 

“The state human rights commissions (SHRCs) are almost defunct in most states. The state government is generally averse to the idea of fresh appointments there, and common people do not have faith in those institutions anymore,” the official added. “The SHRCs are mostly seen as biased. We have seen in many cases, states refusing to comply with the recommendations of the SHRC, but in the case of NHRC, they generally accept.”

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

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