The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has been called a toothless tiger by none other than the Supreme Court of India in its judgment. The commission took cognizance of various complaints that were filed to it regarding the violence that happened in Jamia Millia Islamia University on 15 December, 2019.
In its report, it has raised doubts about a conspiracy behind the anti-CAA protests and raised an eyebrow over external instigation of students for these protests. It has very neatly mixed the students of the university with the protestors under one banner and called their protest as “not a peaceful one as they (students) claimed”. However, it failed to differentiate between the mob which came from outside and mixed that mob with the students in its finding.
The NHRC further stated that the beating of students by police personnel was “avoidable”. It blamed the university and students for holding protests without permission and gave them a good dose of reasonable restrictions on their fundamental right to protest by stating that there are various Supreme Court and High Court judgments in that regard.
But the basic reason for going to the NHRC by the complainants on the present issue was to get a recommendation for having an independent probe on the issue of police brutality by retired judges. It didn’t pay much heed to this issue raised by the complainants. It recommended the government to direct the commissioner of Delhi Police to look into the atrocities by its police personnel.
The commission had enough CCTV footage to show police brutality, and it even mentions that tear gas shells were found inside the campus in its report. Despite all this, it didn’t think it was right to recommend an independent probe on the issue of police brutality.
The chairman of the NHRC, JHL Dattu, has previously lamented over the position of recommendations which the commission issues to various authorities:
“We keep writing letters to the authorities concerned to implement our recommendations. But it’s the sweet will of the authorities whether or not to implement NHRC recommendations. It’s for the Parliament to decide whether to confer the NHRC with some kind of contempt powers to make authorities implement its recommendations.”
The question to be answered now is: Will these recommendations lead to any substantial change? Will these recommendations provide a guiding mechanism of human rights violations at the hands of the police? No.
The NHRC thought it was right to recommend looking at the issue of police brutality by the commissioner of Delhi Police himself. The basic issue now is that if the guilty will themselves sit to judge their culpability, will any fruitful effect be found? The answer is negative. Therefore, nothing has been achieved by the NHRC in combating human rights violations.
Another vital recommendation which the commission gave to the Delhi government was to provide compensation to the students affected by police brutality on humanitarian grounds. Previously, it had failed in a similar recommendation which it made to the state of Manipur regarding compensation for victims, and the state did not adhere to the recommendation of the NHRC until the matter went to the Supreme Court of India. Therefore, one can infer from the past that the government won’t even consider the recommendation of compensation for the students who were victims of police brutality.
The appalling thing is that on the issue of police brutality, the toothless tiger didn’t even growl. All it did was yawn over the matter and treated it with neglect, despite knowing the history of police brutality and the way it’s dealt within India.
The NHRC would have been held in higher regard if it had recommended a mechanism to deal with police brutality and how to mitigate it. But it failed miserably in doing so.