Is draft bill trying to weaken NHRC?

KATHMANDU: A draft bill of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), 2009,

prepared by the government has raised serious doubt.

This is largely because the proposal undermines the constitutional human rights body’s independence.

It is being construed that the government does not want to provide functional and financial autonomy to the NHRC as per the

the Paris principles.

Rights activists felt that the government’s commitment to safeguarding human rights was merely a lip


The government recently drafted a bill in a bid to make the NHRC Act compatible with the Interim

Constitution of Nepal, 2007.

The activists blamed the government for making a

deliberate attempt to weaken the NHRC.

They alleged that the NHRC would cease to work as an “independent and

autonomous” body.

The bill empowered the NHRC to inspect detention centres, jails, any public or private place and government offices if allegations are raised about violation of human rights.

But it maintained a studied silence over similar

access to the Nepali Army (NA) barracks.

“The NHRC has every right to inspect NA barracks if it finds anything amiss. It has often been proved that security agencies are responsible for violation of human rights. If the NHRC is denied access in the army barracks, then how can it become a strong body?” questioned Subodh Raj Pyakurel,

a prominent human

rights activist.

The NHRC can investigate any rights issue even if it is sub-judice.

However, it has to take the court’s consent to pursue the case.

The draft gives a free hand to the NHRC to urge the government to safeguard human rights. It is binding on the government to investigate and carry out the rights body’s recommendations.

The NHRC can investigate any issue to uphold human rights, and seek legal

recourse for a fair trial.

It will also coordinate and cooperate with the NGOs, and provide the latter with necessary advice in the rights protection sector.

The NHRC can blacklist authorities for disobedience and insubordination.

Though it had this authority all along, it never exercised this punitive measure in the past three years. Hence, there is doubt whether it would take such a drastic step to safeguard

human rights.

The bill has enough leeway for the defaulting government authorities not to pay heed to the NHRC’s recommendations. They can merely get away by submitting an explanation in

writing within the three-month period.

The activists apprehended that if the provisions were implemented, then the NHRC would lose much of its clout, and nobody would abide by its


The NHRC has also proposed to provide interim

relief to human rights

victims. It has suggested that there should be a separate service for its employees under the Public Service Commission norms, and should get budgetary assistance from the government.

The NHRC has been seeking financial autonomy to make its annual expenses and also for the hiring drive.

The body wants to recruit employees as per its will.

“We’ve no objection to various provisions put forth in the draft bill. But we want functional and financial autonomy to make the NHRC an independent body. It’s equally significant like that of whether it is a statutory or constitutional body. Despite our repeated attempts, the government hasn’t been keen to provide us autonomy,” said Bishal Khanal,

secretary, NHRC.