“Section 11 of the PHRA requires that the Central Government makes available to the NHRI a civil servant with the rank of Secretary to the Government to take the role of Secretary General of the Commission. In its previous reviews of the NHRC in November 2017 and March 2023, the SCA emphasized that a fundamental requirement of the Paris Principles is that an NHRI is, and is perceived to be, able to operate independent of government interference.

Where an NHRI members are seconded from the public service, and where this includes those at the highest level in the NHRI, it raises question about its capacity to function fully independently’. The SCA acknowledges the response of the NHRC that:

 – The arrangement ensures that the NHRC has the necessary expertise in the day-today management of the institution and its cooperation with other government institutions.

– The Secretary General works under full control of the NHRC and is selected by the NHRC from a list of candidates provided by the Government.

– All civil servants in India including those recommended for the position of Secretary of the NHRC are appointed by the Union Public Service Commission and not by the Government. However, the SCA continues to be of the view that Section 11 of the PHRA, which requires the secondment of the Secretary General of the NHRC from the Government, has a real impact on the perceived independence of the NHRI.

While the SCA acknowledges that the current Secretary General appointed in June 2023 is a retired civil servant and is not a civil servant in post, the SCA continues to reiterate its recommendation of November 2017 and March 2023 that the NHRC advocates for amendments to the PHRA to remove the capacity for the Government to make a senior civil servant available for the position of Secretary General, and to empower the NHRC to independently recruit candidates for the position.

 The SCA refers to Paris Principle B.2 and to its General Observation 2.4 on ‘Recruitment and retention of NHRI staff.’”