“Article 3 of the PHRA states that the NHRC shall consist of the Chairperson who shall be a former Chief Justice or Judge of the Supreme Court, a Commissioner who shall be a current or a former Judge of the Supreme Court, a Commissioner who shall be a current or former Chief Justice of a high Court, three Commissioners who shall have knowledge of or practical experience in human rights (of whom one shall be a woman) and the Chairpersons of seven National Commissions.
The NHRC informed the SCA that the members of these seven Commissions are not full members but ‘deemed members’ who complement the NHRC work in the execution of their individual functions.
The SCA notes that the current composition of the NHRC is incomplete, with three of the six positions vacant. Moreover, these three positions are those members required to have knowledge of or practical experience in human rights, including the only designated position that must be occupied by a woman. There is currently no woman in the leadership body of the NHRC.
The SCA acknowledges with appreciation the steps that the NHRC has taken to advocate for amendments to the PHRA to address its previous concerns regarding gender balance in the NHRC’s membership and staff. However, the SCA does not consider these amendments to be sufficient to meet the pluralism requirements of the Paris Principles. In this respect, the SCA recalls its previous assessment of the prospective amendment to the PHRA proposed by the NHRC during its previous review in November 2017, that ‘only having one member who is a woman does not represent appropriate gender balance’.
The SCA further notes that, of the 393 staff positions listed by the NHRC as its staff component, only 95 are held by women.
The SCA is of the view that a diverse decision-making and staff body facilitates the NHRI’s appreciation of, and capacity to engage on, all human rights issues affecting the society in which it operates and promotes the accessibility of the NHRI to all citizens.
The SCA recommends that the NHRC advocates for the completion of the appointment process to fill remaining vacancies in its leadership body, and for further amendments to the PHRA, to ensure a pluralistic balance in its composition and staff, in particular by ensuring that diversity of Indian society is represented including, but not limited to religious or ethnic minorities.
The SCA refers to Paris Principle B.1 and to its General Observation 1.7 on ‘Ensuring pluralism of the NHRI’.”