The National Human Rights Commission, established as an independent statutory body in 2000, has now been elevated to a powerful constitutional body with a commensurate mandate, competence and independence. The NHRCN was elevated to a constitutional body by the Article 131 of the Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007 and by Article 248 of the present Constitution of Nepal (2015). NHRC Nepal has a separate sphere of responsibilities as mandated in the Constitution of Nepal. These responsibilities complement the normal machinery of the Supreme Court, Office of the Attorney General, and other existing judicial and quasi-judicial bodies of Nepal. NHRCN submits its annual report of its functioning to the President, and the President causes that report to be laid through the Prime Minister before the Federal Parliament. The NHRCN motto, ‘Human rights for all, at every household: basis of peace and development’ has set a new goal to take human rights consciousness in every household.
The NHRCN was created in response to 1991 UN-sponsored meeting of the representatives of national institutions held in Paris. The meeting laid down Paris Principles, a detailed set of principles on the status of national institutions. These principles, subsequently endorsed by the UN Commission on Human Rights (Resolution 1992/54 of 3 March 1992) and the UN General Assembly (Resolution 48/134 of 20 December 1993) have become the foundation and reference point for the establishment and operation of the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal as well. The Commission is fully compliant with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (Paris Principles) and has been accredited with “A” status by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions. This status of the Commission and an embodiment of Nepal's concern for the promotion, protection and respect of human rights paved way to Nepal to be elected as a member of United Nations Human Rights Council.
The Paris Principle stresses that the composition of the national institution and the appointment of its members, whether by means of an election or otherwise, shall be established in accordance with a procedure which affords all necessary guarantees to ensure the pluralist representation of the social forces (of civilian society) involved in the promotion and protection of human rights.
Article 248 and 292 of Constitution of Nepal Provides that members of the Constitutional Bodies (including the NHRCN) are appointed on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council pursuant to Parliamentary hearing conducted for their appointments.
The selection and appointment process is as follows:
- The Constitutional Council proposes the candidates on the basis of prerequisite as specified in the article 248 clause 6 (a) to (f) that details the minimum qualification and experience. Article 248 (6) provides a person shall be eligible to be appointed as the Chairperson or a member of the National Human Rights Commission if he or she possesses the following qualification:
- The Chairperson of NHRCN if he/she:
- is a retired Chief Justice or retired Judge of the Supreme Court
- having rendered outstanding contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights or
- being a renowned person having been active for at least twenty years in and rendered outstanding contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights or to various fields of national life,
- a member of NHRCN, if he or she:
- is a person being involved in the field of the protection and promotion of human rights or rights and interests of the child or
- is a renowned person having been active for at least twenty years in and rendered outstanding contribution to various fields of national life,
- holding a bachelor's degree from a recognized university,
- having attained the age of forty five years,
- not being a member of any political party at the time of appointment,
- being of high moral character.
The Constitution has laid down the high qualifications that the members are required to have, to be eligible to be appointed to the Commission. Article 248 of the Constitution of Nepal, has provisioned the following:
- National Human Rights Commission, Nepal, consists of a Chairperson and four full time remunerated members.
- The President on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council appoints the Chairperson and members.
- The term of the office of the Chairperson and members of the NHRCN is six years from the date of appointment.
- The Chairperson and members appointed are not eligible for reappointment.
The Commission is mandated to ensure the respect, promotion and protection of human rights, is competent to launch inquiries and investigations into alleged human rights violations, and can recommend legal or departmental action against human rights violators. The establishment of the Commission complies with the standards set out in the 'Paris Principles'. To name a few, independence is guaranteed by the Constitution and an act; a broad mandate based on universal human rights standards. Apart from these powers, the Constitution has also envisaged that the Commission may review the provisions on safeguards provided by the Constitution and other prevailing law for the enforcement of human rights and submit necessary recommendations for the effective implementation of such provisions.
The Commission propagates human rights education at different levels of society through various seminars, symposia, conferences and also builds consciousness and awareness for the protection of human rights. The Commission encourages the functioning and efforts of institutions working in the non-governmental sector. In addition, there is a general power to carry out such activities, as the Commission may deem necessary and appropriate for the enforcement, promotion and protection of human rights.
The Commission has a broad mandate including civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, and rights of the other groups. Article 249 of the Constitution of Nepal, 2015 lays down that the Commission shall perform the following functions, namely:
- To respect, protect and promote human rights and ensure effective enforcement thereof.
- Inquire on its own initiative or on petition or complaint lodged in or sent to the Commission and investigate complaints about the violations of human rights of an individual or group or abetment thereof, and make recommendation for action against the perpetrators.
- Recommend to the concerned authority to take departmental action against any official, who fails to fulfill or perform his or her responsibility or duty or shows reluctance in preventing violations of human rights.
- Recommend to file a case in the court in accordance with law against any person or organization who has violated human rights.
- Coordinate and collaborate with the civil society in order to enhance awareness on human rights.
- Carry out periodic reviews of the relevant laws relating to human rights and make recommendation to the Government of Nepal for necessary improvements and amendments to such laws.
- Recommend Government of Nepal for the implementation of any international treaty or agreement on human rights, to which Nepal is a party.
- Publish, in accordance with law, the names of the officials, persons or bodies who have failed to observe or implement any recommendations or directives made or given by the Commission in relation to the violations of human rights, and record them as violators of human rights.