What are human rights? How to file a human rights complaint?


Definition of Human Rights:

Human: A member of the Homo sapiens, a man, woman or child; a person

Rights: Things to which you are entitled or allowed; freedoms that are guaranteed.


Human Rights: The rights that you have simply because you are a human (1).

In short Human Rights are the rights that a person has simply because he or she is a human being.

Many eminent persons have stated the importance of human rights through their statements. For eg:

President Nyerere, of United Republic of Tanzania, remarked, “We shall try to use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a basis for both our external and internal policies.”

Nelson Mandela said, “It is an ideal hope to live for and achieve, but it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

Negros Oriental Jose announced, “No cause is more worthy than the cause of human rights” and “They are what make man and woman human.”

His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet reminded human rights workers that “the protection of these rights and freedoms are of immense importance, both for the individuals affected and for the development of the society as a whole.”

Kinds of Human Rights:

There are two main kinds of Human Rights:

  1. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  2. Civil and Political Rights
  • Human rights are Universal i.e. they are given to all persons irrespective of their place of birth, language, caste , creed, religion or race etc.,
  • The Human Rights are Inalienable i.e. no person can be deprived of their human rights and
  • The Human Rights are indivisible i.e. you can divide few human rights as more important than other human rights which signifies that all human rights are given equal status and protection by law.
  • The Human rights as given to us is very important as it empower individuals and promotes justice and well being.

Commissions for Protection of Human Rights

  1. National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi, India

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India is an autonomous public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993. If the alleged act is of national importance then NHRC will take suo motu action of its own.

  1. State Human Rights Commission

Every state in India has got a State Human Rights Commission for protection of human rights in a particular State. If any person has a grievance that his or her human rights are being violated then he may approach the respective state commission where the alleged act has been committed.


Guidelines on how to file complaint with the NHRC

1. Complaint may be made to the Commission by the victim or by any other person on his behalf.

2. Complaint should be in writing, either in English or Hindi or in any other Language included in the eighth schedule of the Constitution. Only one set of complaint needs to be submitted to the Commission.

3. Complaint may be sent either by Post or Fax or even by email.

4. No fee is chargeable on such complaints.

5. The complaint shall disclose

i) Violation of human rights or abetment thereof or;

(ii) Negligence in the prevention of such violations, by a public servant.

6. The jurisdiction of the Commission is restricted to the violation of human rights alleged to have been committed within one year of the receipt of complaint by the Commission.

7. Documents, if any enclosed in support of the allegations in the complaint must be legible.

8. Name of the victim, his/ her age, sex, religion/ caste, State and District to which the incident relates, incident date etc. should invariably be mentioned in the complaint.

9. Please submit the complaint preferably in the format which is made available on the website of Human Rights Commissions which can be different for different states.

10. Following types of Complaint(s) are not ordinarily entertainable:

i. Illegible

ii. Vague, anonymous or pseudonymous;

iii. Trivial or frivolous in nature;

iv. The matters which are pending before a State Human Rights Commission or any other Commission;

v. Any matter after the expiry of one year from the date on which the act constituting violation of human rights is alleged to have been committed;

vi. Allegation is not against any public servant;

vii. The issue raised relates to civil dispute, such property rights, contractual Obligations, etc;

viii. The issue raised relates to service matters;

ix. The issue raised relates to labour/industrial disputes;

x. Allegations do not make out any specific violation of human rights;

xi. The matter is sub-judice before a Court/ Tribunal;

xii. The matter is covered by judicial verdict/decision of the Commission.

11. As far as possible complainants are encouraged to make use of the format given in website of human rights commissions to file their complaints. The guidelines indicate the kind of information, which would facilitate in processing a complaint (2).

Conclusion: Human Rights have become indispensable and we should all strive to promote and protect our human rights.


  1. Bringing Human Rights to Life by United for Human Rights

  2. www.nhrc.com

 By Shweta Kaushik

Shweta is an Advocate and Consultant and presently working with Centre for Law, Justice &  Governance, Mahatma Gandhi State Institue of Public Administration, Punjab at Chandigarh