The functions of the Commission are:
The commission’s headquarters is at Delhi and it can also establish offices at other places in India. It is vested with the power to regulate its own procedure. It has all the powers of a civil court and its proceedings have a judicial character. It may call for information or report from the Central and state governments or any other authority subordinate thereto.
The commission has its own nucleus of investigating staff for investigation into complaints of human rights violations. Besides, it is empowered to utilise the services of any officer or investigation agency of the Central government or any state government for the purpose. It has also established effective cooperation with the NGOs with first-hand information about human rights violations.
The commission is not empowered to inquire into 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. In other words, it can look into a matter within one year of its occurrence.
The commission may take any of the following steps during or upon the completion of an inquiry:
From the above, it is clear that the functions of the commission are mainly recommendatory in nature. It has no power to punish the violators of human rights, nor to award any relief including monetary relief to the victim. Notably, its recommendations are not binding on the concerned government or authority. But, it should be informed about the action taken on its recommendations within one month. In this context, a former member of the Commission observed:
‘The government cannot wash away the recommendations made by the Commission. The commission’s role may be recommendatory, advisory, yet the Government considers the cases forwarded by it. It is, therefore, improper to say that the commission is powerless. It enjoys great material authority and no government can ignore its recommendation’.
Moreover, the commission has limited role, powers and jurisdiction with respect to the violation of human rights by the members of the armed forces. In this sphere, the commission may seek a report from the Central government and make its recommendations. The Central government should inform the Commission of the action taken on the recommendations within three months.
The commission submits its annual or special reports to the Central government and to the state government concerned. These reports are laid before the respective legislatures, along with a memorandum of action taken on the recommendations of the commission and the reasons for nonacceptance of any of such recommendations.