Convincing the government to compensate victims of abuse by police, military, and armed forces personnel

The National Human Rights Commission in India responds to verified complaints of police abuse by requesting that the government provide financial compensation to victims and issue appropriate penalties to perpetrators.

Established as part of the Protection of Human Rights Act (1993), the Commission has the power to investigate and recommend responses to human rights violations by public servants — including abetting or neglecting to prevent violations. The majority of the complaints it receives are against the police, although the Commission has also recommended compensation for victims of abuse by military and armed forces personnel.

Complaints of abuse are received from activists and media sources as well as from victims or their relatives. Common complaints include physical abuse, harassment of individuals or families, failure to follow procedures concerning treatment of women, neglect while in detention, illegal detention, and torture. The Commission also receives complaints related to child labor, bonded labor, and violations of the rights of vulnerable members of so­ciety, such as children, women, the disabled, certain castes and tribes, refugees, minorities, and others.

When a complaint is received, the Commission calls for an inquiry or directs its investigative division to look into the case. If the case is verified, the Commission files a report with the government of the state in which the violation occurred. The report includes recommendations for financial compensation to victims and for disci­plinary action against the perpetrators. The state involved is free to recover the amount of compensation from the public servant who committed the violations.

The Commission publishes details of important cases in its monthly newsletter, Human Rights, and in its annual reports. The media also covers big cases.


New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

In India, the National Human Rights Commission investigates complaints of human rights abuses and recom­mends that local governments provide compensation to victims.

Compensation packages help victims and their families rebuild their lives only if the rewards are substantial; in addition, care must be taken to ensure that this tactic does not deflect attention from other reforms. Despite these difficulties, however, the work of these commissions does have the benefit of making officials aware of the consequences of their actions, and thereby possibly deterring future abuse.

Creating a commission like this requires substantial support from governing officials and community outreach and or publicity campaigns are necessary to ensure that victims and their families know they can use this recourse without fear of retribution.