Sunday, November 6, 2016

Politicisation of NHRC?

By appointing a political figure for the first time as the member of the NHRC panel, Modi government is set to make major change in the National Human Rights Commission.

The Modi government is likely to appoint a full-time politician for the post, which has remained vacant for over two years in the NHRC. Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president Avinash Rai Khanna is the leading contender for the vacant NHRC post. If sources are to be believed, Modi-government is likely to appoint Avinash Rai Khanna as a member of the NHRC. This is the first time an active politician is being made a member of the NHRC.

Narendra Modi led government is in the final stage of appointing Avinash Rai Khanna as a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The panel, which appoints chairperson and members of the NHRC, has decided to appoint Avinash Rai Khanna as a member of the NHRC. The panel, which is headed by the Prime Minister, has the Lok Sabha Speaker, Union Home Minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha as it’s members.

“Some other names were also discussed, but his (Khanna’s) name was cleared. There was no dissent,” a member of the panel was quoted as saying by The Indian Express. Avinash Rai Khanna had earlier been a member of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission for 13 months, after he was elected to the Rajya Sabha. Khanna, the party leader in charge of Jammu and Kashmir, had not contested election since 2009 after his Lok Sabha constituency of Hoshiarpur became a reserved seat.

Even before the announcement, the likely decision of the Modi government has come under scanner. However there is no bar for politicians, questions are being asked why couldn’t the Modi government appoint a person with no political links. A person of the ruling party as the member of the NHRC might affect the activities of the commission.

According to the Section 3 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, which deals with the issue of “Constitution of a National Human Rights Commission”, only a former Chief Justice of India can be appointed NHRC chairperson. The Act also says only a former judge of the Supreme Court, a former chief justice of a high court and two others “from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights” can be appointed as the full-time member of the NHRC.

When it was in opposition, BJP had stressed the need to appoint persons of impeccable credentials and with no affiliation with political or religious outfit to the NHRC post. In 2013, then Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had opposed the appointment of former Supreme Court judge Cyriac Joseph as a member of the NHRC as Joseph was “perceived to be close to certain political and religious organisations”.

Opposing the move of the Modi government, former Swaraj Abhiyan leader Prashant Bhushan said that the government was attempting to diminish independent institutions. “Modi government’s alarming decimation of all Accountability Institutions continues with appointment of BJP’s JK VP as member NHRC,” Bhushan tweeted. Opposition parties like Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also objected the appointment of Avinash Rai Khanna as the NHRC member.

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