Oppn objects to NHRC selection

Violators cannot become protectors

The Opposition is determined to ambush UPA government’s attempt to select a civil service officer as one of the two members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), arguing “violators” cannot become “protectors” of human rights.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has prepared a list of 23 applicants for the post of member NHRC which fell vacant after PC Sharma retired recently.  The members have a five- year tenure which can be extended.

Of the 23 applicants, more than 50 per cent (13) are either retired or serving IPS and IAS officers.   Former IFS officer Satyabrata Pal is the other member drawn from non-judicial background. The commission is headed by former chief justice of India KG Balakrishnan and has two other judicial members Justice GP Mathur and Justice BC Patel.

The shortlisted names will be put before a selection panel consisting of the prime minister, the home minister, Lok Sabha speaker, Rajya Sabha vice chairperson and leaders of opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. However, leaders of opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely of the BJP have conveyed their reservation to the government on shortlisting IPS and IAS officers on the grounds that the civil servants often are found to be violators and not protectors of human rights, sources said.

Despite the opposition, the UPA has sufficient numbers in the panel to get the stamp of approval on its choice as the member NHRC.

The just retired CBI director AP Singh, special director VK Gupta, former Delhi police commission BK Gupta,  former IAS officer and ex-secretary general of NHRC Rajiv Sharma, former union home secretary Madhukar Gupta and former IAS officer Anwar Ehsan Ahmad are among the top names in the list.

The BJP leaders have also objected to a lack of transparency in the selection procedure, as the position wasn’t advertised.

Sources asked how many of the applicants came to know about government’s move on the NHRC appointment as they have applied directly.  

Two central ministers seem to be lobbying for a candidate who is currently posted in Bangalore. His application to the government was forwarded by a private secretary of a senior minister and another minister himself, sources said.

A former Lok Sabha speaker belonging to Congress had also seconded a candidate from a minority community from Uttar Pradesh.

The candidate was a minister in UP government in the past. A journalist’s name has also been included in the list. Former CBI director PC Sharma was appointed a member on March 30, 2004, during the NDA regime for the five-year stint as member of NHRC. He managed to have a three year extension in 2009.   

The government and the opposition had a serious clash in appointing PJ Thomas the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj claimed to have objected to his candidacy as the Kerala Cadre officer was tainted in a corruption scandal.

Thomas had to make an unceremonious withdrawal, after Supreme Court struck down his appointment.

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