3 years after HC order, rights panel still headless

KSHRC highly short-staffed, lacks sufficient office space; cases mount
Last Updated 24 April 2014, 20:18 IST

It’s been three years now since the High Court ordered that necessary staff be appointed to the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC). But the panel continues to be headless and short of staff, even as the number of cases pending for investigation has increased to 15,000.

The South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM) had moved the High Court, seeking adequate facilities for it to function effectively. The Commission was badly neglected by the State government in terms of infrastructure and funds, the petitioners said. The SICHREM is now planning to file a contempt petition.

The petitioners have demanded that the Commission, which functions out of a 4,500-sq-ft space, should be given an area of 20,000 sq ft.

The government has provided 105 staff members for KSHRC, though the requirement is 491.

“Karnataka being a big state, there are no officials representing the Commission in the district headquarters. Complainants from places like Bagalkot and Bidar have to come to Bangalore to file complaints and follow them up.  With lodging of compliants itself being a costly affair, people will be discouraged to take up human rights cases,” the petition said.
A High Court division bench comprising the then Chief Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice A S Bopanna, on May 12, 2011, had directed the government to consider the demands of the petitioners and disposed of the matter.

However, except an increase in budgetary allocation and grant of additional space, nothing much has changed for the KSHRC. Sources said that on an average, KSHRC receives about 450 to 500 complaints every month.

Ex-CJI rejects offer

The post of chairman, KSHRC, has been vacant for the last two years, since the term of Justice S R Naik ended.

Though the government made efforts to appoint Justice D Murugesan, former chief justice of the Delhi High Court, as the chairman in December 2013, the latter rejected the offer.
Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T B Jayachandra told Deccan Herald that though Justice Murugesan had refused the offer in the past, the government was optimistic of convincing him to accept the responsibility.

“We have not given up hope. He is a Kannada-speaking person and is best suited for the post. Some people raked up a controversy, saying that he is a Tamilian. He learnt about it and is hesitant to accept the offer, saying he does not want a controversy. The post of chairman, KSHRC, requires a retired chief justice of a High Court. We do not have any retired chief justices,” he said. The minister said that he was going to New Delhi next week to try and convince Justice Murugesan. “I am optimistic about convincing him. It will be a last attempt, before we start the process all over again,” he said.

(Published 24 April 2014, 20:16 IST)

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