Monday, May 04, 2015

Sathasivam not independent, don't appoint him as India's human right watchdog: PUCL

Sathasivam
By Our Representative
The People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), India's powerful human rights organization, has asked President Pranab Mukherjee not to give his consent for the appointment of Justice P Sathasivam, presently governor of Kerala and former chief justice of India, as next chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the autonomous civil rights watchdog of India.
"If such an appointment is made, it will be contrary to the law, democratic ethic and the spirit of the Indian Constitution and the protection of human rights", it has said in a letter to Mukherjee, telling him, in this case, the final decision vests with him as President of India, and not with the Cabinet whose advice is otherwise mandatory for him.
Signed by PUCL president Prof Prabhakar Sinha and general secreary Dr V Suresh, the PUCL said, "The most essential and indispensable qualification of chairperson of NHRC is the enjoyment of complete and unshakeable trust of the people in his ability to stand for their rights against the almost almighty executive", something  which Sathasivam lacks.
Suggesting that the governor's post is subservient to the executive, the PUCL said, "By accepting his appointment as governor after holding the post of chief justice, he has accepted a position in which he would be taking orders, including for his own resignation, from the Home Secretary of the Union Government."
"Justice P Sathasivam has accepted a position in which the incumbent is liable to be hired and fired by the executive", the PUCL said, adding, this goes against the principles guiding National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993, tho which India is a signatory. the princples require national human rights institutions (NHRIs) oo be “autonomous” and function “independently” of the government.
Pointing out that a key function of the NHRIs includes to “drawing the attention of the government to situations in any part of the country where human rights are violated and making proposals to it for initiatives to put an end to such situations", the PUCL wondered how would ordinary citizens have confidence in the "impartiality, fairness, objectivity and independence of a person who owes his current position as governor of a state to the pleasure of the ruling Central government?"
The PUCL insisted, "Following his retirement, Justice Sathasivam's act of accepting the office of the governor, with its terms and conditions being dishonourable for a former Chief Justice of India, has destroyed the confidence of the people that such a person may ever stand up to his erstwhile master to protect their human rights."
Telling him that he could indepently, it told him, he has to make the NHRC appointment "not on the advice of the Council of Ministers, binding under Article 74 of the Constitution, but on the recommendation of a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha and the leaders of the opposition in both the Houses of Parliament."

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