Saturday, November 19, 2016

Cancel BJP politician's appointment to NHRC, you have powers to do it: PUCL writes to President of India

Prabhakar Sinha
By Our Representative
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), India’s premier human rights organization, has asked President Pranab Mukherjee to cancel the proposed appointment of Avinash Rai Khanna, a BJP vice-president, as a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), insisting, he “not ineligible” for the post, telling him, NHRC's function is to protect and promote human rights. 
The PUCL representation, signed by its national president Prabhakar Sinha, adds, the NHRC job can be performed “only by persons who are non-partisan and above temptation of future personal promotion and prospect.”
Recalling that Khanna was earlier appointed as a member of the State Human Rights Commission, Punjab, but resigned to become a member of the Rajya Sabha, Sinha says, “A member of a political party is expected to promote the interest of his party and is not trained to act with impartiality and judiciousness required of a member of the NHRC.”
Alleging that, as NHRC member, Khanna cannot “enjoy the trust of the people whose rights he would be expected to promote and protect against the governments of his own party”, Sinha says, an NHRC member’s “stature and qualifications has to be compared with the other members, who consist of judge of the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice of a High Court” under Section 4 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
He adds, the Act was enacted pursuant to the commitment of India towards binding several international covenants, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, against the backdrop of “changing social realities, emerging trends in the nature of violence”, which required “greater accountability and transparency.”
Founded, among others, by Jay Prakash Narain, PUCL says, the appointments to the NHRC, including that of the chairperson and other members, by the President after obtaining the recommendations of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister as chairman, the Lok Sabha speaker, the Union home minister, and the Opposition leaders in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, and deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
“These recommendations are not binding on the President as are the recommendations of the Council of Ministers under Article 74 of the Constitution”, the letter underlines, adding, “The President is therefore free to not accept a recommendation of the committee in the interest of the people who are the real stakeholders.”
Pointing out that this is also clear from Section 4 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, PUCL says, Khanna’s appointment would send “wrong signals to the international community and to the United Nations where the national representatives have to periodically submit the status of implementation of human rights in the country.”
The PUCL, which had said in a statement that it would approach the Supreme Court against the decision to appoint Khanna, points to the President that it has won major victories in legal battles in the Supreme Court on telephone tapping case (1997), fake encounter in Manipur (1997), disclosure of criminal background and assets by candidates contesting for Parliament and the State Legislature (2003), and challenge to POTA (2004), while one case, on implementing right to food, is still pending before the apex court.

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