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Controversial choice of Justice Mishra for NHRC? BJP 'follows' a Congress precedent

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*

Former Supreme Court Judge Arun Mishra has taken over as chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission NHRC). Mishra was over-staying in his official residence after his retirement and had not vacated the place and sought extension under one pretext or other.
It is mandated that only former Chief Justice of Supreme Court is eligible to be the chairperson of NHRC, but because of non-availability of an 'eligible' person, the government amended the law in order to allow any former judge of the Supreme Court to be NHRC chairperson.
NHRC came into existence after tremendous international pressure on India on human rights issues. At the time of its formation in 1993, the then government led by PV Narsimha Rao appointed Justice Ranganath Mishra, former Chief Justice of India, as its first head. He is known to have protected those big names of the Congress party that were involved in the 1984 anri-Sikh pogrom in Delhi.
Shockingly NHRC under him ruled:
"The commission therefore accept the submission advanced before it that the incidents against the Sikhs on October 31, 1984 started as a natural reaction to the situation and at that stage there was no organised attempt to cause or spread violence by rioting spread against Sikhs. The commission however reiterated that the Sikhs as a community has not committed any crime and were not answerable for the abominable attempt of the assailants."
Ranganath Mishra got awarded for his service to the Congress and protecting Narsimha Rao, the most inefficient home minister of India when Indira Gandhi was assassinated. The Congress then enjoyed unchallenged power violated all norms and procedures while appointing him. After retirement from NHRC, Rangnath Mishra was appointed as Rajya Sabha member by the Congress for the period 1998-2004.
BJP is following the same textbook case started by the Congress, and the two Mishras are the common beneficiaries. Justice Arun Mishra during his tenure pushed law against the marginalised and protected the interests of the government. As a Supreme Court judge, he said that the Prime Minister was a visionary and a global leader. In various cases of corruption, he protected the corporate houses and the government.
Arun Mishra broke precedent and sat in a committee which was made to review his own judgement. In the case of compensation related to land acquisition, he shamelessly proclaimed that if the farmers do not take compensation, the amount should deposited in the treasury and it should be regarded as paid. He protected big business interests and stood against the marginalised.
However, the biggest anti-human rights judgement of Arun Mishra came on February 13, 2019 when he ordered eviction of one million adivasis from their own homeland without considering the crucial aspect of their rehabilitation. Making every indigenous person look criminal, Arun Mishra's judgment showed what ails Indian judicial system and why it is extremely necessary to have more judges from the marginalised sections in our top judicial services.
Though the Supreme Court stayed the order, it had already done the damage. There are many such cases where the victims of evictions too were shown no mercy and 'developmental' projects were approved without considering issues of honourable rehabilitation of the rural or urban poor.
Hence, the man whose track record of being fair towards marginalised, Dalits, adivasis has been seemingly unfair, Arun Mishra's appointment as NHRC chairperson is a signal by the current regime to actually use the human rights context to deny justice to the marginalised. One cannot expect justice at the hands of those who when in full power actually denied them every opportunity.
The irony of our institutional bodies related to the rights of the marginalised or human rights is that they have no space for civil society activists or campaigners. These institutions have become an easy space to provide favour to those who have 'given' their 'services' to the government. Institutions have become hogwash and are being used to provide legitimacy to the misdeeds of the state. Yet, they will represent India at all the international forums and deny everything that the people are fighting for.
We don't expect government bodies to do miracles but they have been useful on many occasions, especially when the head of the institution is determined to fight for the cause of human rights and marginalised communities and people. NHRC has done many things with the help of civil society organisations.
Arun Mishra can undo many things of the past by destroying all that NHRC has stood for by helping the marginalised and the poor in getting justice. Will he be able to do so or will he accept everything that the government does as it is headed by a 'visionary leader'?
---
"Human rights defender

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