Clipped from: https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/first-edit/wrong-choice-996529.htmlNew chairman does not inspire confidence
The appointment of former Supreme Court judge Arun Mishra as chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has invited much criticism. Mishra, who retired last year, has been a controversial judge and is known for some judgements that were not exactly examples of upholding human rights. Earlier, only a retired Chief Justice of India (CJI) could hold the position of the NHRC chairman. But the law was amended in 2019 to make former SC judges also eligible for it. But sympathy and support for the idea of human rights should be the first requirement for a person holding the position. A former director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Rajiv Jain, who has no human rights credentials, has also been appointed as a member of the NHRC. These appointments show the government’s attitude toward the Commission and what it expects from it.
Mishra has pronounced a number of judgements that make him a wrong choice to head the NHRC. In 2019, he ordered the eviction of a million families of tribals and foresters from their age-old dwelling places. A Supreme Court lawyer had recounted how a man had to literally drag his physically challenged father along the court hall to the podium after the judge insisted that he get up from his wheelchair and walk to it.
A number of persons, including members of human rights organisations, have called Mishra’s appointment “one more deliberate blow by the central government to the Constitution, rule of law and human rights.’’ Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjuna Kharge, who was on the selection panel, disagreed with the selection of Mishra and sought the appointment of a person from the marginalised communities, as most victims of human rights abuses belong to those communities. It may be recalled that Mishra had praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an “internationally acclaimed visionary” and a “versatile genius.’’ Open praise of the Prime Minister by a sitting judge was improper and inappropriate.
Many human rights cases and situations involve the violation or denial of citizens’ rights by the government and political or other establishments and agencies of the State. Human rights bodies from across the country have in a public statement pointed out that Mishra’s judgements had gone in favour of the State in cases that involved human rights, such as those relating to land acquisition or bail, as in the Bhima-Koregaon case. The NHRC is a constitutional body that should offer protection to citizens in such situations and should proactively try to expand their rights. Mishra does not inspire confidence in that respect. Institutions that protect constitutional and human rights have been weakened during the Modi government’s tenure. The NHRC, whose powers are already limited, should not become one more of them.