In a move that is likely to stir up a political battle and has kicked up quite a storm on social media, the NDA government has decided to appoint BJP leader and vice-president Avinash Rai Khanna as a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
According to a report by The Indian Express, this is the first time a politician is being appointed to this post, and it has remained vacant for two years now.
The members of the NHRC are selected after careful consideration by a high-level committee which is headed by the Prime Minister, and also has the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Union Home Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
The Indian Express sources state that the panel met in October to discuss possible candidates for the vacant post and after discussion of some names, cleared Khanna's name without any dissent.
Section 3 in The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 clearly states that the Commission shall consist of:
- a Chairperson who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court;
- one Member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court;
- one Member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court;
- two Members to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights.
Interestingly, in 2013, when the UPA-led government appointed retired Supreme Court judge Cyriac Joseph, the BJP had opposed to the appointment alleging that Joseph had "political links." The UPA government had selected Joseph to occupy the post in NHRC. The Opposition, led at the time by Arun Jaitley, had raised an objection and had written a letter to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh voicing their dissent.
Various politicians and eminent personalities opined their disagreement to the government's decision. Former Swaraj Abhiyan leader Prashant Bhushan tweeted, "Modi government's alarming decimation of all Accountability Institutions continues with appointment of BJP's JK VP as member NHRC."
Modi govt's alarming decimation of all Accountability Institutions continues with Appt of BJP's JK VP as member NHRChttps://t.co/cybiCiPnK3
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) November 6, 2016
BSP leader Sudhindra Bhadoria tweeted, "BJP government is trying to change character of NHRC by appointing party nominee."
— Sudhindra Bhadoria (@SudhinBhadoria) November 6, 2016
AAP leader Alka Lamba tweeted, "Ab Hoga Purn Nayaay ... ??? (Now, we will see complete justiceâ€¦???). BJP Leader will be the 1st political Leader to become d member in NHRC."
Ab Hoga Purn Nayaay ... ???
BJP Leader will be the 1st political Leader to become d member in NHRC. https://t.co/CZNiFw81rb
— Alka Lamba (@LambaAlka) November 6, 2016
Noted historial Ramchandra Guha said, "The National Human Right Commission's standing is already low: this move will lower it further."
The National Human Right Commission's standing is already low: this move will lower it further:https://t.co/BTptRC1MUG
— Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) November 6, 2016
The Leader of Opposition in RS did not object to the appointment of an active politician to NHRC. Nice! https://t.co/PjZYDp484f
— Ritika Chopra (@KhurafatiChopra) November 6, 2016
BJP V-P is member NHRC. Likely to do an outstanding job when dealing with cases in BJP states such as SIMI encounterhttps://t.co/A9uUBBudSo
— Hartosh Singh Bal (@HartoshSinghBal) November 6, 2016
Who is Avinash Rai Khanna?
Khanna, vice president of the BJP is the party in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan. He has earlier served as the member of the Rajya Sabha and has remained the member of the 14th Lok Sabha of India. In 2010, he was elected the Rajya Sabha member and then appointed as the chief whip of the party in the Upper House. He has also remained a member of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission in April 2010 for 10 months.
Khanna had started his career as an advocate.