Justice Arun Mishra is new NHRC chief: First non-CJI to hold post; ex-SC judge had called Modi 'versatile genius'
Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who was part of the Apointment Committee, dissociated himself from the selection process after his suggestion to include a member of the SC/ST community in the NHRC was rejected
Former Supreme Court judge Arun Mishra who had praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an "internationally acclaimed visionary" and "versatile genius", took charge as the eighth chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday.
Justice Mishra is the first non-CJI to be appointed to the NHRC chief post since the amendment of the Protection of Human Rights Act in 2019.
Set up by an Act of Parliament under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the NHRC is tasked with the protection and promotion of human rights in India. The commission also conducts inquiries into complaints of violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant, and is responsible for spreading of human rights awareness amongst the masses and encouraging such efforts.
The post has been lying vacant for five months after former chief justice HL Dattu, a former Chief Justice of India (CJI), completed his tenure in early December.
Besides Justice Mishra, Rajiv Jain, former director of Intelligence Bureau, and justice MM Kumar, former chief justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court also joined as members of the commission.
Career as judge
He was appointed Judge of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh on 25 October, 1999 and appointed as the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court on 26 November, 2010, He held the office till his appointment as the Chief Justice of the High Court at Calcutta on 14 December, 2012.
Justice Mishra was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court of India on 7 July, 2014 and held the position till his superannuation on 2 September, 2020, it said.
During his tenure, he dealt with several politically-sensitive cases, and many activists then had opposed the allocation of such cases to him.
"During his tenure as a Supreme Court Judge, he delivered 236 judgements. Of this 199 were in two judges bench, 32 in three judges bench and five in five judges bench," the NHRC statement said.
Justice Mishra had also headed a bench that had directed in 2019 demolition of illegal flats built on the coastal zone of Kochi's Maradu, in accordance with a time schedule provided by the Kerala government, and also ordered payment of Rs 25 lakh as interim compensation to each flat owner.
'Modi a versatile genius'
Justice Mishra had created a flutter after praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an event in 2020 where he had called him an "internationally acclaimed visionary" and a "versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally".
Complimenting the prime minister and Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for doing away with 1,500 obsolete laws at the International Judicial Conference 2020, justice Mishra had also said that India is a responsible and most friendly member of the international community under the "stewardship" of Modi.
Justice Mishra was behind shutting down evening law colleges
Born in 1955, Justice Mishra joined the Bar in 1978 and practiced in constitutional, civil, industrial, service and criminal matters. He was elected as the youngest chairman of the Bar Council of India in 1998 and particularly focused on the improvement of legal education, the NHRC said in a statement.
During his chairmanship, the Bar Council of India decided to close the evening law colleges and also decided that five-year law course should be started instead of three years course in all the colleges.
More than two hundred sub-standard law colleges were closed by the BCI.
"He was instrumental in the drafting and implementation of Foreign Law Degree Recognition Rules of 1997 under Advocates Act, 1961; Bar Council of India Employees Service Rules, 1996, and Rules pertaining to Foreign Lawyers Conditions of Practice in India," it added.
Kharge dissociates from Justice Mishra's appointment to NHRC
Even before Justice Mishra started his tenure as the chief of the NHRC, controversy erupted on his appointment with senior Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge dissociating himself from the selection process in a letter to the prime minister after his suggestion to include a member of the SC/ST community was rejected by the Apointment Committee.
"I had reiterated in today's meeting my concern over the rise in the cases of atrocities on Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities and proposed that at least one person belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Minorities be recommended for appointment either to the post of Chairperson under Section 3(2)(a) or a member under Section 3(2)(c)or a member under Section 3(2)(d) to the National Human Rights Commission from amongst the existing list of candidates.
"I also pointed out that appointment of the Chairperson or a member to the NHRC cannot simply be ignored on the pretext that there is no specific provision to this effect in the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, and amendments made. Obviously there cannot be any bar to appoint either Chairperson or member to the NHRC on this ground," he said in his letter.
Alternatively, the Congress leader proposed that if this is not feasible, the meeting may be postponed for a week and reconvened bringing before the Selection Committee the names of some candidates from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities so that one of these could be recommended for the appointment either for the post of chairperson or member of the NHRC.
"Since the Committee did not accept any of my proposals, I express my disagreement with the recommendations made by the Committee in regard to appointments to the posts of Chairperson and Members of NHRC," Kharge said in his letter to the prime minister.
With inputs from PTI
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