Srinagar: The J&K high court on Tuesday issued notice to state government on a Public Interest Litigation seeking revival of the State Human Rights Commission, which is completely defunct for the past more than 14 months.
The notice returnable within a week was issued to the government through secretary law and parliamentary affairs by a division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasathakumar and Justice Hasnain Massodi while hearing a PIL filed by an NGO, J&K Peoples Forum, through its secretary general MM Shuja.
“As at present, there is neither any chairperson nor any member in the commission. There is supporting staff comprising of the secretary and an inspector general of police who can’t deal with more than 2000 cases pending disposal at present before the Commission,” the petitioner said, while seeking direction from the court to the “non-serious” government to take “immediate and effective steps” for making the appointment of the chairperson and the four members of the commission.
The SHRC was left defunct on June 28 when its two members, among them Rafiq Fida who was also serving as its acting chairperson, completed their term. The other retired member was Amlok Singh who served it from June 28, 2011.
The state human rights watchdog is actually headless since October 2011 when Justice (Retd) Bashir-ud-Din retired as chairman. Month later, Abdul Rashid Khan, former Inspector General of Police, completed his term as the member while Javaid Ahmad Kawoosa attained superannuation on October 24, 2013.
Soon after the chairman and the two members (Khan and Kawoosa) retired, the law, justice and parliamentary ministry had announced on its official website that filling up the vacancies was under “active consideration of the government and the process has already been initiated.”
While previous government did nothing to revive the commission, the ruling PDP-BJP government, which already completed six months and a week in office, too slept over the issue despite assurances of revving it on “priority basis.”
On March 22, the law, justice and parliamentary affairs minister Basharat Bukhari told Kashmir Reader the commission will be revived “very soon”.
The SHRC has been empowered to order investigations in cases of human rights violations and recommend measures for effective implementation of laws and safeguards provided by the Constitution to protect human rights.
It is for the first time since its inception in 1997 that the human rights body has remained defunct.
In 2006, the then Chairman, Justice (Retd) AM Mir had resigned in protest against “non-implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.”
As per the J&K State Protection of Human Rights Act, the chairperson and the members are appointed by a high-level committee headed by the Chief Minister. Its members include Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Chairman of the Legislative Council, Home Minister of the State, Leader of the Opposition in Legislative Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in Legislative Council.