HC seeks compliance report by August 9, directs personal appearance of Law Secretary in default
SRINAGAR: A high-level meeting to appoint chairperson and members of the State Human Rights Commission has been scheduled in the first week of next month, government’s additional advocate general M I Dar informed the J&K high court.
He said that the meeting was planned on July 22 or 23, depending on the availability of Chief Minister and other members of the selection panel but due to the “present situation” it couldn’t materialise.
The panel headed by chief minister (currently Mehbooba Mufti) comprises leader of the largest opposition party in legislative assembly (Omar Abdullah), Speaker of the lower house (Kavinder Gupta), Chairman Legislative Council (Haji Inayat Ali) and Law Minister (Abdul Haq Khan).
“Three dates—August 3, 4 or 5— have been proposed, depending on availability of the members, for the meeting,” Dar added. Commissioner Secretary Law, Muhammad Ashraf Mir, was standing alongside Dar while he was making the submissions.
“For more than two years, the SHRC is defunct now. On one hand you say NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) has no jurisdiction (over J&K state) and (on the other hand) you don’t revive the SHRC,” a division bench of the court comprising Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey said and asked the government to file compliance report by or before next date of hearing on Monday.
The court also turned down Dar’s request for exemption from personal appearance of the law secretary, ordering he should appear on next date of hearing if the SHRC remained defunct.
The court was hearing PIL filed last year by an NGO—J&K Peoples Forum through its secretary general MM Shuja—for the revival of the high power human rights watch body.
Last month, the government withdrew the panel’s recommendations to the state’s governor for appointing former High Court Judge, Justice (retd.) Imtiyaz Hussain and former Principal District and Sessions Judge, Jang Bahadur Singh Jamwal respectively as chairman and one of the four members of the SHRC.
The withdrawal was forced as Justice (retd.) Imtiyaz Hussain’s appointment was in contravention of the legislation that makes the chairperson and members of State Accountability Commission ineligible for any assignment or appointment to be made by the Governor once their term is completed with the anti-graft body.
Hitherto, the ruling alliance failed to revive the SHRC despite the court’s direction to “strictly adhered to” the time limit of November 10, 2015.
The court’s order had followed an assurance by the advocate general on September 15 last year that immediately after the meeting to appoint the chairman and members of the SAC, the meeting for selection of the chairperson and the member of SHRC shall also be convened. The meeting to appoint chairperson and members of the SAC was held on September 17 last year but hitherto the SHRC has remained defunct.
Referring to a judgment by the Supreme Court, the high court had observed that the SHRC Act has been enacted to provide better protection of human rights relating to life, liberty, equality, dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in the state.
“The statute has conferred wide range powers upon SHRC and the Commission is therefore required to be constituted with persons who have held very high constitutional offices earlier so that all aspects of good and adjudicatory procedures would be familiar to them,” the court had said.
More than 2000 cases, mainly related to human right violations, are pending disposal since June 28, 2014 when two of its last members—Rafiq Fida, who was also serving as its acting chairperson, and Amlok Singh completed their term in office.
The SHRC 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 Kawoos attained superannuation on October 24, 2013.