Social media is abuzz with voices of opposition against reports of first possible appointment of an active politician in the in the National Human Rights Commission. According to Indian Express, BJP vice-president Avinash Rai Khanna is likely to be appointed as a member of the NHRC. The post has been vacant for past two years. Voicing his opposition to the decision of appointment, former Swaraj Abhiyan leader PrashantBhushan said that the Modi government was attempting to diminish independent institutions.THE DECISION
According to the Indian Express, the panel that selected Khanna as a member of NHRC held a meeting in October and cleared his name.
The paper quoted a source saying, "Some other names were also discussed, but his (Khanna's) name was cleared. There was no dissent."
WHAT DO THE RULES SAY?
As per the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 NHRC chairperson and its members are chosen by a high-level committee. Prime Minister heads this search committee, which also has the Lok Sabha Speaker, union home minister, leader of opposition in both the houses, and deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.
The NHRC chairperson can only be a retired chief justice of India. NHRC has four full-time members, who are selected by the panel.
One of the full-time members has to be a retired SC judge and another member should be a former chief justice of a high court. The two other members should have "knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights".
WHO IS AVINASH RAI KHANNA?
Khanna was a Rajya Sabha MP till April this year, when his tenure ended. Earlier, he contested Lok Sabha elections from Hoshiarpur constituency in Punjab.
In 2009, Hoshiarpur became a reserved seat and he had to leave the electoral battle. The Badal government appointed him as a member of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission, which Khanna quit after 13 months, when he was elected to the Rajya Sabha.
He is currently the in-charge of Jammu and Kahsmir BJP.
BJP HAS CHANGED ITS STAND
Interestingly, the BJP seems to have changed its position on the appointment of a political person to the NHRC.
In 2013, the then leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitely had opposed appointment of retired SC judge Cyriac Joseph on the ground that he had political links.
Jaitley had written a letter to the then PM Manmohan Singh, who, however, had rejected his objections to clear the appointment of Justice Cyriac Josesph in the NHRC.