Monday, June 12, 2006
GANDHINAGAR: The Narendra Modi government has finally decided to form the Gujarat Human Rights Commission. At a high-level meeting chaired by Modi, the government nominated retired high court Chief Justice BK Sinha as its first chairman.
Confirming the decision, principal secretary, home, KC Kapoor told TOI on Sunday, "The commission under Justice Sinha will start functioning after governor Naval Kishore Sharma puts his stamp of approval and a notification is issued."
The government, however, has not decided on other members of the commission, which under the existing law, should include two retired judges of the high court and two members from the civil society.
A well-placed source closely monitoring human rights activities in Gujarat, said, "The commission can start functioning with the chairman.
Others can be appointed in consultation with the leader of the Opposition later on." Sources said that it was difficult to understand why the state had been so reluctant to set up the commission.
The law disallows cases handled by the state human rights commission to be examined by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). It was to the advantage of the Gujarat government to appoint a state body.
This would have helped quell criticism of human rights violations during the 2002 riots in Gujarat from the NHRC.
The state human rights commission had not been formed in Gujarat, under the pretext that the government was "studying" the functioning of similar bodies in other states.
Till now, the state home department had held the belief that these organisations in other states were toothless and could not function independently.
Despite numerous representations from NGOs, the Gujarat government failed to come up with such a body. The idea of having the state commission follows several important directions given by the NHRC to the state, from time to time.
Initially, a decision to form the body was taken in 1996, when Shankarsinh Vaghela was the chief minister. The BJP government that followed, adopted a lukewarm attitude towards the issue, though it was part of the party's election manifesto.
Many believe that Modi was forced to come up with the commission as he wanted to refurbish his poor image in India and abroad.