New Delhi (India), July 22 (ANI) Parliament on Monday passed a bill that expedites the process of appointments of chairpersons of National and state Human Right Commissions with Rajya Sabha giving its nod after Home Minister Amit Shah dismissed opposition concerns about "misuse" of the human rights bodies.
The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by voice vote in the Upper House after an motion for seeking it to send it to a Select Committee was negated. The Bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha last week.
The Bill amends the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. Under the present Act, the chairperson of the NHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or a Judge of the Supreme Court will be the chairperson of the NHRC.
Similarly, a former high court judge can also become a state human rights commission chairperson besides a high court chief, according to the Bill.
The amendment provides for a reduction in the tenure of chairpersons of national and state human rights bodies to three years from the current five years.
"We have no bad intention. The Chairperson will be appointed by a committee comprising of the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Home Minister, Deputy Chairman of Lok Sabha and leaders of the largest opposition parties in both houses," he said.
"Members should have faith in the wisdom of the committee," he said adding that there is no reason for any doubt by the opposition.
As the Bill was taken up for clause by clause consideration, CPI-M's K K Ragesh sought to amend a clause that allows judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts as Chairpersons of the Committee. He sought to amend it as judges should only be allowed in case of non-availability of the Chief Justices.
Responding to it Shah said if this is allowed, no judge would want to take up the position as it will be deemed disrespectful.
After his response, Ragesh did not move his amendment.
Earlier, replying to the discussion on the Bill, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said NHRC and the state Human Rights Commission would have proper representations of the deprived and weaker sections of the society.
He said 13 of the 15 posts of Chairpersons in state commissions are vacant and the post of Chairperson of NHRC remained vacant for a long period.
After the Bill is passed, these vacant posts can be filled.
Participating in the discussion Congress' Vivek Tankha, DMK's Tiruchi Siva, RJD's Manoj Jha and some other members said the clause to amend the Act to allow the appointment of any judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court to be the chairperson of the NHRC or the SHRC, can be misused.
They also raised concerns allowing a chairperson's tenure to be changed from five years to three years and the clause that allows his or her reappointment at any time.
"The government has set a precedent of rewarding retired judges with postings. This would continue in NHRC too, now," Tankha said.
Earlier, the Bill was introduced by MoS Home Rai amid the ruckus. As it was taken up for discussion the Opposition members objected it, saying that they were not given enough time to move amendments.
Rejecting their objections, Deputy Chairman Harivansh allowed the discussion on the bill. Prabhat Jha of the BJP spoke on the bill amid slogan shouting by the opposition members.
As pandemonium continued, Deputy Chairman adjourned the House till 3 p.m. The opposition continued to raise the same issues when the House reassembled.
Raising a point of order, Congress's Anand Sharma said members should get at least two days notice to file their amendments to the bill.
He said that in the absence of a standing committee, it was unfair on the members part to proceed with the consideration of amendments in such short notice.
"This government seems to be in hurry to pass the every Bill," he said raising a Point of Order.
The House came back to order after Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu took over at the Chair to announce the successful launch of Chandrayaan-2. (ANI)