The Bombay High Court Friday directed the state to identify additional space for the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission while hearing a matter pertaining to poor infrastructure affecting the functioning of the Commission. A bench of Justice VM Kanade and Justice PR Bora pointed out that it was the statutory obligation of the state to ensure autonomous functioning of the Commission by providing them with adequate funds and facilities.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by social activists Naresh Gosavi and Kailash Sharma, which points to the shortage of staff in the Commission and seeks providing it with adequate funding to ensure its financial autonomy and adequate space to ensure its proper functioning. The Commission now operates from a small office near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) and has sought for approximately an area of 8,000 to 10,000 sqft near the CST.
The state government meanwhile, told the court Friday that in compliance with a previous order, the Principal Secretaries of departments of general administration, finance, law, and home had conducted a joint meeting last month to address the paucity of staff and funds facing the Commission. However, it was proving difficult to allot a new office since “there is no space”, the state said.
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“We are looking at a 500-sqft open area in the present building itself and are hoping to develop it into an office space for the Commission. But this will require time. We have also asked the PWD to look for other suitable spaces,” the state said.
At this, Justice Kanade reminded the government that it was “obligated by the central Human Rights Commission Act” to provide adequate funds, office space and staff to the Commission.
“If the state wants to do something, it can do so overnight. We have witnessed how the finance department is capable of prolonging things despite giving assurances to the court. Why don’t you look at the Air India Building or the MTNL building?” the bench said. It has granted the state two week’s timeto look into this.