The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Friday took a serious note of the Punjab government appointing the chairman of the state Human Rights Commission without taking the principal opposition party into confidence. Condemning the step taken by the Amarinder Singh led Congress government, AAP MLA and state co-president of the party Aman Arora said it smacked of not only autocracy, but also the complete disregard of the ruling regime towards the law of the land and democratic system as enshrined in the Constitution.
The state government had recently, after the resignation of Leader of Opposition in the Assembly H S Phoolka, appointed Justice Iqbal Ahmed Ansari as the Punjab Human Rights Commission (PHRC) chairman. Phoolka had put in his papers, so that he could represent the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in court.
Arora said it had clearly been laid out in the Protection of Human Rights Act that the chairman and members of the commission had to be appointed by the governor, on the basis of the recommendation by a committee comprising the chief minister, speaker of the Assembly, minister of home affairs and leader of opposition.
“This is the same Congress government which has been crying foul and accusing the (erstwhile) SAD-BJP government of muzzling the opposition’s voice for the last 10 years in Punjab,” he added. The AAP leader said it appeared as if the government was “looking for an opportunity to appoint its hand-picked favorites” from the moment it learnt about Phoolka’s resignation. He said Phoolka submitted his resignation letter to the Assembly Speaker on Tuesday.
“At 5 pm on the same day, the government called the meeting to appoint the PHRC chairman,” Arora said and added that it could not be a coincidence. “What was the tearing hurry to appoint the chairman when the chief minister, speaker and the home affairs department -all belonged to the Congress? In fact, the consent of the opposition would only have strengthened the sanctity of the appointment,” he said.
Arora said he even wrote to the state home affairs and justice departments on Wednesday, urging them to put the appointment on hold as the AAP was still in the process of appointing the new leader of opposition. “I even requested the Congress government that in absence of the LOP, it should either allow our deputy leader in the Assembly or any other legislator to appear on his behalf at the meeting. However, the home department simply chose to remain in communicative,” he said.