In what could give rise to a fresh controversy,the government Thursday pushed the candidature of former Supreme Court judge Cyriac Joseph for the post of Member,National Human Rights Commission,ignoring the BJPs concerns over his integrity and competence.
The post is reserved for a former SC judge and is vacant since Justice G P Mathur completed his term in January.
It is learnt that at Thursdays meeting of the selection committee,chaired by PM Manmohan Singh,Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, respectively,Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley gave written reasons for opposing Josephs name and walked out of the meeting. But the government is likely to use its majority on the panel,which also has Speaker Meira Kumar,Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, to clear his name.
Last month also,the government had ignored the BJP leaders opposition to the candidature of then NIA chief,S C Sinha,and appointed him Member,NHRC.
The Indian Express had first reported on April 8 that the government planned to use its majority in the selection panel to appoint Justice Joseph to the post despite an adverse report from the Intelligence Bureau. The report had scuttled his chance of being made chairperson of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal.
In his dissent note,Jaitley said of the three ex-judges proposed for the post Joseph, B Sudershan Reddy and V S Sirpurkar Joseph was completely unsuitable.
He has been,even during his tenure as a judge,perceived to be close to certain political and religious organisations. His close proximity to religious organisations is evident from the fact that media reports have indicated that when certain nuns were sexually assaulted,as a sitting judge of SC he visited the institutions where narco analysis of the accused was being carried out in Karnataka… He was quoted in the media as having stated that for him his religious affinity was more important that his commitment as a judge, Jaitleys note said.
Jaitley also cited Josephs poor track-record as a judge. He was known for not writing judgments. As against a few hundred judgments authored by every judge of the SC,during his tenure Justice Cyric Joseph is believed to have written only six judgments, the note said.
Since there were other eminent retired judges eligible for the post,including Justices Reddy and Sirpurkar,Jaitley said he was unable to persuade myself to concur to the appointment of Joseph.
In her note,Swaraj wrote,Integrity and competence are essential for a public office. The proposed name lacks both. Therefore,I disagree.