The NDA government is likely to offer the post of chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to Chief Justice of India H L Dattu who will demit office on December 2.
Official sources told The Indian Express that the government is waiting for the CJI to demit office before his consent is sought for consideration of his name by a high-level committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Only a former CJI can be appointed to the post.
“It is just a matter of a few days. If he (CJI Dattu) agrees, we don’t think there will be any opposition to his name,” said a senior government official.
The post of NHRC chairperson has been vacant since May after Justice K G Balakrishnan completed his nearly five-year-long tenure. One post of member is also vacant since the retirement of Satyabrata Pal in March last year – this vacancy is also expected to be filled soon.
Under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the President appoints the chairperson and members of the NHRC on the recommendation of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Union Home Minister, leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
Among the former CJIs eligible for consideration are Justices S H Kapadia, Altamas Kabir, P Sathasivam and R M Lodha. Of these, three have told the government that they are not interested in the job while the fourth — Justice Sathasivam, who is currently Governor of Kerala — is unlikely to find favour.
Justice Lodha, incidentally, is a strong votary of a cooling-off period for retired judges before they accept post-retirement jobs in the government.
Early this year, the government had sought Justice Sathasivam’s consent for the post but had to pull back in the face of a strong backlash, including a petition in Supreme Court to stall the proposed appointment.