Barely a week after Maneka Gandhi took over as the minister for Women and Child Development, “feelers” have allegedly started going out from her ministry to chairpersons of autonomous organisations under the ministry that they should put in their papers. While some have complied or indicated their willingness to do so, Kushal Singh, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), has refused to step down, saying it would mean going against the mandate of the commission she heads.
Singh told The Indian Express: “I have been receiving feelers from the ministry that I should step down and I have told them that I will not. There is no reason for me to step down. Why should I resign? The NCPCR Act lays down specific conditions for removal of the chairperson. So If I am to be removed it has to be only under those conditions and not beyond them. The commission was constituted to monitor government agencies. If I take such a direction from the ministry it would be to go against the mandate of the commission.”
NCPCR was set up in 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, an Act of Parliament. Its mandate is to ensure that all laws, policies, programmes, and administrative mechanisms are in consonance with the child rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Sources said Singh is contemplating moving court to seek upholding of an earlier court verdict, which reportedly said that tenure posts should not change with change of government. “I am an apolitical person. Why should I resign because the government has changed? I am not resigning on principle. I have nothing to lose, my tenure ends in October. I will not go before that,” Singh said.
Officials in the ministry said as per the law, under which NCPCR was set up, the ministry cannot force the chairperson to resign. “But where does the question arise of anybody going to court on this? There is no official order that has gone out from this ministry. It is a claim and she cannot go to court on the basis of a claim. Court needs evidence. It is all based on perception,” said a senior ministry official.
Meanwhile, sources in the ministry said many other similar bodies like Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) and the Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB) have also received similar signals. Prema Cariappa, chairperson CSWB, has already put in her papers. CARA chairperson Rajender Singla too has indicated he is willing to step down.