Coming down heavily on the Centre for making appointments to various rights panels a matter of political largesse, the Supreme Court has stayed the appointment of members for the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
Out of the available six vacancies, the government had shortlisted five members for the child rights panel, currently chaired by Kushal Singh.
A three-member selection panel, headed by Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath, had shortlisted Jarjum Ete, Deepika Shrivastava, Preet Verma, Bhuwan Ribhu and Yogesh Dube for the positions left vacant since last November.
A Bench led by Justice T S Thakur prohibited the government from issuing notification for appointment of members for the NCPCR, after noting there were no norms and guidelines in place for selecting such members, who were being paid out of the public money. The court underlined neither any advertisement had been issued for inviting applications from people at large nor any criteria with respect to a candidates’ eligibility and suitability was laid down.
“Receiving applications only from candidates recommended by Ministers, MPs and other functionaries may not be right… the appointments sought to be made have statutory flavour, and those appointed are remunerated out of the public exchequer. That being so there is no reason why all such persons as are eligible for appointment should not have an opportunity to apply and compete for the same,” said the Bench.
It said that receiving applications from candidates, recommended by people who had no role to play in the process of selection may render the selection process “suspect”.
“Any such recommendations are most likely to influence the selection process in a subtle manner to the prejudice of other candidates who are not resourceful enough to secure such recommendations no matter they are otherwise equally if not more meritorious,” held the Bench.
During a hearing Tuesday, the court asserted that norms and guidelines for selection of candidates should be framed and published so that the entire process of selection was fair, reasonable, objective and transparent. The government sought six weeks’ time for issuing a proper advertisement inviting applications from all eligible candidates, and notifying the guidelines for assessment of the inter se merit of the candidates. The court asked the government to do so within six weeks and then come back to it for lifting the restraint order on appointment.
The controversy travelled to the SC after the Delhi HC quashed the appointment of Yogesh Dube as a NCPCR member, on petitions by NGOs The Association for Development and HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.
PMO to ministers, the recommendations
In 2010, out of 130 applications received by the NCPCR, 3 applications were forwarded from the Prime Minister’s Office and 35 others from Union ministers. 18 recommendations were from political party functionaries (17 of which were from Congress leaders) and 33 from MPs and MLAs. Similarly, 7 recommendations were made by chief ministers and state cabinet ministers and 10 others from the NCPCR itself.