The future of National Human Rights Commission

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

(Samaj Weekly)- Former Supreme Court Judge Arun Mishra has taken over as Chair Person of National Human Rights Commission. Mishra was over staying in his official residence after his retirement and had not vacated the place and sought extension under this pretext or that. It was mandated that only former Chief Justice of Supreme Court would be eligible to be the chairperson of NHRC but because of non availability of ‘eligible’ person, the government amended the law adding that any former judge of Supreme Court would be eligible to become the Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission.

National Human Rights Commission came into existence after tremendous international pressure on India on human rights issues. At the time of its formation in 1993, the then government led by P V Narsimha Rao appointed Justice Rangnath Mishra, former Chief Justice of India, as its first president. Justice Mishra was known to protect those big names of the Congress Party involved in Delhi pogrom against Sikhs in 1984. Shockingly the Commission led by him said, ” The commission therefore accept the submission advanced before it that the incidents against the Sikhs on October 31st, 1984 started as a natural reaction to the situation and at that stage there was no organised attempt to cause or spread violence by rioting spread against Sikhs. The Commission however reiterated that the Sikhs as a community has not committed any crime and were not answerable for the abominable attempt of the assailants.”

Rangnath Mishra got awarded for his service to the Congress Party and protecting Narsimha Rao, the most inefficient home minister of India when Indira Gandhi was assassinated. Congress Party when enjoyed unchallenged power had violated all norms and procedures. After retirement from National Human Rights Commission, Rangnath Mishra was appointed as Rajya Sabha Member by the Congress Party 1998-2004.

BJP is following the same text book cases started by the Congress Party and Mishras are common beneficiary. Justice Arun Mishra during his tenure pushed law against the marginalised and protected the interest of the government. As a judge in the Supreme Court, he mentioned that prime minister of India is a visionary and a global leader. In various cases of corruption, he protected the corporate houses and government.

Arun Mishra broke precedent and sat in a committee which was made to review his own judgement. In the case of compensation related to land acquisition he shamelessly proclaimed that if the farmers were not taken compensation but it has been deposited in the treasury then it should be regarded as paid. He protected big business interests and stood against the marginalised.

However, the biggest anti human rights judgement of Arun Mishra came on February 13th, 2019 when he ordered eviction of one million adivasis from their own homeland without considering the crucial aspect of their rehabilitation. Making every indigenous person look as criminal, Arun Mishra’s judgment showed what ails Indian judicial system and why it was extremely necessary to have more judges from the marginalised sections in our top judicial services. Though the Supreme Court stayed the order yet it had already done the damage. There are many such cases where the victims of evictions too were shown no mercy and ‘developmental’ projects were approved without considering the issues of honourable rehabilitation of the rural or urban poor.

Hence the man whose track record of being fair towards marginalised, Dalits, adivasis has been seemingly unfair, Arun Mishra’s appointment at the National Human Rights Commission is a signal by the current regime to actually use the Human Rights context to deny justice to the marginalised. One can not expect justice at the hands of those who when in full power actually denied them every opportunity.
The irony of our institutional bodies related to the rights of the marginalised or human rights is that they have no space for civil society activists or campaigner. These institutions have become a easy space to provide favor to those who have ‘given’ their ‘services’ to the government. The institutions have become hogwash and will only be used to provide legitimacy to the misdeeds of the state. They will represent India at all the international forums and deny everything that the people are fighting for.

We dont expect the government bodies to do miracles but they have been useful on many occasions when the head of the institution is determined to fight the cause of human rights and marginalised communities and people. NHRC has done many things with the help of civil society organisations.

Mr Arun Mishra can undo many things of the past by igniting the NHRC and helping the marginalised and the poor in getting justice. Will he be able to do so or will he accept everything that the government does as it is headed by a ‘visionary leader’ ?

– Vidya Bhushan Rawat
June 3rd, 2021