Madurai: All India Network of NGOs and Individuals working with National and State Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI) has expressed "serious concerns" over the appointment of Avinash Rai Khanna, vice-president of BJP, as a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
In a representation sent to the President of India Pranab Mukherjee, AiNNI said that while the post is sought to be filled by a person with no political affiliations, the appointment of Khanna would send a wrong message to the people of India and challenge the independence of NHRC which the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GA-NHRIs) through its Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) highlighted in 2011. .
"This appointment is contrary to the universally accepted human rights standards evolved under the aegis of the United Nations. It will erode the public faith in the institution, which has been declining steadily over the past ten years," the AiNNI told the President in its letter signed by nine senior AiNNI advisors, including Henri Tiphagne, national working secretary of the AiNNI.
Any candidate who is part of the political party of the ruling government, should not be appointed as member of NHRC "because this institution is responsible to examine complaints of rights violation by functionaries of the government", the AiNNI said, adding it was dismayed that after keeping the post vacant since March 2014, the government has now chosen to fill it with a "person with clear political affiliation".
"AiNNI believes that the appointment of the new member in a non-transparent and non-consultative manner also directly contradicts the UN Paris Principles that provide the guidelines for appointments in national human rights institutions. As per Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 (PHRA), this position has to be filled by those having experience and knowledge of human rights", it said, adding that the members of the Appointment Committee were not even told that the man they had chosen was an office bearer of the ruling party.
The AiNNI pointed out that it had been more than 12 years since NHRC had a woman member on board. "This goes against the principles of plurality and diversity in composition as mentioned in the UN Paris Principles", it cautioned and said it would be "apt to appoint a woman from civil society, preferably from dalit, tribal or minority community, who has substantial knowledge and experience in the field of human rights". Such a move would also ensure that India abides by the principles of pluralism as laid down in the UN Paris Principles and also the May 2011 SCA's recommendation to India.
NHRC India is scheduled for its periodic review for its accreditation by the SCA of the GA-NHRIs on November 22 at Geneva, AiNNI reminded the President.