Justice Mishra, Known for Seeing ‘Genius’ in Modi, Takes Charge as NHRC Chief

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Justice Arun Mishra

Opposition leaders, rights activists question his appointment with Prashant Bhushan saying it will push the defunct body called NHRC to ‘Dead’

Waquar Hasan | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – The former Supreme Court judge, Arun Kumar Mishra, took charge of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as Chairperson on Wednesday. He had retired from the apex court on September 3 last year. As head of NHRC, his tenure will be for five years or till he attains the age of 70, whichever is earlier. The post was lying vacant since retired Justice HL Dattu had demitted office in September last year after completing his tenure.

Justice Mishra had in February 2020 grabbed headlines for a controversial statement at an international conference. He described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an “internationally acclaimed visionary” and “versatile genius”. It was unusual for a sitting judge of the apex court to praise an executive.

His appointment has stoked new controversy with opposition leaders as well as rights activists raising questions of propriety. Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who was part of the selection committee, wrote a note of dissent and later wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing his disagreement. The selection panel comprised, besides Kharge and Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Harivansh and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

Kharge was of the view that the chairman should be from the SC/ST, OBCs or minorities. He also expressed his resentment through twitter wherein he termed the appointment of Mishra as smacking of “partnership and quid pro quo”.

“Since the committee did not accept any of my proposals, I express my disagreement with the recommendations made by the committee in regard to the appointments to the posts of chairperson and members of NHRC,” said Kharge.

Explaining the ground for appointing chairman from the marginalized sections of society, he said that in view of the rising number of cases of atrocities on these sections “at least one person belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities be recommended for appointment either to the post of Chairperson under Section 3(2)(a) or a member under Section 3(2)(c) or a member under Section 3(2)(d) to the National Human Rights Commission from amongst the existing list of candidates”.

Trinamool Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra also criticized the appointment of Justice Mishra citing his flattery of Modi.

“We thank the versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally, Shri Narendra Modi, for his inspiring speech which would act as a catalyst in initiating the deliberations and setting the agenda for the conference. India is a responsible and most friendly member of the international community under the stewardship of internationally acclaimed visionary Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi,” said Mishra.

The Supreme Court Bar Association had criticized Mishra for praising Modi.

Apart from political leaders, there were others too who raised questions over the appointment of Mishra. Prominent Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said Mishra’s appointment will push defunct body NHRC to “Dead”.

Prominent journalist Dilip C Mandal has launched a campaign against Justice Mishra calling him “casteist”, “corrupt” and “anti-adivasi”.

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