Justice Arun Mishra, a former Supreme Court judge, was appointed Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday. On September 3 of last year, he stepped down from the Supreme Court. His term as head of the NHRC will be for five years or until he reaches the age of 70, whichever comes first.
According to reports, Justice Mishra was nominated on the advice of a high-powered committee that included Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, and Rajya Sabha Leader Mallikarjun Kharge. In light of escalating crimes against the community, Kharge has expressed his displeasure with the committee’s suggestion, requesting the appointment of a person from a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe as NHRC Chairperson or even as a member of the NHRC.
Since former Chief Justice of India H L Dattu retired in December last year, the job of NHRC chairperson has been empty for about six months, and the office of a member has also been empty. Former SC judge and NHRC member Prafulla Pant raised the problem of vacant jobs in the NHRC and State Commissions in a statement in March, calling it a “cause of concern.” After that, Pant was named as the interim chairwoman. Activists have petitioned the Supreme Court to replace vacancies on several state human rights commissions. For example, Maharashtra has been without a full-time chairman since 2018, despite the state seeing an unprecedented migrant exodus last year amid the nationwide lockdown to contain COVID-19.