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Gauhati High Court issues notice to government on improper functioning of Human rights commission

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The Gauhati High Court issued notice to the Chief Secretary to the Government  of Arunachal Pradesh to file an affidavit  disclosing  the steps taken by the State Government  for appointment of two members of the Arunachal Pradesh State Human Rights Commission and its office staff.

The Itanagar Division Bench of Justice Kalyan Rai Surana and Justice Mitali Thakuria heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) raising the issue that the State Human Rights Commission is not functioning properly in the State of Arunachal Pradesh because the Commission presently only has a Chairperson. 

It is projected in the PIL that although one member was appointed by the Government , but the said member was disinclined to take up the assignment and therefore, the post of all two members has remained vacant and not filled up. It has also come to the notice of the Court that apart from a part time Secretary, no staffs including driver and peon for the Chairperson have been appointed. Thus, for all purposes, the Commission is prevented from functioning.

The  Additional Advocate General has referred to the High Court the  affidavit in-opposition filed by the respondent no.2 (The Home Commissioner Department of Home Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh Itanagar) and it is submitted that an advertisement was issued on 09.02.2021, inviting applications for filling up the post of two members of the Arunachal Pradesh State Human Rights Commission and the proposal for appointment is under active consideration of the Government. Hence, it was submitted that some time be granted to the State to complete the process.

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Having taken note of the fact that by virtue of notification issued on 24.01.2020, the Honourable former Judge of the Court was appointed as the Chairperson of the Arunachal Pradesh Human Rights Commission, but the Commission itself has remained a non-starter because both the posts of members within the meaning of Clause-b and Clause-c of Sub-section (2) of Section 21 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 has remained vacant. Moreover, no permanent staff including driver, peon and other support staff of the Commission and for its Chairperson have been appointed so far.   

The Bench observed that both sides have not been able to show any provision in the said Act by which a Chairman can validly function and discharge duty as the Arunachal Pradesh State Human Rights Commission in the absence of two members as required under section 21 of the said Act, or office staff.  

It is noted by the High Court with concern that although the advertisement for filling up the posts of two members was issued on 09.02.2021, the process has not yet been culminated. “This prima facie shows the neglect and apathy on part of the State Govt. to have a functional Arunachal Pradesh State Human Rights Commission, which does not appear to be in public interest”, the Court Said.
Under such circumstances, the Court  issued notice to the Chief Secretary to the Government  of Arunachal Pradesh to file an affidavit in this PIL to disclose the steps taken by the State Govt. for appointment of two members of the Arunachal Pradesh State Human Rights Commission and its office staff and driver and peon or support staff for the Chairperson and also to disclose the time limit within which the process of making appointments would be completed. 

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If the said authority is unable to give any timeline, the Chief Secretary would also respond as to why the Court should not issue a direction on the State to act in accordance with the provision of section 22 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 by directing the State to empower the Secretariat of the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh to take up the matter of appointment of the members and staffs of the said Commission within a specified timeline , the Court directed.

The Court posted the matter on 16.12.2022 for further hearing.

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