The public would tend to believe that retired IPS officers appointed to head the investigation division of the NHRC would not be fair and impartial, points out B Raman
The media has reported that Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, have strongly objected to a proposal from the government to appoint S C Sinha, the retiring chief of the National Investigation Agency, as a member of the National Human Rights Commission.
They are reported to have suggested that someone who does not belong to the Indian Police Service should be appointed to this post.
They have also reportedly pointed out that the NIA has attracted controversy in connection with its investigation into the alleged involvement of some right-wing elements in terror acts. There have been allegations in the past that the NIA was sought to be misused by the government to demonise the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh by projecting the arrested right-wing elements as having acted at the instance of the RSS.
It may be recalled that some allegations openly made by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde in this connection -- which sought to create an impression that terror training camps were being run by some right-wing elements -- came in for strong criticism from the opposition. He made these allegations at a brain-storming session of the Congress at Jaipur.
The NHRC has an investigation division to probe allegations of human rights violations and this division is usually headed by a retired IPS officer. The officer investigates the complaints and submits his findings to the Commission as a whole.
The NIA was set up in 2009 -- after the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai -- to investigate terror cases with a pan-Indian dimension.
In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation automatically investigates all terror cases without the President playing any role in the matter.
In India, the home ministry, the supervising ministry of the NIA, has the discretion to decide which cases will be investigated by the agency.
There have been allegations that the government has been misusing this discretionary power to discredit the RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party by selectively taking over the probe against right-wing elements from the state police and transferring them to the NIA.
The effectiveness of the NIA as a terrorism investigation agency depends not only on its investigative capability, but also on its credibility as an independent agency like the FBI, which does not allow itself to be misused by the government for its own political agenda.
The investigation and prosecution record of the NIA since its inception in 2009 has been poor. Many terror incidents have remained undetected. It is distrusted both by the Hindu and Muslim communities. As a result, the public credibility of the NIA is poor.
While it would be unfair to hold the retiring chief of the NIA responsible for this state of affairs, the public perception will be that he cannot escape responsibility for this.
Many of the complaints of human rights violations received by the NHRC are against the police and counter-terrorism agencies. The public would tend to believe that retired IPS officers appointed to head the investigation division would not be fair and impartial in their investigation and would try to cover up the misdeeds of fellow police officers.
There is, therefore, validity in the reported contention of Swaraj -- that a retired IPS officer should not be appointed to this post. Particularly, it will be very unwise to appoint the retiring chief of the NIA. The investigations of the NHRC will not have any credibility in the eyes of the aggrieved communities.
The Lok Sabha elections are due in the next few months. The appointment of the retiring NIA chief at this time as a member of the NHRC will create the suspicion that the government has a hidden political agenda. This matter needs to be brought to the notice of the Election Commission.