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Why ex-CJI Sabharwal won't head NHRC

March 17, 2010 16:55 IST

Former Chief Justice of India Y K Sabharwal was not considered for the post of National Human Rights Commission chief because of "adverse media and other reports" about him, the Home Ministry has said.

Former Chief Justices R C Lahoti and Y K Sabharwal were both eligible for the post of NHRC chairperson according to provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

But Justice Lahoti declined the offer citing other engagements whereas Justice Sabharwal was not considered for the "highly sensitive post" because of adverse reports, the ministry said.

In reply to an RTI application by Subhash Chandra Agrawal, the human rights division of the ministry said, "Because of adverse media and other reports with regard to Justice Y K Sabharwal, it was felt that highly sensitive post of chairperson of NHRC may not be offered to him."

"Accordingly, it was recorded on our files that Justice R C Lahoti and Justice Y K Sabharwal 'are not inclined/not available for different reasons."

The ministry said the offer to Justice Lahoti was made "orally" and there was no correspondence recorded between the Union government and Justice Lahoti, adding the conversation had been conveyed to the Home Minister through the Home Secretary.

The post of NHRC chairperson is lying vacant since June 1, 2009 after former Chief Justice S Rajendra Babu retired from the post on May 31.

The government has authorised Justice G P Mathur, a retired Supreme Court judge and a member of the commission, to act as its chairperson until a new appointment is made, the ministry had said in a separate reply.

As per the provisions of Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, only a retired CJI till age of 70 years is eligible for the post, which makes only Justice R C Lahoti and Y K Sabharwal eligible for the important assignment.

Sabharwal had retired from Supreme Court on January l4, 2007.

The apex court had last month expressed annoyance with the Centre's submission that retired chief justices were not available for appointment as NHRC chairperson. The government had in a brief affidavit earlier submitted that required incumbents "were not available" to take the post and the government was taking necessary steps to do that.

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