The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kirpal tipped to head NHRC

New Delhi, Nov. 14: B.N. Kirpal, who recently retired as Chief Justice of India, is likely to take over from J.S. Verma as chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.

Vermaís term ends early next year. The governmentís failure to find replacements for two members of the commission who have retired has resulted in the NHRC functioning at half its normal capacity.

Justice K. Ramaswamy, a former member of the Supreme Court, retired in July. Sudershan Agarwal, another member, retired in June. Agarwal, a senior bureaucrat, had worked in the Cabinet Secretariat and was known for his knowledge of human rights.

The NHRC chairman has a team of four members assisting him. At the moment, Justice Sujata Manohar of Kerala and Bombay High Courts and Virendra Dayal, a senior civil servant who has worked with the UN on human rights issues, are assisting Justice Verma.

Considering that the NHRC has done a great deal to shore up the credibility of the government internationally, the administrationís lackadaiscal attitude in appointing members to carry out its work speaks of plain inefficiency, said a senior government official.

Since it was constituted in 1993 by the Narasimha Rao government, the commission has functioned with a degree of independence not normally associated with government-appointed bodies.

The Narasimha Rao government put the NHRC in place at a time when India was under attack for its human rights record, especially in Kashmir. The Kashmir problem was at its height and Pakistan, under Benazir Bhutto, had launched a virulent attack against violation of human rights by Indian forces in Kashmir. Delhi was under growing pressure from Western democracies to allow Amnesty International access to Kashmir.

But India resisted, saying it did not need foreigners to interfere in its domestic affairs and decided to put the NHRC in place. Cynics wrote it off as just another outfit to whitewash the governmentís stand. Sceptics have, however, been pleasantly surprised by the good work the NHRC has done.

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