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Tainted NHRC nominee left out

New Delhi, Feb. 13: Nirmala Butch, a former chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh nominated to the National Human Rights Commission by the government, will not get the job.

Butch had been indicted by a commission for dereliction of duty during the 1992 riots in Madhya Pradesh, where she was heading the administration.

The human rights watchdog has been doing an excellent job since its inception about eight years ago. Though there were fears that it would work as the government’s hand-maiden bailing it out of uncomfortable situations, the NHRC has maintained an independent line.

It is, therefore, vital that the chairman and members of the NHRC are men and women of impeccable reputation.

The home ministry sent in Butch’s name without checking her records. The file was cleared by the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister and was on its way to the President, who would make the appointment official, when someone decided to take a second look.

Her appointment could have caused a major embarrassment to the government. “Sooner or later someone from the state would have brought this out,” a senior official said.

The government had unofficially approached Butch and she had expressed her willingness to take the assignment. Later “friends” advised her to send a letter saying she did not want the job.

So the President only signed the papers for two new appointees: former Chief Justice A.S. Anand as chairman and retired Supreme Court judge K.T. Thomas as member.

The slip-up is a blow to the human rights panel, which was poised to function with a full team after nearly a year of vacancies.

The government took its time over the appointments. Initially, there was some quibbling over the choice of Anand as chairman after former law minister Ram Jethmalani objected. Allegations of supplying wrong information about his date of birth had dogged Anand even when he was the Chief Justice.

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