The Division Bench-I of the National Human Rights Commission, which hears complaints of the most serious violations like Police encounters and custodial deaths, has not sat even once for about a year now.
Reason: one of the two members on the bench PC Sharma retired in June 2012 leaving the bench ineffectual. In January this year, the other member Justice GP Mathur also retired leaving the bench empty.
778 cases are pending before the bench at present – some of the incidents dating back over a decade. The only other Division Bench of the quasi-judicial commission is burdened with similar number of cases.
The government, after a spat with the opposition, went on to appoint SC Sinha, the National Investigation Agency’s chief as the non-judicial member but is yet to fill the judicial member’s position on DB-I – a vacancy that still renders the bench ineffective.
While a selection panel headed by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is working on filling the vacancy, another judicial member Justice B C Patel is due to retire in July, which would turn DB-II invalid.
“The delay in appointment affects not just the bench but the overall working of the commission adding to the grievance of victims whose human rights were violated,” a senior official at the commission told HT.
Apart from the bench and the full commission, members hear cases individually.
As of first week of April, a total of 25, 812 cases - starvation deaths, manual scavenging to bonded labour and disabled rights - were pending before the national rights body.
The Commission working at half its capacity has resulted in about 1000 cases adding to the pile in February itself.
At full capacity it has four members and a chairperson, who at present is former chief justice of India KG Balakrishnan.
“The issue of human rights lacks the attention it deserves in our country,” one analyst said pointing to the low number of members assigned to the commission.