Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vice-president Avinash Rai Khanna is all set to be appointed as a member of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) with a high-level selection panel headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi clearing his name.
The 55-year-old former Rajya Sabha member from Punjab and BJP in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir will perhaps be the first active politician to be appointed as a member of the NHRC, which is headed by a former chief justice of India.
Khanna’s name was cleared by the panel comprising the Lok Sabha speaker, deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Union home minister, leaders of opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha with the Prime Minister as its head last month, official sources said.
As per Section 3 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, which deals with the issue of “constitution of a National Human Rights Commission”, only a former chief justice can be appointed as NHRC chairperson.
The four full-time members, as per the Act, should include a former judge of the Supreme Court, a former chief justice of a high court and two others “from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights”.
After his Lok Sabha constituency of Hoshiarpur became a reserved seat, Khanna did not contest the 2009 Parliamentary polls. Later, the Akali-BJP government appointed him as a member of Punjab State Human Rights Commission. Khanna quit that post after about 13 months, when he was elected to the Rajya Sabha.
When BJP was in the opposition, the party had favoured appointing persons of impeccable credentials to such posts. In 2013, the then leaders of opposition in both the Houses — Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley — had opposed the move to appoint former Supreme Court judge Cyriac Joseph as a member of NHRC claiming that there was an adverse intelligence report against him.
However, most of the other members, including the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected the objection and cleared the appointment.
BJP had also opposed the then UPA government’s move to appoint former chief of National Investigation Agency SC Sinha as member of NHRC as he had allegedly pursued the terror cases against right-wing outfits.
However, in case of Khanna, there was no dissent in the selection panel, the sources said.