The government and the BJP are headed for a showdown over the appointment of a NIA chief SC Sinha as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) member, with BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj opposing Sinha’s appointment.
Jaitley and Swaraj -- the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively – told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday that they were opposed to handing out the post-retirement sop to Sinha.
Both are members of the selection panel headed by the Prime Minister that met on Saturday evening. Home Minister SushilKumar Shinde, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha PJ Kurien are also members.
Jaitley is understood to have pointed that holding out such temptation of future favours would compromise independence of agencies while Swaraj wondered why such posts were almost reserved for civil servants.
So far, the government hasn’t given any indication that it was willing to back down.
Government sources indicate the BJP’s real discomfiture with Sinha – a 1975 batch IPS officer – was linked to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) probes that blamed right-wing extremists to several terror cases such as the Mecca Masjid blasts in Hyderabad and Samjhauta Express explosion.
Sinha is due to retire in October 2013 but is expected to quit if the NHRC appointment gets through. The NHRC member’s post comes with a five-year term.
For now, the government is determined to push Sinha’s appointment. An earlier attempt to make a Kerala cadre IAS officer PJ Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commission had boomeranged but the government is confident this case was different.
The UPA government had in December last year backed out after the BJP had also opposed plans to appoint former CBI director AP Singh to the NHRC member’s post. Singh was then accommodated as the Union Public Service Commission member.
Incidentally, the UPA isn’t the only one to reward police officers with post-retirement sops at the NHRC.
The NDA too had appointed the former CBI director PC Sharma as a NHRC member in 2004, a move that the Congress had then described as “highly regrettable”.
The Congress’ chief spokesperson had then attributed the appointment to services rendered by Sharma to sabotage the Ayodhya case.