The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Maharashtra government to identify within two weeks, a new, larger office for the state Human Rights Commission.
A bench of Justices VM Kanade and PR Bora also criticised the state government for prolonging the issue, and for compelling the human rights body to seek the court’s intervention to secure its own basic rights.
The court was hearing a plea filed by the Commission seeking a direction to the state to allot it a new, spacious office to help accommodate its staff. The commission that is burdened with pendency has been battling shortages of funds and staff, and even the lack of a proper office for months, and have failed to get an adequate response from the state despite repeated representations and previous court orders.
The Commission currently operates from a small office near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. It however, has said that it needs a new office space of around 800 to 1,000 square feet.
The state government meanwhile, told the court on Friday that in compliance with a previous order, the Principal Secretaries of departments of General Administration, finance, law, and Home, had conducted a joint meeting last month to address issues of paucity of staff and funds faced by the commission. However, it was proving difficult to allot a new office to the commission since “there is no space.”
“We have failed to identify a suitable space for them. We are now looking at a 500 square feet open area near the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal office near Azad Maidan and are hoping to develop it into an office space for the commission. But this will require time. We have also asked the PWD to look for other suitable spaces,” the state said.
At this, Justice Kanade reminded the state that it was “obligated by the central Human Rights Commission Act” to provide for adequate funds, office space, and staff for the commission.
“If the state wants to do something, it can do so overnight. We have witnessed how the finance department is capable of prolonging things despite giving assurances to the court. Why don’t you look at the Air India Building, or the MTNL building?” the bench said.