‘Illegal’ appointment of rights panel chief: AAP threatens to move HC as opposition not consulted
The appointment on the post, which was vacant for two months, was cleared by a committee led by chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on June 13.punjab Updated: Jul 14, 2017 20:25 IST
The appointment of Iqbal Ahmed Ansari, a former chief justice of the Patna high court, as chairman of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission by the Congress government in a hush-hush manner has led to a controversy. Main opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has alleged that it was done without the mandatory involvement of the leader of opposition; and the party will move court over the “unconstitutional” and “illegitimate” manner.
The appointment on the post, which was vacant for two months, was cleared by a committee led by chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday. A notice for a selection meeting was rolled out two days before that, on Tuesday. But AAP’s HS Phoolka had submitted alreafd his resignation as leader of opposition.
The Protection of Human Rights Act says the leader of opposition is to be a members of the selection panel, besides the CM, the assembly speaker and the home minister.
“What was the hurry for the appointment, when the government knew I had resigned?” asked Phoolka, who added that he received a communication from the state secretariat to take part in the meeting hours after he quit.
State AAP co-president Aman Arora said he even wrote to the state home affairs and justice department on Wednesday, urging them to put the appointment on hold as the AAP was still in the process of appointing the new leader of opposition. “I requested the Congress government that in absence of the leader, it should either allow our deputy leader in the assembly, Sarabjit Kaur Manuke, or any other legislator to appear on his behalf at the meeting. However, the home department simply did not respond,” he said.
“My party would have appointed a replacement in a few days and the government could have waited,” Phoolka said. “This manner of appointment proves our point that the Congress government doesn’t want to take along the opposition in running the state.” Phoolka, a Supreme Court lawyer, had quit the post because he had been barred by the Delhi Bar Council from legal practice as long as he held the opposition leader’s post, an office of profit. He wanted to continue fighting cases of victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases.
Even as officials remained mum on record, a senior government functionary said on the condition of anonymity it was “not mandatory” to have the leader of opposition in the meeting; “it’s only a convention”.
However, section 22 of the Act says the right panel chairperson and members “shall be appointed by the Governor by warrant under his hand and seal, provided that every appointment under this sub-section shall be made after obtaining the recommendation of a Committee consisting of — the Chief Minister as Chairperson, and three members including speaker of the Vidhan Sabha, minister in-charge of the department of home and leader of the opposition”.
AAP chief whip Sukhpal Singh Khaira said, “If the Punjab government refuses to review the unconstitutional and illegitimate appointment, we will be left with no option but to knock at the doors of the Punjab and Haryana high court.”