SC asks Centre to reply within two weeks over plea to fill up vacancies in NHRC

The plea said that the NHRC has been running with one woman member who has been designated as acting Chairperson from June 3
 Supreme Court of India.
Supreme Court of India.(Photo | PTI)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted two weeks time to the central government to file a reply to the plea filed by lawyer and social activist Radhakanta Tripathy, alleging that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was being run without a Chairperson and four other members.

The three-judge Bench of the top court led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud granted two weeks time to the Centre to reply and fixed the matter for further hearing to July 29.

Tripathy argued before the top court that the NHRC has been running with one woman member who has been designated as acting Chairperson from June 3 till the Chairperson is appointed.

The counsel appearing for the Centre tried to convince the court that the government is acting on the issue. The counsel requested the court to grant time to provide information on the steps taken for filling up the vacancies of the NHRC.

Vijayabharathi Sayani, an advocate from Telangana who joined the NHRC as a member in December 2023, is the first ever woman to be designated as acting Chairperson of the NHRC.

This is the first time in India that a woman advocate is heading the NHRC.

The SC had issued a notice on the PIL on July 4, 2023. Since then the case has been listed more than 12 times but not been taken up for hearing by the apex court.

Finding no other way, Tripathy tried to mention the urgency of the issue. He said the present situation was likely to happen in his application. But the SC Registry again deleted the matter from the May 17 causelist just before the summer vacation.

Tripathy, on whose earlier two PILs the Supreme Court notices ensured that NHRC vacancies filled up, said even after a notice from the apex court, the government allowed the NHRC to be headless and four members short of the actual five-member strength.

This is the third PIL of Tripathy for filling up of vacancies in the NHRC. Last time he filed the PIL when the NHRC created history by running without a Chairperson or acting Chairperson.

Subsequently during the COVID period, the government appointed Justice Arun Mishra as Chairperson.

The government also amended the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 to ensure at least one woman member in the NHRC and State Human Rights Commissions.

Earlier, on February 27, 2017, a bench headed by the then Chief Justice J S Kheher while hearing the PIL on NHRC vacancies stated, "Mr Tripathy, you helped everybody by filing the PIL. We are grateful to you." Similarly, a bench headed by former judge Justice L. Nageswar Rao while disposing the PIL on the NHRC vacancies thanked Tripathy.

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