Former Kerala HC CJ Manikumar to be rights commission chairman

The decision in this regard was taken by a three-member panel led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday. However, the decision was not unanimous with Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan.
S Manikumar
S Manikumar

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Former Chief Justice of Kerala High Court Justice S Manikumar will be the new chairman of the State Human Rights Commission. A decision in this regard was taken by a three-member panel led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday. However, the decision was not unanimous with Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan -- a panel member -- expressing his dissent.

The new chairman will assume office after Governor Arif Mohammed Khan clears the government proposal. The post of human rights chairman fell vacant after incumbent Justice Antony Dominic retired in May. Currently, commission judicial member K Baijunath is holding charge.

The chairman is chosen by a panel comprising the CM, leader of Opposition and the Speaker. While the CM and Speaker A N Shamseer favoured Justice Manikumar, Satheesan opposed. In his detailed dissent note to the government, the Congress leader said Justice Manikumar’s appointment was made in an undemocratic and mysterious manner. He also expressed concern whether Manikumar would be able to function in a just and unbiased manner. 

Justcie Manikumar took over as Chief Justice of Kerala in October 2019, while serving as a judge in the Tamil Nadu High Court. He retired from the Kerala HC on April 24. The LDF government had accorded a farewell to Justice Manikumar, which later kicked up a row, as this was without precedence. The UDF had objected to the farewell alleging that it was a thank-you gesture by the LDF for issuing verdicts in favour of the government.

Expressing his strong dissent, Satheesan said contrary to the usual practice, the name and details of the eligible candidates were not handed over to panel members in advance. Instead, the decision was taken in a unilateral manner, he said.

“Going by all that he did while serving as the chief justice of the Kerala High Court, I have great concerns over whether he will be able to execute his duties in a just and impartial manner. That the state government took the decision without providing sufficient details in advance, only adds to this concern. Imposing such a decision to appoint him as chairman of the rights commission hence cannot be accepted,” said Satheesan.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala lashed out at the appointment of Justice Manikumar. None can expect justice in cases of human right violations from him, Chennithala said in a statement.

He alleged that the state government was returning the favour through the appointment. Chenniathala said Justice Manikumar sat on many crucial cases related to Sprinklr, brewery scam and Bevco App for a long time, just to help the LDF government tide over the crises. “Despite sufficient evidence, he didn’t take appropriate action in order to help the government. His appointment as rights commission chairman would be yet another ordeal for the masses,” said Chennithala.  

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