Justice Balakrishnan’s appointment as NHRC Chairman is uninspiring

Appointment of Justice K. G. Balakrishnan as the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission was spawned by TINA (There is no alternative) factor. In fact, this post has been lying vacant for the last more than a year after the retirement of Justice S Rajendra Babu. The main pre-requisite for the appointment to the post of Chairman of the NHRC is that the person should have been the retired Chief Justice of India and there were only three former Chief Justices namely: Justice Khare, Justice Lahoti and Justice Sabharwal, who could have filled the slot. Justice Khare and Justice Lahoti had already refused to take up the assignment and Justice Sabharwal’s name was not even considered for the post because if the controversies that surrounded him.

In all fairness to Justice Sabharwal, it can be said that his judicial acumen was above average. He had delivered certain landmark judgements for example; Raja Ram Pal vs Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Kuldip Nayar vs Union of India and the land ceiling case etc. It must be mentioned to his credit that he was able to convince other companion judges that such important cases were unanimously decided. There were no dissenting judgements by any other judge in many of the cases. This is something remarkable because those judgements had been written by Justice Sabharwal alone. His sons, however, spoiled his image and today he is the leading the life of tainted judge. Therefore, the government did the right thing by not even considering his name for the NHRC Chairman. Image fore runs the post. If such a sullied person is appointed then the organisation is bound to lose the esteem of the public.

What is really intriguing is that why Justice Balakrishnan was considered a fit person to occupy this post? Justice Balakrishnan has comparatively had a very long career as the CJI for more than three years. But he had hardly left any imprint on the Supreme Court of India. He had hardly delivered any judgement which could he considered to be a leading one. As for as the functioning of the Supreme Court of India was concerned, it renamed as lack lustre. Even the full benefits of computerisation could not be availed. It may sound surprising but it is a realty that there are many High Courts or even District Courts where the computerisation has transformed their functioning especially of the registry but not in the Supreme Court of India.

To top it all, Justice Balakrishnan will be known more for his stubborn and opaque attitude than for his sagacity and transparency. The appointment of some High Court judges made during his tenure raised more controversies than during the tenure of any other Chief Justice. All sorts of allegations flew thick and fast with regard to the appointment of many judges. More than this his attitude towards not bringing the Supreme Court Judges within the ambit of Right to Information Act was very shocking and embarrassing; to say the least. And that too, when the Delhi High Court and before that the Chief Information Commissioner had unequivocally ruled that the office of the CJI and other Judges of Supreme Court was amenable to RTI.

At long last he had to submit to the growing public demand and declared his assets along with other fellow judges of the Supreme Court of India. But he brought ridicule to the judiciary in general and for himself in particular. In this backdrop the appointment of Justice Balakrishnan to the post of Chairman of NHRC will not inspire any confidence.

It is beyond any body’s comprehension as to why the qualification of being the CJI has been made necessary for the post of NHRC. Even a person having the rudimentary knowledge of the constitution knows that all judges of the Supreme Court of India are equal. CJI is not even first among equals. S (he) enjoys only certain administrative powers of constituting benches etc. So, why should there be law that only the CJI be appointed on this post is inexplicable? This shows the myopic view of the legislature. In the light of such experiences it is hoped that legislature must have become wiser and it will take necessary steps to amend it, so that the scope of better persons being appointed is widened.