Former CJI H.L. Dattu to be appointed as new NHRC Chairman

Former CJI H.L. Dattu to be appointed as new NHRC Chairman

Former Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu has reportedly been appointed as the new Chairman of National Human Rights Commission. The NHRC post had been lying vacant since May 11 last year, when Mr. K.G. Balakrishnan demitted office after his five-year term. Justice Cyriac Joseph had been functioning as the acting chairperson since then.

Justice H.L. Dattu had retired as the CJI on December 2, 2015, and was being pegged as the most likely candidate for the post, even before he had demitted office. Reacting to the news of the proposed appointment in an email to LiveLaw in November last year, Senior Advocate and former Additional Solicitor General Ms. Indira Jaising had stated that the news was “particularly disturbing” as it had come while he was still the Chief Justice.

She had further written, “The recently delivered NJAC Judgment places great emphasis on independent of the judiciary as a basic feature of the constitution.

Independence can be undermined in different ways and one of them is offering post retirement benefits immediately upon retirement.

There has to be a “cooling off” period as suggested by Justice Lodha, former CJI to avoid the impression that the offer is an attempt of bring undue influence while the Chief Justice is a sitting judge. Many have suggested that retiring judges should not give judgment in sensitive matters, to avoid the impression that they have been given in the hope of getting spot retirement benefits.

I would expect Justice Dattu to decline the offer even if made by the executive. The act is flawed in that it permits such appointments and required to be amended to provide for a cooling off period.” You may read the LiveLaw article here.