Tamil Nadu’s SHRC has no chairperson yet, not even acting chief

Retired High Court Judge T. Meenakumari completed her tenure as chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission in November last year

The hearing of cases alleging violation of human rights by government officials and policemen and administrative functions, have been hit in the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in Tamil Nadu, as the Commission is functioning without a chairperson.

Following the stepping down of retired high court judge T. Meenakumari after completing her tenure in November last year, the post has been lying vacant for about two months now. Even an acting chairperson has not been named as yet, as laid down by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 read along with the State Human Rights Commission Tamil Nadu (Procedure) Regulations, 1997.

According to Section 25 of the Act, “In the event of the occurrence of any vacancy in the office of the chairperson by reason of his death, resignation or otherwise, the Governor may, by notification, authorise one of the members to act as the chairperson until the appointment of a new chairperson to fill such vacancy.”

Without a chairperson, the number of courts in the Commission hearing cases is down by one third, as only two members are hearing the cases presently. “Since the chairperson is the administrative head of the Commission, all administrative functions are slow,” informed sources said. They also pointed out that an acting chairperson has not been named, like in the past. “If an acting chairperson is appointed, at least the function of the Commission would not be affected, until the selection process to appoint the new chairperson,” they contended.

Section 21 of the Act states that a person, who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court is to be appointed as the SHRC chairperson. Once a person is appointed chairperson, he/she shall hold the post for five years or until he/she attains 70 years of age, as per Section 24 of the Act.

The names for appointment as members of the Commission are to be recommended by a Committee comprising the Chief Minister, Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly, Minister in-charge of the Home Department and the Leader of the Opposition, as per Section 22 of the Act. The appointments are then made by the Governor.

Despite multiple attempts, the Public Secretary could not be reached for a comment.

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