Calls grow for NHRC office bearers to quitAfter global body’s decision to downgrade the status of the National Human Rights Commission, its chair says his team will make their response public very soon.
Following a recent decision by a grouping of international human rights organisations to downgrade the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to ‘B’ status amid allegations of unlawful appointment of its office bearers, calls are growing for the office bearers to resign.
Soon after a group of former commission chairs and members issued a public statement asking the office bearers including Top Bahadur Magar, its current chair, to resign, officials at the commission have echoed the demand.
After holding a review for two years following complaints over the appointment of the commission’s chairperson and members, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), a group of human rights institutions worldwide, had decided to downgrade the status of the NHRC. The decision that was made public on November 9 will come into effect in a year. This means the commission has a year to rectify its mistakes and save its current ‘A’ status.
In their joint statement on Sunday, the group of former chairpersons and members had expressed their sadness at GANHRI’s decision. They demanded that Magar and the five office bearers resign and urged the Nepal government to do all to retain the ‘A’ status the commission has been enjoying since its establishment in 2002.
An official at the commission said internal pressure was building on the office bearers. “Following GANHRI’s decision, our friends have requested the office bearers to resign, albeit in an indirect manner,” an under secretary at the commission told the Post seeking anonymity. “We want them to go without delay.”
Another official at the commission said they could formally ask the top brass to resign through the employees’ club, an association of the officials at the national human rights watchdog.
On Monday, officials at the commission had a heated debate with the commissioners over the looming downgrade. “During the debate some officials openly blamed the chair and members for the situation,” said the official. “The officials have a feeling that the commission’s hard-earned reputation is under jeopardy thanks to the office bearers who were appointed without following due process.”
On February 3, 2021 President Bidya Devi Bhandari had appointed the chair and four commissioners based on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council. As the parliament had been dissolved by the Prime Minister KP Oli, the appointees did not go through a parliamentary hearing. The council recommended them after a controversial amendment to the Constitutional Council (Functions, Duties, and Procedures) Act through an ordinance on December 15, 2020.
At least half a dozen writ petitions challenging the ordinance, recommendations of the council and the appointments are sub judice in the Supreme Court. Around two years since the filing of petitions, the Constitutional Bench of the apex court has yet to start hearings on them.
Magar, the commission chairman, said they are studying GANHRI’s decision.
“We are aware of the decision, however, the commission is yet to take a stand on the matter,” Magar told the Post, adding, he has also heard of the calls for their resignations. “Our colleagues are now busy in election monitoring. We will reconvene when the elections are over to decide on our next step. We will make our position public very soon.”