While the controversy over the appointment of Justice P Sathasivam as the governor of Kerala has still not subsided, another one is taking shape in the form of his candidature for the post of NHRC chairman. Landing the gubernatorial job last September was termed by many as a favor by the NDA government for quashing the FIR against Amit Shah in the Fake Encounter Case and more recently Sathasivam attended the wedding of Amit Shah’s son raising a few eyebrows. Stirring up a hornet’s nest, the latest controversy raises a big question mark over the apparent quid pro quo agreement between the NDA government and Sathasivam. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could do with someone having his back in that department.
In an interview to legal news portal LiveLaw.in, senior advocate Dr. Adish C Aggarwala has made damning allegations against the former chief justice of India and current governor of Kerala P Sathasivam. Aggarwala, who is also the Chairman of All India Bar Association, alleged that Sathasivam requested him to canvass for his appointment as Governor of Kerala. The senior advocate was in news recently when he filed a PIL against P Sathasivam’s reported appointment as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairman.
“The National Human Rights Commission is a repository of our values and safeguards human dignity. We must protect the institution from degeneration by the appointment of an unsuitable person at the helm,” Aggarwala told LiveLaw in the interview. He went on to add that Justice Sathasivam was also eyeing the post of Lokpal prior to landing the gubernatorial job. “When he was the Chief Justice of India, Justice Sathasivam wanted to become Lokpal. When other Judges also applied for appointment as Lokpal, and he found his chances to be bleak, he requested me to canvass for his appointment as Governor of Karnataka.” Aggarwala claims he declined to take up the matter. He stated that he believed think judges should not take up political appointments post-retirement and such sinecures affect the independence and the dignity of the Judiciary.
The post of the NHRC chairman will be vacated in May when the incumbent, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, will exit the office. The statute requires a former Chief Justice of India to hold the position. Recently, there was vehement opposition by lawyers’ body against P Sathasivam’s name being considered for the post. A bench headed by the Chief Justice of India HL Dattu will be hearing the petition filed by the Bar Association of India. The petition states that the Centre is illegally considering P Sathasivam as the sole candidate for chairperson of the National Human Right Commission while there are others in the fray as well – namely Justice RM Lodha, Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice SH Kapadia. The lawyers’body contests that Sathasivam now stands disqualified after being appointed the governor of Kerala and become a part of the executive.