The Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission, which had been battling problems of inadequate space and lack of staff, will start working from a new location and in full strength within four months, the state government told the Bombay High Court.
The submission was made last week by state Advocate General (AG) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni before a bench of Justices B R Gavai and N J Jamadar. The bench was hearing a writ petition and a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in 2012 and 2013, respectively, drawing the court's attention to the inadequate funds and infrastructure provided by the government for Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC).
On a previous hearing on the above pleas, another bench of the high court had observed that despite recording increasing instances of human rights violations and unsolved custodial deaths in the state, the Maharashtra government probably "did not care about the human rights commission", for it did not show any will to extend even basic facilities to the body. The court had directed the state to allot a new office space, appoint new staff members and regularise existing staff of the Commission at the earliest.
In the hearing held on March 7, Kumbhakoni told the bench that the state had decided to rent a 5,200 sq ft space in South Mumbai to house the new office premises of the Commission. He told the bench that the state will pay the rent on behalf of the Commission and that the leave and licence agreement, renovation of the place and such formalities will be completed within the next four months, following which the Commission can shift to the new place. The AG also told the court that in compliance with its previous order, appointments to the posts of secretary and superintendent of police of the Commission had already been made.
The chairperson of the Commission will be appointed soon, he said. Kumbhakoni said the state was already looking at regularising some existing staff members who have been working on an ad hoc basis for the human rights body for several years. The bench directed the state to complete such regularisation process and fill existing vacancies at the Commission within the next three months.
(With inputs from agencies.)