The former Chief Justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, took over as the sixth Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday.

The landmark judgments he delivered as CJI included an order which made the mid-day meal programme in schools a statutory requirement. It brought relief to millions of poor children, who had to discontinue their studies due to poverty.

Recently, a Bench headed by him held “unconstitutional” forcible narco analysis, polygraph and brain-mapping tests by the investigating agencies which raised concerns over human rights.

Talking to journalists after assuming charge, Justice Balakrishnan, while declining to comment on the verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy case, agreed that the judgment was delayed. On the quantum of punishment, he said if it was less, the aggrieved party could file an appeal. “Less punishment is also a ground for appeal.”

A positive fallout of the gas tragedy was that the Environment Protection Act became active after the incident. He said several hospitals were still functioning to treat the gas leak victims.

On naxal attacks, Justice Balakrishnan said: “Naxalism is a very complex issue. People in these areas don't get proper education, no roads, no hospital facilities, etc. Due consideration should also be given to rights of security personnel. Members of police force and enforcement agencies are also human beings. Their life is also precious. Just like ordinary persons, they also have to be given due consideration, a large number of security personnel are dying.”

On the delay in deciding mercy petitions, he said since the issue was a policy decision of the government no time could be fixed.

Asked whether inordinate delay in deciding a mercy petition would amount to violation of human rights, he declined to comment.

On honour killings, he said a “killing is a killing” and there were enough laws to deal with a murder.

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