NHRC chair asked to take PM's permission for foreign tours

The government has asked the National Human Rights Commission chairman to take permission of the prime minister for any foreign tours.

The law, justice and parliamentary affairs ministry in a letter issued on Thursday said that the commission chair would require permission of the prime minister for any foreign tours 'as it was not a constitutional office.'

The letter was issued against the backdrop of the NHRC chairman's recent visits to foreign countries without approval of the government, according to officials.

The commission members will also require permission of the prime minister for foreign tours, said the letter signed by assistant secretary of the legislative and parliamentary affairs Md Rajib Hasan.

'It has not required me to take permission of the prime minister for my visit abroad so far. It is sad for an independent commission to seek such permission,' the commission chair, Mizanur Rahman, told New Age.

He said that he had not yet seen the letter. 'This will obviously curtail the independence of the commission. I will write to the prime minister on receiving the letter sent by the ministry,' Mizanur added.

Mizanur has recently been very vocal with the media against the violation of human rights by law enforcement agencies and about the rights of national minorities. The commission will need to send a proposal seeking permission for any visit abroad to the legislative and parliamentary affairs division. The legislative division will then send a summary of the proposal to the prime minister for approval.

The legislative division will finally issue a government order on receiving the approval of the prime minister, the letter said.

The law ministry reminded the commission of an official notification of the Prime Minister's Office in this regard.

Ministers, state ministers, deputy ministers and any officials of similar ranks and chairmen of different commissions, but for those holding constitutional positions, formed by the government, among others, need to take permission of the prime minister for going abroad, according to the PMO notification issued on June 19, 2011.

Mizanur said that the commission was set up under a law enacted by the parliament. 'My position as chairman of the commission has been misinterpreted here,' he explained.

The law ministry requested the commission to go by the PMO notification for foreign tours by its chairman, members and other officials.

A copy of the notification was enclosed with the letter sent to the secretary of the National Human Rights Commission.