According to sources, earlier this week, the choice was narrowed down from 23 contenders to former Delhi police commissioner B K Gupta, former CBI director A P Singh, ex-director general (investigation) in the NHRC Sunil Krishna, former home secretary Madhukar Gupta, former land resources secretary Anita Chaudhary, former NHRC secretary general Rajiv Sharma, as well as Vineet Gupta, currently Special Director in the CBI.
The Union Home Ministry is currently processing the names, and A P Singh and Vineet Gupta are said to be the two front runners.
The post, that enjoys the rank and perks of a Supreme Court judge, has been lying vacant since the retirement of P C Sharma, a former CBI director, in June.
Some names in the race have applied directly to the Union Home Ministry or the authorities concerned. Sources said some of them carry high-profile recommendations, duly noted against their name.
The chairperson and four members of the NHRC are appointed by a panel that comprises the prime minister, home minister, Lok Sabha speaker and deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, as well as leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
The BJP — which has accused the government of using the CBI as a political tool — may not agree to the appointment of a former officer of the agency as an NHRC member. Former Delhi police commissioner B K Gupta too could face some rough weather considering it was under him that Baba Ramdev's followers in Delhi were lathicharged.
Four secretary-level officers are also in the race — former Consumer Affairs secretary Rajiv Agarwal, former secretary in the Ministry of Social Justice and Employment Krishna Murari Acharaya, former secretary, Border Management, in the Home Ministry Anwar Ehsan, and Dr B A Agarwal, secretary in the Ministry of Law and Justice.
Others in the long list of 23 applicants include M Maraikamalai, president of the District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum; B L Khatri, former CAT administrative member; Prof D R Perumal Swamy, State Information Commissioner, Tamil Nadu; journalist Vivek Kumar Singh; Shiv Murat Ram, former railway superintendent; Prof (Dr) K S Chalam, ex-UPSC member; and Dilip Rajpal, a Madhya Pradesh Congress leader.
Former Bureau of Civil Aviation Security commissioner Gurjot Singh Malhi and former Goa DGP B S Brar applied directly.