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Report No. 24

Section 5

Section 5(1).-As new sub-sections are proposed to be added in section 5, consequential change has been made here.

Section 5(2)-Enforcement of Commission's orders requiring information.-Under section 5(2), a Commission has power to require any person to furnish information on matters useful for or relevant to the subject-matter of the inquiry. The section is, however, silent as to the penalty to be imposed on any person who does not obey a requisition for information issued by the Commission thereunder. Nor does any other section of the Act impose a penalty for such disobedience.

A question has been raised whether section 176 of the Indian Penal Code, under which a person "legally bound" to furnish information on any subject to any public servant and omitting to furnish such information, is punishable with imprisonment up to one month or fine up to five hundred rupees or both, may apply to a requisition made under a special law. The decision of the Privy Council in Ali Mahomed v. Emperor, AIR 1945 PC 147 (151) may be seen on the point. In that case, a question arose whether a person failing to furnish information required by a Wakf Committee under section 3, Mussalman Wakf Act, 1923, as amended in Bombay, could be proceeded against in the High Court for contempt under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1926.

The objection taken was, that under section 2(3) of the Contempt of Courts Act, the High Court could not take cognizance of contempt of a subordinate court, where such contempt is an offence punishable under the Indian Penal Code. It was argued, that the failure to furnish the information in question was an offence under section 176, Indian Penal Code. This argument was rejected by the Privy Council on the following chain of reasoning:

(i) Section 176 applies only where a person is "legally bound" to furnish information;

(ii) a person is legally bound to furnish only what is illegal for him to omit (section 43, latter half, Indian Penal Code);

(iii) it is illegal for a person to omit only that which is an offence (section 43, earlier half, Indian Penal Code);

(iv) an offence is only that which is punishable under the Indian Penal Code (section 40, Indian Penal Code).

(Therefore, section 176 applies only to a failure which is an offence under some section of Indian Penal Code).

The Privy Council observed that if no other section of the Penal Code dealt with the matter, then, one must conclude that the particular crime, though punishable under some other enactment, is not punishable under the Code, and would not fall under section 176. Therefore, the High Court was not prohibited from dealing with it under the Contempt of Courts Act. To make the matter clear a provision on the subject has been added.1

The difficulty felt by the Press Commission has already been dealt with.2

New sub-sections are being inserted to deal with matters bringing a Commission or its members into disrepute. This has been discussed in detail.3

1. See also the body of the Report, para. 28.

2. See the body of the Report, para. 1.

3. See the body of the Report, paras. 12 and 30.

Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 Back

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