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Report No. 24

14. Procedure of Commission.-

Fourthly, a question has been raised as to the manner in which the Act should regulate the procedure to be followed. While the English Act empowers the Tribunal itself to regulate its procedure, the Indian Act leaves it to the Central Government to make rules for regulating the procedure of a Commission of Inquiry and subject to such rules the Commission of Inquiry may itself settle its procedure. The question of the procedure to be followed arose prominently in the inquiry held in England in 1936 into the budget leakage. The procedure was finally settled1 by Mr. Justice Lynskey in the inquiry held in 1948.

In the Mundhra Inquiry earlier referred to2, Chagla, C.J. indicated the procedure which he proposed to follow in the following terms:-

"I will examine the witnesses who come before the Commission. The Attorney-General will then question them and supplement the evidence in any manner that he thinks proper. Counsel who are appearing for other interests will then have the right of examining these witnesses and I will finally put any other question which I may think necessary to the witnesses. It will be open to the counsel appearing for the different interests to call for any evidence they think proper, and after all the evidence is offered, counsel may address me on the evidence."

There are two rules3 made under section 12 of the Act which contain important provisions regarding procedure. Rules 4 and 5 read as follows:-

"4. If, at any stage of the inquiry, the Commission-

(a) considers it necessary to inquire into the conduct of any person, or

(b) is of the opinion that the reputation of any person is likely to be prejudicially affected by the inquiry, the Commission shall give to that person a reasonable opportunity of being heard in the inquiry and to produce evidence in his defence.

5. The Central Government, every person referred to in rule 4 and, with the permission of the Commission, any other person whose evidence is recorded under rule 3

(a) may cross-examine a witness other than a witness produced by it or him;

(b) may address the court; and

(c) may be represented before the Commission by a legal practitioner, or, with the consent of the Commission, by any other person.".

We think that since these rules embody the fundamental principles of natural justice and safeguard the rights of individuals, they should be incorporated in the Act itself.4

In England, it has been suggested that instead of the Attorney-General, who is intimately connected with the Government, an independent counsel should assist the Tribunal of Inquiry. We express no opinion on this question, but we see no reason why the highest law officer of the Government cannot take an objective view of the matter.

1. See Keeton Trial by Tribunal, 1960, pp. 16-17.

2. See para. 4, supra.

3. See rules 4 and 5, Central Commissions of Inquiry (Procedure) Rules 1960, issued on the 7th May, 1960.

4. See App I, section 8(1) to 8(3) as proposed.

Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 Back

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