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Report No. 24

31. Section 6-Incriminating statements.-

Section 6 provides that no statement made by a person in the course of giving evidence before the Commission shall subject him to or be used against him in a criminal proceeding. In this connection, a question was raised as to whether a person can claim protection under clause (3) of Article 20 of the Constitution at the time of answering a question put to him and the Punjab High Court answered it in the affirmative1. Subsequently, in a Supreme Court decision2, it has been held by a majority that clause (3) of Article 20 applies only where at the time the statement is made the person stands accused of an offence. Section 6 does not require any amendment from this point of view.

It has been suggested that the protection given by section 6 to oral statements should be extended to documents. In our opinion, there is a good deal of difference between the spoken word and the written word. When dealing with inquiries into matters of definite public importance, there would appear to be very little justification for extending protection to persons whose guilt is clear from any documents in their possession or custody. No doubt, if no such protection is extended, such evidence may not be readily forthcoming. One has therefore to balance the two considerations. In any event, any protection given cannot be to the same extent as is given by section 6 in the case of the spoken word.

The interests of a public inquiry would not be promoted by the enlargement of such protection, and we find that in many similar Acts no protection is afforded in relation to the production of documents3. In our country also, the practice has been to treat the spoken word differently from the written word, and to extend protection to the latter only if on the merits of the case protection is needed. Such protection has often been of a very limited or special nature.4 On the whole, we think that the protection conferred by section 6 does not require any enlargement.

1. Allen Berry & Co. v. Vivian Bose, ILR 1960 Punj 416: AIR 1960 Punj 86.

2. State of Bombay v. Kathi Kalu, AIR 1961 SC 1808.

3. Section 21(3) Ontario Securities Act.

[RSO: 1960 (363), section 5]; the Evidence Act, (Canada) (RSC 59, section 5). Both discussed in (1962) Canada Bar Journal, February, 6, 12 to 15 (The Privilege against self-incrimination).]

4. Cf. Taxation on Income (Investigation Commission) Act, 1947; Indian Election Offences and Inquiries Act, 1920; the Capital Issues (Continuance of Control) Act, 1947. Contrast the general provision in section 130, Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 Back

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