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Report No. 24

5. Analogous laws in other countries.-

Before taking up the examination of the Act it will be useful to deal briefly with analogous laws in other countries and consider in some detail the English Legislation on the subject on which our Act is largely modelled-

(a) In England, inquiries are held under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921. Before this Act was passed, inquiries were held by Committees of Parliament. An inquiry by a Committee of Parliament suffered from one serious defect. A Committee of Parliament is likely to be influenced by political considerations. This is well illustrated by the Reports of the Parliamentary Committee in the Marconi case. The Act, however, does not exclude inquiries by Parliamentary Committees. In some cases, Committees of Parliament may still be appointed for making certain kinds of inquiries, particularly inquiries the subject-matter of which is predominantly political.

(b) In Australia, there is the Royal Commissions Act, 1902-33. This is a general Act relating to inquiries by Royal Commissions. In view of certain constitutional difficulties and the decision of the Privy Council in the Colonial Sugar Refinery Company's ease1, it has been the practice of the Commonwealth to enact special legislation empowering the setting up of commissions of inquiry in relation to specific matters and to incorporate the provisions of the General Act therein (e.g. the Royal Commission Act, 1954, No. 2 of 1954, and the Royal Commission on Espionage Act, 1954, No. 28 of 1954).

(c) In Canada, the relevant Act in force is the Inquiries Act, 1927.

(d) There does not appear to be any law analogous to the English Act in force in the United States of America. It appears that in that country, inquiries are held by a Committee of the Congress. Committees of the Congress to inquire into un-American activities are well-known throughout the world. A Committee of Congress has power to examine witnesses on oath and to punish for its contempt.2

(e) In Ceylon, inquiries are held under the (Ceylon) Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1948.

1. Attorney-General for Commonwealth v. Colonial Sugar Refinery Co. Ltd., 1954 AC 237: 17 CLR 644, discussed in Wynes, Legislative etc. Powers in Australia, 1956, p. 490.

2. Alan Barth Government by Investigation, p. 17.

Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 Back

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