Commissions of Inquiry

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Subject – Administrative Law

Commissions of Inquiry

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Submitted by: Arvind Srinivas
I.D. No. 1555
3rd Year, B.A. Ll. B. (Hons.)
Date of Submission: 12th September, 2010.

Research Methodology

1. Aim:
This paper aims to make a study of and examine the status, relevance and functions of commissions of inquiry.

2. Scope and Limitations:
The scope of the paper extends to a descriptive study of the status,powers, functions and relevance of commissions of inquiry. Due to paucity of time an space an analytical approach could not be taken.

3. Research Questions:
The following research questions are answered in this paper: What is the status of a commission of enquiry?
What are the powers and functions of a commission of inquiry? What is the relevance of commissions of inquiry?

4. Data Sources:
Secondary sources of data such as books and case law have been used in the compilation of this paper. All sources of data have been duly acknowledged.

5. Style of Writing:
A uniform and analytical mode of writing has been employed throughout the paper.

6. Mode of Citation:
A uniform and approved mode of citation has been used in this paper.

Introduction

The necessity for the Commissions of Inquiry Act of 1952 (the Act) arose principally due to the tedious nature of the measures that needed to be taken before setting up any such commission. Prior to the enactment of this legislation public inquiry had to be ordered either by executive notice served under the Public Service Inquiries Act of 1850 or by the enactment of ad hoc legislation such as the Sugar Crisis Enquiring Authority Act of 1950. The Act itself is modeled on the Tribunals Of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921 of England. Despite the general structure being similar, the two Acts have significant differences. The differences increased after the recommendations of the 24th Law Commission Report on this subject were implemented via an amendment to the Act in the year 1971. The amendments mainly pertained to the protection of the liberty and reputation of individuals or groups. The latest amendment to the Act was in the year 1990.

These measures often proved to be inadequate in dealing with the overwhelming need for public inquiry by an independent and impartial authority. The need for this independent authority was reinforced by the fact that parliamentary committees were and are often influenced by the political conditions that are prevalent at the time. For example Indira Gandhi jailed numerous members of Parliament on the basis of the findings of parliamentary inquiries and was herself jailed on this basis, upon losing majority in Parliament.

The functions of the commissions can be of various types. There are commissions which are instituted to provide information such as the ones dealing with the census. Then there are commissions such as the Pay Commission which provide the Government with recommendations on matters of great national importance. Thirdly there are commissions of inquiry which investigate the conduct of public officials which have the tendenct to dversely affect the confidence of the people in the public administration. Thus the function of a commission of inquiry, primarily, is to investigate such conduct and recommend administrative or legislative measures to remedy any adverse situation. As the Government cannot be expected to go into every little detail of irregularities in public administration, commissions of inquiry are appointed to carry out this paramount task.

The status of the commissions of inquiry has been subject to extensive judicial scrutiny. It is now, however, settled law that a commission of inquiry is not a court except where the statute expressly grants it this privilege. Even then the commissions have considerable powers. The Act grants the commissions the power of summoning witnesses, of binding them under...
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