Thursday, July 23, 2009

Commissions To Appease Public on Issues

In 2005, when he occupied the chair of the highest court of the country, former Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti expressed his view on investigation commissions that to millions of Indians, an investigation commission is just another name for suppressing facts. He said that no judge should accept to head an investigation commission. However, if they have to do so in the line of duty, then the Government should take the responsibility of protecting them from the appeals of concerned parties. In this context, Justice Lahoti, commenting on the Sri Krishna Commission investigation into the Bombay riots, said that if Justice Krishna had known what was going to be the fate of his recommendations he would not have wasted his time in going through every detail of the incident. These are the words of a former Supreme Court chief justice, who is not satisfied with investigation commissions. If the chief justice holds such opinions, it is not hard to imagine the public opinion about such commissions, how disappointed they must be with the results of every commission.

Failed Target
The tragedy is that even if conclusive evidence is given by the commission, no action is taken by the Government or the concerned parties on their recommendations, and the drama continues until the next episode. The Government and the administration do this to mollify the public. This toy is wound up and it starts moving, and if it stops at some point then it is wound up again to keep the public satisfied. This process has been continuing for a long time and if it continues, it will become a case where the public will be like children who are given toys to keep them amused. It seems that this system will continue.

Remember, what happened to the N.C. Jain Commission, which had been appointed to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and what happened to the Sri Krishna Commission which was set up to look into the Bombay riots. The public has always found that it is not satisfied with one report, so another commission is appointed to look into the matter. It has also happened that two commissions have been appointed at the same time to look into the same matter.

Appointment of Commission
For the appointment of one commission after another on the same matter, an example can be given of the R.C. Sinha Commission, which was appointed in 1989 to look into the Bhagalpur riots. It submitted its report in 1995. However, in the meantime, the Government changed and a new commission under the chairmanship of Justice N.N. Singh [Retired] was given the task of looking into the riots from the beginning.

The case of appointment of two commissions to look into a matter is that of the Justice Nanavati Commission and the Justice U.C. Bannerjee Commission appointed to look into the Godhra incident. It is another matter that they looked into different aspects of the incident and were appointed by different organizations, but the incident was the same. The Nanavati Commission was appointed by the federal Government and the Bannerjee Commission by the Indian Railways. It must be obvious to anyone that commissions appointed at the same time are not going to be free of official interference.

Recommendations of Commission
In such a situation the question arises, if official commissions are necessary then why necessary changes are not made in the 1952 Commission of Enquiry Act, why is it not mandatory that all recommendations of the commission are followed and no Government should be allowed to make changes in the recommendations? It seems that such high standards do not exist in the Government and its organizations. Otherwise, there is no reason that we should be stuck in this whirlpool forever.

The Congress is, once again, heading the Government. If it is interested in the welfare of people, it should prove it by following the recommendations of the Liberhan Commission and should be different from other Governments. It should also make necessary changes in the Commission of Enquiry Act.

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