The Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952 is an Act to provide for the appointment of Commissions of Inquiry and for vesting such Commissions with certain powers.
Section 3 of this Act provides for appointment for Commission. It lays down that the appropriate Government may, if it is of opinion that it is necessary so to do, and shall, if a resolution in this behalf is passed by the House of the People or, as the case may be, the Legislative Assembly of the State, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint a Commission of Inquiry for the purpose of-
(i) Making an inquiry into any definite matter of public importance, and
(ii) Performing such functions and within such time as may be specified in the notification.
And the commission so appointed shall make the inquiry and perform the functions accordingly.
The Commission consists of one or more members appointed by the appropriate Government and where the Commission consists of more than one member, one of them may be appointed as the Chairman thereof.
“The appropriate Government shall cause to be laid before the House of the People or, as the case may be, the Legislative Assembly of the State, the report, if any, of the Commission on the inquiry made by the Commission under sub-section (1), together with a memorandum of the action taken thereon, within a period of 6 months of the submission of the report by the Commission to the appropriate Government.”
Sec. 3 (4) is conceived as a check upon the Government inaction or deliberate suppression of the report before the Parliament/Legislative Assembly along with the Memorandum of action taken by it thereon.
Section 4 deals with the powers of the Commission. It lays down that the Commission shall have the powers of civil courts while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure in respect of the following matters, namely-
(a) Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person, and examining him on oath;
(b) Requiring the discovery and production of any document;
(c) Receiving evidence on affidavits;
(d) Requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court of office;
(e) Issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents; and
(f) Any other matter which may be prescribed.
Under section 5, where the appropriate Government is of opinion that, having regard to the nature of the inquiry to be made and other circumstances of the case, all or any of the provisions of sub-sections (2) to (5) of section 5 should be made applicable to a Commission, the appropriate Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, direct that all or such of the provisions as may be specified in the notification shall apply to that Commission, and on the issue of such a notification the said provisions shall apply accordingly.
The Commission shall have power to require any person, subject to any privilege which may be claimed by that person under any law, to furnish on such points or matters, as in the opinion of the Commission, may be useful for, or relevant to the subject matter of the inquiry.
The Commission or any officer, not below the rank of a gazette officer specially authorised in this behalf by the Commission, may enter any building or place where the Commission has reason to believe that any books of account or other documents relating to the subject matter of the inquiry may be found, and may seize any such books of account or document or take extracts or copies there from, subject to the provisions of sections 102 and 103, Cr. P.C. in so far as they may be applicable.
The Commission shall be deemed to be civil court. When any offence as is described in sections 175, 178 to 180 and 228 I.P.C. committed in the view or presence of the Commission, the Commission may, after recording:
(i) The facts constituting the offence, and
(ii) The statement of the accused as provided in the Criminal Procedure Code,
Send the case to Magistrate having jurisdiction to try the same, and the Magistrate to whom any such case is forwarded shall proceed to hear the complaint against the accused as if the case had been forwarded to him under section 482, Cr. P.C. [Sub- section (4)].
Any proceeding before the Commission shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of sections 193 and 228 I.P.C. [Sub-section (5)].
Thus the Commission of Enquiry is an administrative authority which is constituted to make judicial inquiry into any question of public importance.
The President can appoint an inquiring authority so that an inquiry can be held into the charges against any Chief Minister. During the inquiry, the Chief Minister can be asked to resign or not to resign. The inquiry can be held in private or public.
Normally, only charges which have some prima facie substances in them are subjected to a regular inquiry.
The inquiry is held in private because if it is held in public, it is likely to create public excitement which is not desirable and interferes to some extent with the atmosphere in which such an inquiry is conducted in these matters, public interest is the guiding factor.
Regarding procedure to be followed by the commission, the Commission has, subject to any rules that may be made in this behalf, power to regulate its own procedure including-
(i) The fixing of places and times of its sittings, and
(ii) Deciding whether to sit in public or private,
And may act, notwithstanding the temporary absence of any member of the existence of a vacancy among its members.
No suit or other legal proceeding shall lie against:
(i) The appropriate Government,
(ii) The Commission,
(iii) Any member of the Commission,
(iv) Any person acting under the direction either of the appropriate Government or of the Commission,
In respect of:
(i) Anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act or of any rules or orders made there under, or
(ii) The publication by or under the authority of the appropriate Government or the Commission, of report, paper or proceedings.
The appropriate Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, make rules to carry out the purposes of this Act. In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any the following matters, namely,-
(a) The term of office and the conditions of service of the members of the Commission;
(b) The manner in which inquiries may be held under this Act and the procedure to be followed by the Commission in respect of the proceedings before it;
(c) The powers of civil court which may be vested in the Commission;
(d) Any other matter which has to be, or may be, prescribed.
The Government of India appointed Mr. Sudhi Ranjan Das, former Chief Justice of India, as the one man commission of inquiry to investigate and report on the allegations made by the non-communist opposition members of Punjab against the State Chief Minister, Sardar Pratap Singh Kairon.
The report of the inquiry which was held in camera was to be submitted to the Government by last February, 1964. The scope of the inquiry was restricted to the 21 allegations made in the memorandum submitted to the President of India on 31th July, 1963, by the Punjab opposition leader and others and did not deal with any other allegations or complaints.
Unlike the Lord Denning inquiry into the Perfume scandal in U.K. and the S.K. Das inquiry in respect of Mr. Malviya, this Commission could compel attendance of witnesses, compel production of documents, administer oath to witnesses and allow their cross-examination, and permit counsels to appear on behalf of the parties concerned.
The proceedings before the Commission were treated as judicial proceedings within the meaning of sections 193 and 228, I.P.C. This Commission was set up as the Central Government was of the opinion that it was necessary for the purpose of making an inquiry into a definite matter of public importance.