Monday, April 18, 2016


Its One Man Judicial Committee and not Commission.

On 4/17/16, 

Dear Shri Arora,

1. The One Man Judicial commission will soon submit is report and recommendations. I am apprehensive that whatever be the intent there will be a lot of dissatisfaction from the affected party viz. Ex-Servicemen, since they are not being represented in any dialogues. The methodology of inviting suggestions and deliberating upon them with contentions that prelude predetermined deliberations negates the fairness of inputs that will be sent by Ex-Servicemen.

2. Therefore, it is suggested that a team of Ex-Servicemen from some of the larger Veteran organisations be incorporated into the Secretariat of the One Man Judicial Commission. This would negate the Pay commission type approach where legitimate benefits are negated by contrived arguments.


Shreekumar Menon
Long. But read this.

Enquiry committees and commissions - COMMITTEES AND COMMISSIONS IN PRE- INDEPENDENCE INDIA 1836- 1947(Four volumes): M. Anees Chishti: Mittal Publications, A-110, Mohan Gardens, New Delhi-110059. Rs. 2480(for four volumes)

POST-INDEPENDENCE INDIA, in its heritage of colonial culture, has clung to committees and commissions of British Indian vintage; and the currently pathetic proliferation of these institutions has rendered them illusory panaceas, pathological profusion of high cost, slow speed, Tammany taint and no meaningful action for public good. The choice, the process, the product and the greed of retired judges to manipulate, make this methodology a dubious game.
This committee-commission syndrome has its accommodative uses for defeated politicians and corrupt businessmen ready to buy a position at hidden prices. And whenever a vociferous grievance likely to damage a party in power has to be silenced, the strategy to save the criminal and the administration is to appoint a commission and then forget all about it. As for the noise making masses a commission is opium.

There are judicial commissions, ombudsmanic commissions, Human Rights Commissions, women's commissions, ad hoc inquiry commissions and myriad chameleon commissions. Of course, the Constitution itself has sanctioned a plethora of them; and other statutory commissions are a tribe on the increase. Committees are fewer but are escalating in numbers.

Whenever the Government finds itself in a politically inconvenient situation, the remedy for the malady is a committee. The appetite for committees and commissions grows since even bankrupt administrations guilty of culpable deviances can provide a cover, postpone the evil day and pack the committee or commission with pliable members. The difference between a commission and a committee is more verbal than real, more status-conscious than functional, more statutory than created by the executive.

There is no uniformity in nomenclature as, for instance, the Constitution Reform Commission, which is purely a creation of a transient ministry, and yet within it there are many committees (not sub- commissions). A semantic serendipity is the Kerala Ombudsman for overseeing panchayats' functionalism. The demand for sitting judges as commissions to pull political chestnuts out of the fire is an abuse of judicial credibility and when the report is politically unfavourable it is buried and rejected or no fruitful action taken. In short, committees, though less pompous, are often stratagems motivated by escapism or designed to achieve unholy objective through the decent device of committees.

The Indian experience of commissions and committees has largely been an expensive futility, institutional illusion or rogue process as a cover-up to gain political or economic end or hidden agenda by the backdoor. It is not my purpose to condemn all commissions or committees but to enter a caveat to use wisdom, statesmanship and concern for the nation's interests, dismissing political expediency and corrupt objectives, even a wee bit, when deciding on a commission or committee, choosing its composition, terms of reference and determination to take action on the recommendations. At this point, we may go back to the legacy of commissioner methodology and its history in pre-Independence India which constitute the four-volume work under review here.
The mintage of this instrument of plural member wisdom is British and its vintage belongs to the British Indian era of the early 19th century. Administration may become chaos in the cosmos unless policies are based on principles, governance is guided by democratic fundamentals and collective noetics of experienced persons leads lay ministers and mindless masses along correct lines. The mental-moral and pragmatic processes must precede governmental action and relevant legislation. So no democracy can dispense with an antecedent expert examination because of the complexities and variegated ground realities of society; and that is the raison d'etre of commissions in England, and committees, called Royal Commissions with their roots in the regal regime at the beginning of the second millennium.

This instrumentality, as a sophisticated tool, came into frequent use in 1930s. Naturally imperial India also had its share of such investigative bodies. The publishers have taken great pains and invested research labours in producing four volumes including quite a few of the important committees and commissions between 1836 and 1947. A boon for a researcher, rare material for a student of the comparative history of pre-Indian and post-Indian commissions and a valuable insight into the history and policy of British rule in Viceregal times. One need not be allergic to everything - British Indian, in which case our bureaucracy, judiciary, and civil administrative structure, which still retain the paper-logged and hierarchical, systemic infirmities and philosophy of ``the white man's burden'' may have to be regarded as anathematic.

The very concept of commissions and committees has merits, if wisely used, and has demerits and deceptions if misused with mala fides. Anyway free India is a slave to the commission opium. Popular clamour for judicial enquiry even for tremendous trifles is another folly which delays and defeats regular legal proceedings and benefits the commissioner judge if he is indolent or retired, and what is worse, the villain will gain from the delay since evidence will evaporate. The dilatory report may or may not be published at the pleasure of the government or acted upon according to its mood or interest. The report is not even probative material in a civil or criminal court. In short, commissions and committees are a gamble if freedom of information for the public is defeated or distorted save in a few exceptional cases.

Let us look at the British Indian experience from 1836 to 1947 covered by the four volumes divided into four periods. The Whigs, when in power in British politics, stood for limited monarchy, liberal parliament and social values. They were willing to experiment with commissions and committees at home and in India. Royal Commissions galore secured access to British India and facilitated better understanding of the impact of the alien administration on the people. Two important committees, whose findings are included in the first volume are significant. Since imperial security had high priority, the two committees were concerned with prison discipline (1838) and jail conditions (1864).

The rebellion of 1857, a shock to the foreign rulers, led to the Special Ordinance Commission (1874). The Fainine Commission (1878) and two Commissions on salt manufacture and allied issues are purposeful. Alas, even today, prison justice, salt supplies, famine, health and education are pathetic problems. Time stands still, suffering persists and pachydermic rulers are comfortable.

The rationale behind these enquiries is simple. Maladies must be diagnosed before remedies are prescribed and then alone will administrative action help. Imperialism did not believe in soft justice. The British introduced afflictive punishments in jails and one who reads the ruling in ``Sunil Batra'' on Prison Reform and the report of 1836 on prison discipline together will soon realise the humanist winds of Sunil as against the blood and iron of jail injustice recommended by the pre-Independence Committee. Even so, it is informative to go through the terms of reference, recommendations and other contents which present the horror of punitive processes, with a touch of humanity here and there. As ``penitentiary'' literature, it is interesting reading, but if compassion is a cultural component of sentencing, the British heart muscles are made of savage cells; ``deterrent'' prescription, if harsh, misses reformatory justice; and the advance India has made, if any, in jail reforms, has to be assessed in the light of the British Indian Committee Report. We too had a National Jail Reforms Commission but, in pensive mood, I feel that we have hardly done justice to that and other reports on custodial justice. Incarceratory humanism has miles to go if jail realism is to keep faith with the Constitution.

Let us proceed. The author in an instructive introduction observes: `That the findings and recommendations of a Commission of Enquiry are primarily of an advisory nature and it is not mandatory for the appointing government to implement the recommendations of these bodies has been a constant source of disappointment to aggrieved sections that are concerned with the issues that lead to or cause the appointment of an investigating agency. This issue should be debated thoroughly and the need for some mandatory status being given to the recommendations of Commissions and Committees has to be highlighted forcefully. Legislation to this effect is indeed a desirable step, but that does not seem to be very easy to achieve.

In independent India itself where an open and democratic system of governance exists, the voice of the people particularly the exhortations of the Press to the government to implement recommendations of its Commissions and Committees from time to time, such implementation is found to be often not complied with. And, one can imagine, what degree of arbitrariness might be associated with picking and choosing of recommendations for implementation by an alien government governing India in case some of the recommendations of an investigating body were unpalatable to the foreign rulers. ''The vast reforms I made in Kerala in 1957 as minister and prescribed as rule of law from the Supreme Court as judge, make me wonder why even the jail-going ministers keep prisons even now hell. Oscar Wilde's lines on prison life are good for the new Indian millennium: ``Something was dead in each of us. And what was dead was Hope''.

The truth is that the British meant business when Royal Commissions were set up but Indian rulers rarely took commissions seriously or set them up to escape opposition criticism or public anger. The gap between intentions and actions, vis-a- vis commissions, if closely studied over the years, revealed how implementation lagged behind the professed objectives. Even Parliamentary Commissions in India, when tested on the touchstone of action taken, had a sorry tale to tell.

Chishti, in his illuminating opening, explains the nuances of distinction between committees and commissions, which, I consider, has no uniform application but does help know the scope and status of these enquiries. Let me quote: ``A study of the nature and coverage of the Commissions and Committees of the boom period would reveal the true motivation behind their appointments. They were appointed to know the lacunae in the administration of the country by the British, particularly after a firm notice had been served on the British masters of India by the rebellious Indians in 1857.

Only after detecting the shortcomings, the loose ends could be tightened, be they in the management of prisons, the operation of the penal code, sale of and tax on salt, the famines that could be the cause of unrest, different areas of the economy, the crucial sector of education, the conditions in the matter of narcotics, or even tackling health issues like plague, kala-azar or leprosy where success could create favourable public opinion about the alien government among the people, at least in the consequential urban areas. ''If, indeed, I take volume after volume and critique them separately, my angry analysis and your tolerable patience will outrage the editor who struggles with space. So I compress the review but remind the reader that rare material, rarer marshalling and rarest of all, presenting the essential parts of the anatomy of each report, hard to get even for an industrious research, are packed into the pages without hiking the price.

What a large range of subjects like Delhi town planning, Tuberculosis in India, Decentralisation in India (1907), Army organisation and expenditure in India, Railway Commission, Indian universities, Leprosy in India, Opium, Labour Enquiry Commission (1895), Indian education and so on. What a Vistaramas; admirable and Imperial history from a different angle!

I endorse Chishti's concluding expectations:`It is hoped that the contemporary researchers would make a positive use of these reports and benefit from their findings, keeping in view, all the time, the colonial biases that might be a significant feature of these reports.'' Fine thought. But in our era of bibliophobia reading is of low priority unless it be linked to pornos, casteist mythos or narco-thanatos.

(Source - Via e-mail from Sham Slaria, Vet & Shreekumar Menon Vet) 



  1. The government made up its mind to be adamant right from day one with regards to the OROP to the veterans. They were slow to react to the movement and delay tactics were used to deny a decent pension and finally some arbitrary figures were concocted with no rhyme of reason. There is no participation of the serving soldiers or veterans in the decision making process as is the case with other department's negotiations even on trivial subjects. Nothing is going to come out of this one man judicial commission and ultimately we have to approach the SC.

  2. I am also agreed to the right opinion made by Mr. Manohar AM. THANKS.