1. By this writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution, the State of Rajasthan seeks to question the validity of an order of the Commission of Inquiry, respondent No. 1, dated the 3rd May, 1967, whereby permission was accorded to respondents Nos. 2 to 8 to inspect certain documents called by the Commission from the petitioner in the presence of the Secretary or any officer deputed for the purpose during office hours.
2. We have heard the learned counsel for the petitioner at great length and have gone through the relevant portions of the papers filed by it. We are not satisfied that by the impugned order any of the legal rights of the petitioners have been infringed nor are we satisfied that the impugned order was one passed without jurisdiction or there was otherwise any apparent error on the face of the record so as to justify the exercise of our extraordinary powers under Article 226 of the Constitution.
3. It appears that the documents in question were requisitioned by the Commission under Section 4(d) of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952 (Act No. LX of 1952), (hereinafter called the Act), and in complying with it any claim for privilege does not appear to have been raised by the petitioner, It was contended by the petitioner that while Section 4 of the Act authorised the Commission to requisition any public record, it did not authorise it to permit inspection of such record or documents by other persons. Learned counsel emphasised that the production of documents is one thing and its inspection is quite a different thing regarding which the Commission has no power. We do not find any merit in this contention. It is true that Section 4 speaks of certain powers to be utilised for the purpose of enforcing attendance of persons, their examination, discovery and production of documents or requisition of any public record but it cannot be overlooked that the relevant documents are produced for the purpose of collecting facts and evidence, so that the Commission may be able to perform its main function as a fact finding body effectively It can undoubtedly seek the assistance of all those who have volunteered to assist the Commission in the discharged of its functions pursuant to the general notice issued by it. We do not think the Commission is precluded from seeking the aid of such persons for getting at the truth if it considers it necessary that the relevant documents should be perused by such persons. In the present case the Commission has taken the safeguard of ordering the inspection in the presence of its Secretary or any other officer deputed for the purpose, and it has also ordered that so far as Roznamcha entries were concerned, only the entries relevant to the subject-matter of inquiry will be permitted to be inspected and the rest would be kept secret.
4. The learned counsel then contended that in ordering the inspection of the documents by the persons concerned before the filing of the statement of facts by them the Commission has acted against its own rules framed under Section 8 of the Act.
5. Now, in our opinion, Section 8 of the Act confers very wide powers on the Commission to regulate its own procedure and that is subject only to any rules made under Section 12 of the Act. We have not been shown in what manner the Commission has transgressed any limitation imposed by the Rules framed under Section 12 of the Act. The so-called Rules made by the Commission itself in exercise of its own powers under Section 8 of the Act are nothing but broad principles which the Commission has formulated for its own guidance and for the information of all concerned These are not such hard and fast rules as cannot be varied or departed from by the Commission.
6. Apart from this, while making the rules, the Commission had reserved powers to itself in Rule 19 to amend, add to or amplify the rules of procedure as it may deem fit. The Commission has in fact modified these rules before ordering the inspection of the documents in question. Even otherwise we are not convinced that any departure from the so-called rules made by the Commission will necessarily amount to an illegality.
7. Then the learned counsel contended that in amending the so-called rules without notice to all the parties, the Commission has not followed the principles of natural justice. We are again unable to accept this contention as correct. The Commission had already reserved power to itself to amplify the rules of procedure as it deemed fit and changing the rules in itself is not violative of the principles of natural justice. It appears from the order that all that the petitioner insisted was that inspection of the documents be given to the persons concerned after they had filed their statement of facts. In other words, the quarrel was only about the stage when the inspection is to be given. This is not such a matter which calls for interference in exercise of our extraordinary jurisdiction, under Article 226 of the Constitution.
8. Mr. B. L. Bhargava learned counsel for the petitioner placed reliance on M. V. Rajwade v. Dr. S. M. Hassan, AIR 1954 Nag 71, and Alien Berry and Co. v. Vivian Bose, AIR 1960 Punj 86. In the last mentioned case the Commission had ordered that inspection of certain documents could be allowed at a later stage and the party who was refused inspection approached the High Court, and the learned Judges observed that:
'It is for the commission to decide what to do in this matter and it has been indicated in its orders to what extent and how the inspection of the records will be allowed. The Commission has made it quite clear that at later stages any documents that are sought to be used against the petitioners or are considered material will be shown to those interested to prepare their defences.' The learned Judges also added that the procedure indicated by the Commission in the matter of inspection of documents appeared to be quite just and it was not for the High Court to decide at what particular stage or stages and what particular documents should be shown to the petitioners concerned. These observations in our view go against the contention raised by learned counsel for the petitioner.
9. In the first case, the learned Judges were dealing with a contempt matter and had to consider whether the Commission was a court. In dealing with the argument, they referred to Section 4 of the Act and observed that it only clothes the Commission with certain powers of a civil court but does not confer on it the status of a Court. This case is, in our view not at all helpful to the petitioner.
10. In our view the writ petition has no substance and we hereby reject it in limine.