P.R. Gokulakrishnan, J.
1. To enquire into certain alleged incidents that took place at Tiruparankundram Police Station (in Madurai) on 24th February, 1979. the Government of Tamil Nadu issued a Notification in G.O.Ms. No. 695. Public (Law and Order-A) dated the 9th of April, 1979, in exercise of the powers conferred by Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952. appointing Thiru Justice C.I.R. Paul as the Commission of Inquiry. The terms of the Reference as set out in Clause 2 of the aforesaid Government Notification, are as follows:
(i) To inquire and report on the incidents that took place at Tiruparankundram Police Station on the 24th February. 1979 relating to the alleged assault on Thiru V. Ayyadurai, Advocate by Thiru K. Rajagopal, Deputy Inspector of Police, Tiruparankundram Police Station and the counter allegation of assault on Thiru K. Rajagopal by Thiru V. Ayyadurai.
(ii) To find out whether there has been any misconduct or excess on the part of the Police Personnel including the Deputy Inspector of Police, Thiru K. Rajagopal and whether there has been any misconduct on the part of the Advocate Thiru Ayyadurai.
2. Pursuant to the above Government Notification the Commission of Inquiry commenced its work after publishing due notice of its inquiry.
3. Before the Commission of Inquiry, one Thiru Dakshinamurthy, an Advocate practising at Thaniavur who is the petitioner in both these writ petitions filed an affidavit contending, inter alia, that the inquiry, in so far as the Reference relates to the alleged misconduct of Thiru V. Ayyadurai, Advocate, has to be dropped for the reason that Thiru K. Rajagopal, Deputy Inspector of Police, has already sent a complaint to the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu on the alleged misconduct of Thiru V. Ayyadurai, that Thiru K. Rajagopal has thus submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu, that the matter is under consideration of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and that the Commission of Inquiry, constituted under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, has no jurisdiction to hold an enquiry on the alleged misconduct of Thiru V. Ayyadurai, Advocate.
4. The Commission of Inquiry considered this point as a preliminary objection, and by its order, dated 31st May, 1979, has overruled the objection and ruled that the Commission is under a statutory duty to conduct the enquiry as ordered in the Notification issued by the Government.
5. Aggrieved by the order of the Commission of Inquiry and also the Notification issued by the Government, the aforesaid Thiru U. Dakshinamoorthy has filed the two writ petitions, under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. W.P. No. 2237 of 1979 has been filed to partially quash the Government Notification (G.O. Ms. No. 695. Public (Law and Order-A)). dated 9th April. 1979, in so far as it directs 'whether there has been any misconduct on the part of the Advocate Thiru V. Ayyadurai.' W.P. No. 2238 of 1979 has been filed to quash the order of the C.I.R. Paul Commission of Inquiry, dated 31st May. 1979. In both these writ petitions, Thiru V. Ayyadurai. Advocate, has been impleaded as the third respondent, and Thiru K. Rajagopal, Deputy Inspector of Police, has been impleaded as the fourth respondent. The State of Tamil Nadu is the second respondent.
6. According to the petitioner, the reference in the Notification of the Government to the extent that it recites that the Commission of Inquiry shall also inquire as to whether there has been any 'misconduct' on the part of the Advocate Thiru V. Ayyadurai is not a matter for enquiry which falls within the scope of Section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act. The alleged misconduct of an Advocate, if any, in general, and in any event in particular on the allegations in the present case, is not a definite matter of public importance.
7. The petitioner has alleged that Chapter V of the Advocates Act provides for the conduct of Advocates. Section 35 provides for directing an inquiry to be made by the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council into an alleged misconduct of an Advocate and for suitable punishment on a finding as to misconduct of the Advocate. Section 36 provides for disciplinary powers of the Bar Council of India. Section 36-A provides for changes in the constitution of the Disciplinary Committee. Section 37 provides for appeal to the Bar Council of India against orders of the Disciplinary Committee of the State Bar Council made under Section 35. Section 38 provides for appeal to the Supreme Court by any person aggrieved by an order of the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council, under Section 36 or Section 37, as the case may be. Section 39 provides for application of Sections 5 and 12 of the Limitation Act and Section 40 provides for powers for granting stay pending the appeal. From the above provisions contained in the Advocates Act, according to the petitioner, by a special statute the remedy for enforcing certain liabilities is provided for. Hence, the remedy provided by the statute alone must be followed and it is not competent to pursue any other course. Commission of Inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act cannot be constituted to inquire into such alleged misconduct of the Advocate, which falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Tribunals constituted under the Advocates Act. Therefore, according to the petitioner, that part of the Notification issued by the second respondent directing an inquiry as to whether there has been any misconduct on the part of the Advocate Thiru V. Ayyadurai is wholly without jurisdiction and consequently the Commission of Inquiry (First Respondent) has no jurisdiction to inquire into the said matter.
8. The petitioner has further alleged that in that present case the definite matter of public importance is only the alleged assault by the police official on the Advocate concerned. The Commission of Inquiry has only to ascertain the facts as to what happened on the day of the alleged occurrence in the police station at Tiruparankundram, It cannot inquire into the alleged misconduct of the Advocate.
9. It has been further averred in the counter-affidavit of the second respondent that the Commission constituted under the Commission of Inquiry Act is only a fact-finding body, and the said Act will not come in conflict with the Advocates Act, since the two Acts are quite different. A Commission of Inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act can be constituted to inquire into the conduct or misconduct of any individual including an Advocate as the Commission under the Act is only a fact-finding body which will not usurp the jurisdiction of the Tribunal constituted under (he Advocates Act.
10. The second respondent has further averred that the Commission constituted under the Commission of Inquiry Act is competent not only to inquire into any definite matter of public importance but it can perform 'such functions as may be specified in the Notification' as per the provisions of Section 3(1) of the Act. Hence, the present case falls both within 'a definite matter of public importance' and the statutory functions specified in the Notification. Hence, the Commission is competent not only to ascertain the facts as to what happened on the day of the alleged occurrence in the police station at Tiruparankundram but also the statutory function assigned to the Commission in Clause 2(ii) of the terms of reference contained in the Notification. It is correct to say, according to the second respondent, that on the Commission recording the findings as to what happened on the day of occurrence and on the findings under Clause 2(ii) of the terms of reference, appropriate further action may be taken either in the ordinary Courts, civil or criminal, or before the statutory authorities or Tribunals. The conduct of an individual or of a particular person can be inquired into by the Commission and it is well within the ambit of Section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act. Hence, it is submitted by the second respondent that the Notification is in accordance with law and the order of the first respondent (dated 31st May, 1979) is perfectly valid and legal.
11. The second respondent has also refuted the contention that the Commission of Inquiry cannot inquire into the misconduct of the Advocate since the police official has referred the matter to the State Bar Council. According to the second respondent, the Commission of Inquiry can inquire into the very same matter and it is performing its statutory duty as per the Notification.
12. It has been further averred in the counter-affidavit that the entire circumstances are so intertwined or so inseparably mixed that none of the circumstances can be gone into individually or in the abstract without necessarily considering the other.
13. With the above contentions, the second respondent prayed for a dismissal of both the writ petitions.
14. No other respondent has filed any counter-affidavit.
15. Mr. K. Parasaran, the learned Counsel appearing for the writ petitioner submitted that he has no quarrel as regards the reference contained in Clause 2(1) of the Notification, that he is agreeable to a major portion of the reference in Clause 2(ii) but that he takes exception to the reference to the Commission of the question 'and whether there has been any misconduct on the part of the Advocate Thiru V. Ayyadurai.' Minus the latter portion Clause 2(ii) Mr. K. Parasaran, the learned Counsel submitted, the reference is perfectly valid. The learned Counsel further submitted that he has absolutely no objection for the Commission inquiring into the conduct of the Advocate Thiru V. Ayyadurai in respect of the incident alleged, but that the reference requiring the Commission of Inquiry to find, out whether there has been any 'misconduct' on the part of the Advocate Thiru V. Ayyadurai, is illegal. According to Section 35 of the Advocates Act it is the State Bar Council which has to inquire into the professional or other misconduct of an Advocate. The learned Counsel made himself clear by stating that he cannot have any grievance if a particular Advocate is proceeded against for a specific offence before a criminal Court, but that it is only the State Bar Council that has the powers to inquire the misconduct, professional or otherwise, of the Advocate concerned. According to the learned Counsel, the State Bar Council alone has exclusive jurisdiction to inquire into the professional or other misconduct of the Advocate, and the Commission of Inquiry cannot be directed by the impugned Notification to inquire into the misconduct of the Advocate concerned. Incidentally, it is also stated that an enquiry into the alleged misconduct of an Advocate is not a matter of public importance.
16. Mr. V.P. Raman, the learned Advocate-General, submitted that the impugned Notification is perfectly valid and that the 'misconduct' referred to therein, and impugned in the writ petition, was used in a general way in the context of its dictionary meaning, and not with particular reference to the 'misconduct' occurring in the Advocates Act. It only means according to the learned Advocate-General, that the Commission has to inquire into the conduct of the Advocate concerned which will necessarily reveal the true facts pertaining to the incident referred to the Commission for Inquiry.
17. Mr. K.V. Sankaran, the learned Counsel, appearing for the third respondent, stressed more on the point that this Court can as well dispose of the matter finally on merits, than on adjudicating on the maintainability of the two writ petitions by the petitioner Thiru U. Dakshinamoorthy. The learned Counsel invited the attention of this Court to the professional or other misconduct referred to in Section 35 of the Advocates Act and submitted that it is for the State Bar Council to inquire and decide on any professional or other misconduct of the Advocate concerned, and not the Commission of Inquiry.
18. We have gone through the order passed by the Commission of Inquiry and also through the other relevant records in these two writ petitions.
19. The Commission of Inquiry, after referring to the various sections in the Advocates Act dealing with misconduct professional or otherwise, of an Advocate, observed that the term 'Professional or other misconduct' has not been defined anywhere in the Advocates Act. According to the Commission, the scope of the Advocates Act is very wide and if the authority constituted to inquire into the misconduct of an Advocate comes to the conclusion that the allegations are proved, it can impose on the Advocate any one of the punishments prescribed in Section 35 of that Act; but, as far as the Commission is concerned, it cannot be looked upon as a Judicial Functionary and the report ultimately made by it cannot be enforced proprio vigore. The Commission governed by the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, is appointed by the State Government 'for the information of its own mind', in order that it should not act, in exercise of its executive power, otherwise, than in accordance with the dictates of justice and equity, in ordering a departmental inquiry against its officers. Hence, according to the Commission, it is a fact-finding body meant only to instruct the mind of the Government without producing any document of a judicial nature. The Commission has further observed that the report of the Commission appointed under the Commission of Inquiry Act, is not binding on the Government. Since the Commission is a fact-finding body, it gives only an information to the Government and such information given cannot have any binding nature upon the parties concerned, or on the Government. Commissions appointed under the Act do not adjudicate any disputes or determine rights or liabilities or decide any question of guilt or innocence. On the other hand the Commission observed that the scone of Chapter V of the Advocates Art is entirely different from the scope of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, and the objects are also entirely different. On these findings, the Commission saw no force in the preliminary objection raised before it by the petitioner herein.
20. The preliminary objection according to Mr. K. Parasaran, the learned Counsel appearing for the petitioner, pertains only to that part of the reference as contained in the latter part of Clause 2(ii) of the Notification, which reads:
and whether there has been any misconduct on the part of the Advocate Thiru V. Ayyadurai,
The learned Counsel would however have it that the Commission can inquire into the 'conduct' of the Advocate concerned.
As per Section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry, Act, 1952:
(1) 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 making an inquiry into any definite matter of public importance and 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.
Section 7 of the said Act states that the appropriate Government may, if it is of opinion that the continued existence of a Commission is unnecessary, by Notification in the Official Gazette, declare that the Commission shall cease to exist from such date as may be specified in this behalf in such Notification, and thereupon the Commission shall cease to exist. Thus, it is clear that a Commission of Inquiry is appointed for the purpose of finding out the facts in respect of a definite matter of public importance and it is open to the Government, as provided in Section 7 of the Act itself, to declare by Notification that the Commission will cease to exist from such date as it may specify in the Notification. It is also open to the Government either to pursue the matter through the Court of Law on the basis of the facts found by the Commission of Inquiry, or close the matter once for all. There is absolutely no sanction behind the Commission's report, such as we find in Section 35 of the Advocates Act, viz.:
(3) The disciplinary committee of a State Bar Council after giving the Advocate concerned and the Advocate-General an opportunity of being heard, may make any of the following orders, viz.:
(a) dismiss the complaint or, where the proceedings were initiated at the instance of the State Bar Council, direct that the proceedings be filed;
(b) reprimand the Advocate;
(c) suspend the Advocate from practice for such period as it may deem fit;
(d) remove the name of the Advocate from the State Roll of Advocates'.
Hence, there cannot be any conflict or overlapping of the findings given by the Commission of Inquiry with those arrived at by the authority under the Advocates Act.
21. Under the Commission of Inquiry Act, any definite matter of public importance can be the subject-matter of enquiry by a Commission of Inquiry appointed under Section 3 of the Act. Section 8-B (a) of the Act provides that, if at any stage of the inquiry the Commission considers it necessary to inquire into the conduct of any person, the Commission shall give to that person a reasonable opportunity of being heard in the inquiry and to produce evidence in his defence.
22. The Commission of Inquiry is purely a fact-finding Commission as it has not the moorings of a Court as it is popularly understood, nor are there two persons placed on either side to place their views on a given subject, nor is there a lis in issue before it.
23. The Advocates Act is an Act to amend and consolidate the law relating to legal practitioners and to provide for the constitution of State Bar Councils and an All-India Bar Council. Section 35 of the Act, dealing with the conduct of Advocates, entitles the State Bar Council to refer a case for disposal to its disciplinary committee, where it has reason to believe that an Advocate on its roll has been guilty of professional or other misconduct. This is an enabling provision under which the contemplated statutory proceeding can be initiated by the Bar Council, if it is satisfied that it has reason to believe that any Advocate is guilty of professional or other misconduct. To adopt the language of the Supreme Court, in Bar Council of Maharashtra v. Dabholkar : 1SCR306 ;
the complaint is examined by the Bar Council in order to find out whether there is any reason to believe that any Advocate has been guilty of misconduct. The Bar Council may act on its own initiative on information which has come to its notice in the course of its duties.
(Italics is ours)
Thus, it is clear that the Bar Council may act on any information that comes to its knowledge for the purpose of taking disciplinary action against an Advocate. The findings of the Commission of Inquiry, if published, can afford information to the Bar Council and hence, there cannot be any objection for the Commission to inquire and give its finding regarding the conduct of an Advocate in relation to the incident referred to it for enquiry.
24. It is, therefore, fairly clear that the Bar Council is the repository of power to refer matters to its disciplinary committee, and act either suo motu on information obtained by it or on a complaint made to it. In the instant case, the reference to the Commission enjoins on it a duty to find as a fact whether there has been any misconduct on the part of the Advocate. It is conceded, as it ought to be, that the Commission has no power under the Commission of Inquiry Act, to decide on the action to be taken, even if it finds, in the course of its functioning as a Commission of Inquiry, that the conduct of the Advocate was improper. Certainly, the Bar Council, as a statutory functionary, can take notice of the findings of another statutory functionary like the Commission, and ponder over such information and act suo motu, if necessary, if it is satisfied, on the facts so found that there has been professional or other misconduct on the part of the Advocate, as contemplated under Section 35 of the Advocates Act.
25. It is, therefore, clear that the functions of the Commission of Inquiry, so far as the latter part of Clause 2(ii) of the reference is concerned, and those of the Bar Council, are mutually exclusive, and one is independent of the other. Whilst a Commission of Inquiry only finds facts, and is interdicted from rendering a decision on such found facts, the Bar Council has a statutory right to act on such information and take such action as is necessary under Section 35 of the Advocates Act, by referring the matter, if it has reason to believe that the Advocate has been guilty of professional or other misconduct, to the disciplinary committee for necessary action. If this dichotomy is borne in mind, than the contention that the Commission has no jurisdiction to go into the question whether there has been any misconduct on the part of the Advocate, will not arise at all.
26. As 'misconduct' has not been defined, we have to be guided by the meaning which is obtainable for the expression in ordinary and common parlance. 'Misconduct', as explained in the dictionary, is improper conduct. The propriety of the conduct of the Advocate is to be inquired into by the Commission. Whether it is professional misconduct or misconduct otherwise has to be judged by the Bar Council which has to be satisfied about the commission of such misconduct, as technically understood under the Advocates Act. Every misconduct may not be professional misconduct or other misconduct contemplated by Section 35.
27. Before the passing of the Advocates Act, Section 10 of the Bar Councils Act (1926) conferred on the Court disciplinary jurisdiction to take action in cases of misconduct, whether in a professional or other capacity, leaving it to the Court to take action only in suitable cases. Vide-In the matter of D. an Advocate of the Supreme Court : 1956CriLJ280 . A Special Bench of the Calcutta High Court in In the matter of N, an Advocate : AIR1936Cal158 , reiterated the position that the test to be applied in considering the question whether an Advocate should be struck off the rail of Advocates is whether the proved misconduct of the Advocate is such that he must be regarded as 'unworthy to be a Member of the honourable profession to which he has been admitted and unfit to be entrusted with the responsible duties that an Advocate is called upon to perform.'
28. To a similar effect are the observations of the Supreme Court in Ratnam v. Kanikaram : 1964CriLJ146 . The Supreme Court has observed that proceedings under the quondam Bar Councils Act are taken in order to ensure that the highest standards of professional conduct are maintained at the Bar and that these proceedings though in a sense penal, are solely designed 'for the purpose of maintaining discipline and to ensure that a person does not continue to practise who by his conduct has shown that he is unfit so to do'.
29. From the resume of the understanding of the term 'professional or other miscon duct', as it appeared in the Bar Councils Act, or, as it is found in the Advocates Act, it appears that the term 'misconduct' appearing in the respective sections has to be examined with the lens of propriety, decency and worthy living and the fitness of the person to be on the rolls as an Advocate. It therefore appears that an accent is laid at every stage by the highest Court of our land on the fitness of the person to continue on the rolls, which has to be decided with reference to his conduct in general or with reference to his conduct touching upon a particular incident.
30. The learned Advocate-General has fairly explained the position of the State thus:
When the State made the Notification asking the Commission to inquire into the question whether there is any professional or other misconduct, it intended the Commission to find the facts relating to the conduct of the Advocate vis-a-vis the incidents, and that it was never the object of the State that a finding should be given as to whether there was professional or other misconduct on the part of the Advocate within the meaning of Section 35 of the Advocates Act.
This leads us to the other question, whether such a conduct, as is popularly understood, could be the misconduct as popularly understood, which means improper conduct, can be the subject-matter of inquiry by the Commission of Inquiry.
31. In these circumstances, we hold that the proceedings in G.O. Ms. No. 695, Public (Law and Order-A) published in the Tamil Nadu Gazette Extraordinary on 9th April, 1979, are valid in toto and the order of the first respondent dated 31st May, 1979 is perfectly correct, and as such both the writ petitions are dismissed.
32. In view of the dismissal of the writ petitions on merits, it has become unnecessary for us to consider the two points urged by the learned Advocate-General, namely that the petitioner herein is not an 'aggrieved person' entitled to invoke the jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, and the first respondent being a Judge of this High Court, though appointed as Commission of Inquiry, no writ can issue against his order by this High Court itself.
There will be no order as to costs.
(The following Order of the Court was made by the Chief Justice.)
33. Our judgment pronounced just now does not raise any substantial question of law of general importance which has to be decided by the Supreme Court. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, asked for by Mr. Parasaran orally, is therefore refused.