Effectiveness of judicial inquiries is scuttled by the non-binding nature of its reports and reluctance of people to depose before the panels and follow up its proceedings properly, say judicial inquiry commissions.

Five judicial officers who had conducted judicial inquiries in subjects ranging from corruption to boat tragedies and stampedes told The Hindu that their probes proved effective in getting to the bottom of the issues referred to them. They pointed out that judicial inquiries would become meaningful if its findings are made binding. The jurists also said that most of their recommendations were implemented by the State governments.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had formally announced his government’s decision to go in for a judicial probe into solar scam on Friday.

T.K. Chandrasekhara Das, the judicial commission that probed the Kuppana hooch tragedy which claimed eight lives, observed that people were unwilling to depose before the forum. Barring a few prohibition activists, no one came before the panel to give evidence. Even those who vociferously demanded judicial inquiry seemed to have lost interest in giving evidence and in the proceedings of the commission. They also failed to follow the functioning of the commission, said Mr. Das.

A deadline should be fixed for filing the Action Taken Report on the judicial commission’s recommendations after it is placed before the State Assembly. Such a provision would compel the authorities to act on the recommendations of the commission. Moreover, suitable provisions should be incorporated in the terms of reference of the inquiry, making the commission’s report binding on those agencies concerned, he suggested.

M.R. Hariharan Nair, who inquired into the Sabarimala Pullumedu tragedy which killed 106 devotees, said judicial inquires were the only option to find out truth when the credibility of investigating agencies were at stake. Judicial inquiries were rarely ordered in the State. The cooperation of the government in providing support to the commission to function is also important, he said.

K. Sukumaran, who probed the corruption charges against a former Minister in the infamous Idamalayar case, felt the judiciary should cooperate with the executive in clearing the doubts in the minds of public in genuine cases. When there is a public request for getting a clarification on a controversial issue, it’s the duty of the judiciary to cooperate with the executive in clearing the doubts. If the executive acts with good intentions in appointing the commissions, the judiciary should cooperate with it, he said.

K. Narayana Kurup, the judicial commission which looked into the Kumarakom boat tragedy where 29 people lost their lives, believes that the judicial probes are effective in conducting in-depth inquiries and unearthing the truth. No government would be able to ignore the findings of judicial commissions in high-voltage cases like the recent solar scam. The governments will be forced to take note of the commission findings, failing which it may have to face agitations, he said.

A lawyer who had appeared before a few judicial commissions said most of them had sought extension as they could not complete the proceedings within the time frame. By the time the commissions collect evidence, the issue would have died down and public will lose interest in the case.

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