Judicial commissions specially constituted to probe high profile cases usually go on endlessly. So the three-member high level judicial commission inquiring into the shoddily carried out police encounter of Kanpur gangster Vikas Dubey is no exception.
Constituted by the Supreme Court precisely four months ago on July 22, the commission of Inquiry headed by former SC judge BS Chauhan was assigned a two-month time frame to complete its findings. As such, it was expected to accomplish the task by the end of September.
However, fact remains that even at the end of November the commission was far from halfway of completing its task.
According to Justice Chauhan, the commission had already sought extension of time. “We started the inquiry once the commission’s office was set up in Lucknow sometime in August. Thereafter we visited different places, including Vikas Dubey’s village where he had gunned down eight policemen, as well as the place where he was killed in the encounter while being brought from Ujjain, where he had surrendered before the Madhya Pradesh police”, he told this scribe over telephone from Noida, where he resides.
He said, “Currently, evidence of policemen and government officials was being recorded, and once that is done, we will invite other parties to record their evidence, following which lawyers of the two sides will put across their respective arguments.”
Attributing part of the delay to his own “brief illness”, he said, “the report will be prepared only after this whole exercise is accomplished.” While explaining how delays in judicial inquiries were unavoidable on account of the long laid-down procedures under the Commission of Inquiries Act, he candidly admitted, “I cannot tell you how much more time the entire exercise could take.”
It may be pertinent to mention that initially the delay was caused due to certain controversies that arose over the credentials of the three members of the commission. Besides, media reports raising serious questions, a Mumbai-based advocate Ghanshyam Upadhaya also moved a petition before the apex court against the appointment of Justice Chauhan as head of the commission. Upadhaya’s argument was about Justice Chauhan’s nexus with the ruling BJP. He sought to argue on the grounds that Justice Chauhan’s younger brother Virendra Singh was a BJP MLC while his daughter was married to a BJP MP’s son.
However, the petition was not only dismissed, but the Supreme Court also flayed the petitioner for raising issues against the appointment of Justice Chauhan as head of the panel. "There are judges whose father or brother or relatives are MPs. Are you (petitioner) saying that they all are biased judges? If any relative is belonging to a political party, is this an illegal act?” the apex court told Upadhaya.
Earlier, the top court had dismissed a separate application seeking removal of two other members of the inquiry commission, saying that it would not allow the petitioner to cast aspersions on anyone.
The other two members of the judicial commission were former UP director general of police KL Gupta and retired Allahabad High Court judge S.K.Agarwal. Interestingly, the names of each of the members were proposed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta in consultation with the UP government, which was clearly the interested party.
Gupta’s strong BJP nexus was an open secret and he headed the UP police during the Kalyan Singh regime. Besides his close relative Mohit Agarwal was Inspector General of Police of Kanpur zone and his role in the encounters was bound to come under question. Doubts were, therefore, raised about his impartiality.
Justice Agarwal had resigned after he was transferred from Allahabad to Jharkhand High Court in view of certain serious complaints against him. He was practicing lawyer in the Uttarakhand High Court when he was handpicked for the judicial panel.
Interestingly, a Special Investigating Team (SIT) set up earlier by the UP government to go into the same case, has already submitted its report, indicting more than two dozen cops for their close connections with the gangster.
However, it was unlikely that the report of the judicial commission would see the light of the day anytime in the near future. Considering the pace at which the judicial probe is moving , it is difficult to imagine how many more months the crucial exercise could take.