The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Can a commission do what a commissioner won’t'

Headed by retired judge Aloke Chakrabarti, a commission of inquiry has formally been formed to probe the events that led to Rizwanur Rahman’s death.

The Telegraph asked another former judge, Dilip Basu, whether a judicial probe can reach any specific conclusion. Basu, who is also the chairman of the National Committee for Legal Aid Services, replies:

Q: If you were given the task of inquiring into Rizwanur’s death, would you be able to reach any conclusion in the absence of spadework by police'

Justice Basu: If I were to conduct the inquiry and make it meaningful, I would require the following:

a) A mock reconstruction of the death of Rizwanur.

b) A report detailing its findings.

c) The post-mortem report.

d) A videotape of the post-mortem.

e) An interview of the dom who was present during the post-mortem.

f) An interview of the doctor who conducted the post-mortem.

g) Exhumation of the body and a fresh post-mortem.

Situation on the ground

• Apart from the post-mortem report, none of the other requirements of Justice Basu exists.

• A judicial commission is not empowered to ask for exhumation of the body and a second post-mortem.

• A mock reconstruction of the death now would be meaningless as too much time has lapsed.

• While the dom can still be interviewed, it is unlikely that he will remember much after such a long time as he has to be present during at least 10 post-mortems every day.

• Only an interview of the doctor can yield any result. He has not been spoken to by police yet.

Q: If you were heading the commission, would you be able to establish whether it was murder, accident or suicide'

A: Only if all my requirements, listed above, are met. Other than this, I would need to interview several other people. If all these requirements are not met, it would not be possible to reach any conclusion.

Situation on the ground

• Only a few of the requirements can be met.

Q: Can a judge be expected to do police work'

A: The scope of a judicial commission is limited. Unlike the police, it cannot investigate on its own or make arrests. It can merely examine the evidence that has already been collected. Thereafter, it can make a recommendation which the government may or may not accept or act upon.

Correction: The photograph published on Wednesday showing Prasun Mukherjee with the Puja guide was of 2005, not 2006 as mentioned in the caption. However, in 2006, too, Mukherjee had released the guide. We apologise for the caption error.

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