SAJAN VARGHESE Vs. UNION OF INDIA
HIGH COURT OF KERALA
UNION OF INDIA
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P.B.SURESH KUMAR, J. -
(1.) Petitioner is the Director of a company running a news and current affairs channel. On 26.03.2017, in the course of a live discussion, an audio clip of the conversation of a lady with one of the State Ministers was telecast in the channel. The conversation contained in the audio clip which was telecast was a conversation having sexual connotations and the Minister had to resign consequent on that telecast. The police registered two cases against the Chief Executive Officer of the channel alleging offences punishable under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code and Section 67A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 in connection with the telecast and the investigation in the said cases is going on. The lady with whom the Minister had the conversation, filed a private complaint against the Minister before the Magistrate Court concerned alleging commission of offences punishable under Sections 354D of the Indian Penal Code and Section 66 of the Information Technology Act and the said case is pending. While so, as per Ext.P6 notification, the State Government has appointed a Commission of Inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 ('the Act') for inquiring into the following matters :
The case of the petitioner is that the appropriate Government under the Act for ordering an inquiry into a matter which was telecast is the Central Government and therefore, Ext.P6 notification is one issued without jurisdiction. It is also the case of the petitioner that an inquiry can be ordered under the Act only into a definite matter of public importance and the matters in respect of which the inquiry is ordered in terms of Ext.P6 notification are not matters of public importance. Ext.P6 notification is under challenge in the writ petition on the aforesaid grounds.
(2.) Heard the learned Senior Counsel for the petitioner and the learned State Attorney.
(3.) Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act dealing with the power of the appropriate Government to order an inquiry under the Act reads thus : 3. Appointment of Commission.-
(1) Save as otherwise provided in the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, 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 each House of Parliament or, as the case may be, the Legislature 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:
Provided that where any such Commission has been appointed to inquire into any matter-
(a) by the Central Government, no State Government shall, except with the approval of the Central Government, appoint another Commission to inquire into the same matter for so long as the Commission appointed by the Central Government is functioning;
(b) by a State Government, the Central Government shall not appoint another Commission to inquire into the same matter for so long as the Commission appointed by the State Government is functioning, unless the Central Government is of opinion that the scope of the inquiry should be extended to two or more States.
Clause (a) of Section 2 of the Act dealing with the definition of "appropriate Government" excluding its proviso reads thus :
2. Definitions.-In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-
(a) "appropriate Government" means-
(i) the Central Government, in relation to a Commission appointed by it to make an inquiry into any matter relatable to any of the entries enumerated in List I or List II or List III in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution; and
(ii) the State Government, in relation to a Commission appointed by it to make an inquiry into any matter relatable to any of the entries enumerated in List II or List III in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution:
There is absolutely no difficulty in the light of the aforesaid provisions to hold that an inquiry under the Act can be ordered only into a definite matter of public importance and that the State Government can order an inquiry under the Act only in respect of matters relatable to any of the entries enumerated in List II or List III of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution. ;
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