Justice Baqir Najfi report and the legal “impact” of inquiry commissions


What is the myth about? What is fallible, what is not?



It was a delayed decision but how long can you hold back the commission report?The report on the commission formed under the supervision of Honourable Justice Baqir Najfi was supposed to report its findings on the causes, and those responsible for the Model Town carnage and it did so, but the government did not publish the report on its own account. A tragic and painful memory, the Model Town incident which took place around two years ago, saw over a dozen lives lost and many seriously injured in an unprecedented incident whereby the police opened fire on hundreds of protestors.

It is important to understand commissions, their powers, roles and the questions which are put up in these commissions. These questions, as put up to the commissions, are pertinent to the current issue, and if these are clearly addressed in the report, it would have serious political and legal implications for the sitting chief executive of the province. The following article is going to discuss the legal pitfalls and problems of commission act, and under the act any report. As a keen jurist, without mixing it with popular politics, my article will try to identify the fallacies that are assumed with commissions or reports epically in light of the Justice Baqir Najfi Commission report.

Fallacy 1 – framework, role and powers of the commission

According to the law, at the time of Baqir Najfi commission was formed, a commission could be constituted under Inquiry and commission act 1956 (later mildly amended in 1974). The inquiry and commission of 1956 (amended in 1974, and repealed in 2016 under a new set of law) is placed within a statuary framework to constitute a commission to find a question, or investigate an issue, suggest further questions, or determine facts. The commission in normal circumstances is bound to be appointed by the government and the terms or questions set in too are to be placed by the government. The inquiry commission law states categorically that commission should be formed on the instructions of Federal government, almost makes the commission “limited” and “restrictive” in its role as a fact finding commission.

However, if the commission is headed by a Judge of the Honourable High Court, as is the case in the current instance, then the commission is extremely potent, viable and holds significant powers to conduct, investigate and collect facts. The powers of the commission were drawn from powers of High Court Rules and even those of Supreme Court. However, as mentioned earlier, in order to understand the impact the report may make, it is important to categorise what sets of questions will be addressed or were put forward to the commission. For the sake of the argument, the following set of questions has been identified below:-

Question Set 1) It is important to know what is the role, “jurisdiction”, and what are the “limit” of a commission constituted under the above law. This is the key question. These are the grounds under which the commission will lay out its findings, and determine the question put forward. Why so, because the inquiry or commission will be assigned objectives, limits, powers under the statutory powers given by the said law and it will only work under the assigned tasks, and under limited powers.

Question Set 2) The second most important point is that what questions or facts findings have been assigned to the commission? Has it been asked to establish who ordered the firing? Will it also disclose the chain of command and establish the roles of different people in ordering the firing?

Question Set 3) Will these findings be admissible in the court of law? What evidence led the commission to conclude, whatever it concluded? If so then, what facts, and findings will be admissible?

The answers to the above are not only critical for the entire case but also one of the most important foundations to the conclusion of the report. According to the law, and to the inquiry commissions, the entire spectrum of powers, limits, and jurisdiction will be determined by the government itself, and this too is debatable but for the current case we will leave this question till the report is publically open for comments.

Fallacy 2 – commission’s evidence and sentencing the wrong

In case the commission is headed by a Judge of Honourable High Court, the wording of the law is tilted in favour of the commission when it comes to collecting evidence. In simple not so difficult words the commission is bound to work under the pretext and context of whatever the government assigns it to do. However, if the government judge of the High Court is appointed as head of the commission like in this case, the court will collect powers of evidence, and even record statements from witnesses. There are immense powers given to the commission headed by the honourable judge to collect and record evidence. However, according to some jurists these statements and evidence will not hold strong grounds in a trial court where actually the entire case will rest. This is another twist to the report.

Fallacy 3 – commission to make public the report?

The inquiry and commission law of 1956, states that when it comes to declaring the contents of the report, it is up to the federal government not provincial government who can and may decide not to publish the report. However the recent judgment of the Honourable High Court has made a decision to make public the report which has been challenged in Intra Court Appeal in the Honourable High Court. As the matter is sub-judice, it is best to wait for the final judgment regarding the decision.

Fallacy 4 — finding facts vs sentencing the “one”?

Is the report going to make a political impact more than the legal impact, my article is suggesting in fact so, because the most important point being that a commission, as comprehensive it may or its report could be politically damaging for the Sharif, is not a substitute for a proper legal trial. As a jurist and legal expert, it is unfair to hold media trials, or conclude that a commission’s findings can sentence someone. In short, the Model Town case is far from over and the commission report however politically damaging or perhaps not damaging for the Sharif is not going to legally implicate, unless a proper legal trial commences. Whether that will be done in recent future or how politics plays, is something better left to the politicians.