Now Thakkar’s and Natarjan’s thesis is as follows:

Nusli Wadia, chairman of Bombay Dyeing, and Dhirubhai Ambani, Chairman of Reliance, were involved in an inter corporate war. Through Gurumurthy, an associate of Mr, Ramnath Goenka who in turn was a friend of Nusli Wadia, the latter planted Hershman on Bhure Lal.

While there is no evidence of Nusli Wadia having paid anything to Hershman, he must have, as the latter just could not have undertaken the inquiry on the expectation merely of the rewards that were his due under our country’s Reward Rules.

Nusli Wadia was thus the “manipulator behind the screen”. Gurumurthy was the zealous instrument Bhure Lal was the dupe, and the careless dupe at that who accepted. Gurumurthy’s suggestion without verifying Hershman’s credentials. V.C. Pande and V.P. Singh were negligent, of course, in that they did not record things in writing, in that they did not examine the matter in detail, in that they did not seek sanction from the Cabinet and the Prime Minister, or at least keep them informed. But not just that. By their negligence they and Bhure Lal have endangered the security of the country.

For Hershman may be associated with the CIA or at least may be passing information on to the CIA.

And the CIA as we know, not just from books but from articles in that authority’s publication, The Times of India, has been destabilizing governments Sihanouk, Allende, the Iran Contra affair….

Furthermore, the two guilty of colluding to create a self-serving and export facto record.


I shall start with the law. From the genesis of the inquiry itself the public discussion that had preceded it; the heated debates in Parliament; the manner in which Fairfax had come to light, that is when the CBI was caught out when it tried to plant the lie on a court through forged letters that Gurumurthy had engaged and helped pay Fairfax; the removal of V.P. Singh from the genesis of the Commission itself it was clear that the Commission itself would be examining the conduct of and announcing far reaching conclusions about the conduct of V.P. Singh, V.C. Pande, Bhure Lal, S. Gurumurthy, Nusli Wadia. This became even clearer from the terms of reference. And clearer still from the questionnaires that the ‘Commission started sending out to each of these persons.

The tenor of the questionnaires and even more the conduct of the Commissioners, once the hearings went public, left no one in doubt that the conduct of each of these would come in for censure, and that the Commission’s report would end up causing grave harm to the reputation of these individuals.

The law is specific and categorical in the matter. Section 8B of the Commissions of Inquiry Act says inter alia:

“If at any stage of the inquiry, the Commission:

a, Considers it necessary to inquiry into the conduct of any person; or b. is of opinion that the reputation of any person is likely to be pre judicially affected by the inquiry, the Commission shall give to that persona reasonable opportunity of being heard in the inquiry and to produce evidence in his defense”.

And section 8C then enjoins that every such person has the right to:

* cross examine the witnesses;

* address the Commission;

* be represented before it by a lawyer or any other person with the permission of the Commission.

That the conduct of these individuals would be inquired into, that their reputations would be harmed was clear, as J said, from the outset. The persons themselves apprehended as much. Thus, for instance, S. Gurumurhty, right from the time the Commission was constituted, addressed as many as five applications to the commission offering his assistance, and urging that as his conduct was certainty 0 be inquired into, as his reputation was liable to be affected, indeed as he was being tried for some of the very charges that the Commission was going to pronounce on, he should be accorded the right guaranteed to him by Section 8B and 8C, that is to appear and be represented before the Commission, to address it and to cross examine the witnesses.


Not just is the statute unambiguous. The requirement is fortified by judgments as well as by unvarying precedents.

* The courts have held that the right to life and personal liberty that each of us is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution includes the right to live in dignity, to preserve one’s reputation and honor.


* The Delhi High Court has held specifically, and the judgment is the ruling one on the matter, that Commissions must abide by Sections 8B and 8C because these are founded on natural justice, and also because “there can be no doubt that Sections 8B and 8C are mandatory.”

(1980(1)ILR Delhi 833/4,835.)

Not just that, the Delhi High Court went further and adopted with approval what a previous judge of the Supreme Court had said on the matter, namely:

“The circumstances would show that there is only minimal difference between the nature of ne proceedings before a Commission when the Commission has to enquire into the conduct or matters affecting reputation of a person to which Section 8B is attracted and that of a criminal proceedings in respect of the same subject matter”.

Nor is application of Sections 8B and 8C to be delayed by asserting that the Commission is as yet engaged in only a “preliminary inquiry”, in only “gathering preliminary information”, and that it would give the protection of the sections at some unspecified future date when it actually starts looking, into the conduct of a person or after it concludes that his reputation is liable to be affected. No, says the Court, you cannot partition things that way to the prejudice of the potential victims:

* “Inquiry (under the Commissions of Inquiry Act) is one continuous proceedings and there are no two stages. All, provisions of the Act including Section 8B and 8C must therefore apply from the moment it starts…..”(ibid, 588).

So important did the Court hold this safeguard to be that it held that the person affected has “an absolute right” to cross examine the witnesses (ibid, 817),

Not just does the person likely to be affected have an “absolute right” to cross examine the witnesses, the Court held, he must be given the opportunity to cross examine the witnesses before he is asked to state his version of the facts, his defense.

* “Cross examination of witnesses who depose against them by a person falling under Section 8B after he has produced his evidence in the defense has no meaning. The witnesses would have known the line and the object of cross examination before they came to depose, and human nature being what is it, they would record their testimony to thwart their defense. That is why Sub Rule (5) of Rule5S is so strict that the evidence of the Central Government must he produced first, Therefore, in the nature of things, the witness against a person falling under Section 8B must be produced first and he must be allowed to cross examine them before he is called upon to produce evidence in defense, This also concords with the rile of evidence,” (ibid, 820),

No is there any shortage of precedents. Commissions like the one headed by Justice H.R. Khanna in 1967 have required that the respondents be appraised at the commencement of the inquiry of the factual allegations which had been leveled against them, that they be given sufficient notice to fully prepare their defense, that the government file “detailed particulars (about the allegations etc.) at the commencement of the proceedings” so that the legitimate interests of the respondents are safeguarded and “so that they may not be left guessing but should know at the outset the precise case they have to meet and the factual allegations they have to rebut in order to effectively defend themselves.


The statue thus is clear. The rulings are clear. The precedents are clear.

The likely victims had grave and specific apprehensions and the report shows that the apprehensions were well founded. A person like S. Gurumurthy pleaded repeatedly that he be given his rights under Section 8B and 8C even if the victims had not so pleaded the Commission was duty bound by the law under which it was constituted to inform them and afford them the rights and opportunity guaranteed to them by that very law.

It did nothing of the kind at all.

It began its hearings surreptitiously, a scandal to which I shall revert soon.

When a person like Gurumurthy applied to be given his rights under these sections, the Commissioners said that they would consider the matter “at the appropriate time”.

Pressed, they said “We shall let you know before the hearings.

When the hearings commenced, they said were going to conduct them in “phases”, that the hearings they had commenced were confined to the role of Nusli Wadia (the only one to whom they gave the Sections 8B and 8C rights).

And when those hearings concluded, the victims suddenly learned that the Commission would be holding no further hearing at all.

In the event, the reputation of person after person has been besmirched, with only one of them Nusli Wadia having been given the rights that are enjoined by the statute, by judgments, by precedents.

Articles Publishes in World Sikh News do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board.

Article extracted from this publication >> January 1, 1988