G) CITIZEN'S JUSTICE COMMITTEE NOTIFIES ITS WITHDRAWAL FROM THE INQUIRY
By March 31, 1986, substantial progress had been made in the inquiry by the Commission. So far as the inquiry at Bokaro was concerned, it was over and written submissions remained to be filed. Relating to the inquiry at Kanpur, the Commission had finished examination of witnesses and the date for oral arguments had been fixed. The last lap of oral evidence remained to be taken at Delhi and that had been scheduled to begin from April 2, 1986. At this juncture, on March 31, 1986, a long statement was filed in the office of the Commission by the CJC notifying its withdrawal from the proceedings and in the statement the action was sought to be justified. On April 1 , 1986, Mr. Phoolka, counsel for the Committee was sent for and when questioned, disclosed that the Committee was his client and as the client had asked him not to appear he had nothing more to say. It was explained to Mr. Phoolka that the Committee had taken a special responsibility to represent the riot victims and in case the Commission had previous notice of the Committee's non-co-operation, other steps could have been taken. The inquiry was posted for the next day and there was hardly time to make any alternative arrangements. Besides, it was also pointed out that most of the facts placed in the statement were either irrelevant or were assumptions without foundation. Mr. Phoolka wanted time saying that he would contact the senior counsel and request them to appear. They, however, did not turn up. Next day Mr. Phoolka came with a letter from Mr.Justice Sikri who happens to be the President of the Committee wherein it was stated :
"The Citizens' Justice Committee (CJC) has filed on 31-3-1986 before the Honourable Commission its submissions pertaining to the matter of the continued presence and participation of CJC in the proceedings of the Commission.
In view of the discussion which took place yesterday between your Lordship and Mr. Phoolka, and out of deference to certain observations which you were pleased to make during the course of the discussions, an emergent meeting of the CJC was convened yesterday evening.
After deep and careful reconsideration of the matter, CJC regretfully finds itself unable to alter its previous decision as set out in the said submissions.
CJC would like to make it absolutely clear that its decision and the said submissions filed by it do not in any manner imply lack of personal confidence in your Lordship or any mark of disrespect for the Commission.
For reasons already stated in the said submissions CJC is of the view that the procedure adopted and followed by the Commission has rendered its continued presence and participation ineffective and pointless."
Full text of the letter is at Appendix '1' in Vol. II
It is a fact that the CJC was the premier group representing the victims at Delhi. Its sudden withdrawal from the proceedings, particularly when the inquiry had been posted on April 2, 1986 did create some amount of embarrassment in the working of the Commission. The Commission places on record its disapproval of the manner in which CJC withdrew from the proceedings. Having persuaded the Commission to accept the position that it was a public spirited organisation consisting of socially oriented and highly placed citizens capable of effectively representing the victims and their cause the Committee had taken upon itself the onerous duty of a trustee and when it suddenly backed out it did fail to discharge the responsibility it had voluntarily undertaken. Surprisingly, Mr. Tarkunde thought it appropriate to justify the stand of the Committee by going to the Press and made a statement on the basis of which there appeared a publication in one of the fortnightly magazines soon after the withdrawal from the proceedings. The Commission did not consider it appropriate to join issue through the Press. The Committee perhaps did not want the situation to become quiet and disclosed materials not being facts to form the basis of a write-up in yet another magazines--- this time a weekly. Having withdrawn from the proceedings, the Committee should not have helped a debate to be raised in the Press. The Press was aware of the position that the proceedings were in camera and publication was not to be made. When the matter was before the Commission and the Report was yet to be drawn up, the magazines should not have made the publication prompting to the Commission what it should do. In the opinion of the Commission, this is an irresponsible act.
The DSGMC which was already appearing before the Commission started representing the victims during the remainder of the proceedings.