Thursday, March 26, 2009

One Man Enquiry Committee: A portfolio of (Retd.) Justice U.C.Banerjee

Yesterday Retired Supreme Court judge Justice U.C. Banerjee was appointed as the one-man enquiry committee by the Board of Governors. Following is a brief look at the career and track record of the man who has been entrusted with pulling the final curtain on this tragedy.

Justice Banerjee was one of the founder Council Members of SAARC Law and presently is the President, SAARC Law (India Chapter). Justice Banerjee is a Member of International Law Association and participated as a delegate at various International Conferences.

Justice Banerjee was appointed as the one-man panel by the UPA, the ruling coalition, to investigate the infamous
Godhra train burning case where 59 karsevaks, or Hindu volunteers, were burnt to death. In a fiercely controversial decision, he ruled out the possibility of miscreants setting fire to the compartments or any external fire of any kind. This is what Frontline magazine had to say about Justice Banerjee's findings:

"The Banerjee committee ... rules out the possibility of any inflammable liquid being responsible for the fire, as there was first a smell of burning and then a smoke and flames, which would not be the case if inflammable fluid were used. "The inflammable liquid theory gets negated by the statement of some of the passengers who suffered injuries on the upper portion of the body and not the lower body and who crawled towards the door on elbows and could get out without much injury", says the Banerjee report. " ... "The committee has noted the forensic laboratory's experiment and verified its conclusion that it was impossible to set fire to the train from outside", Banerjee concluded. Eliminating the "petrol theory", the "miscreant theory" and the possibility of an electrical fire, the committee said that the burning was an "accidental fire". But it gave no reason why it could have been an "accidental fire"...... "

Other links citing the same are:
1) BBC

There was a huge uproar over this seemingly improbable theory and the BJP made a hue and cry over the report being "politically motivated". Later, the Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Gujarat Government said that the findings of Justice Bannerjee were false and that the train was set on fire by a mob, as part of a pre-meditated conspiracy.

As of October 13, 2006, the Gujarat High Court ruled formation of UC Banerjee committee "illegal" and "unconstitutional". As of now, all of its probe results stay invalid.

Justice Banerjee has also been on the investigative panel for several other high-profile cases like the Vayudoot air crash near Guwahati of 1989 and the Indian Airlines Aircraft crash at Imphal in 1991.

Something which many of our readers might not be aware of is that Justice Banerjee has been a visiting faculty at the Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, on the IIT Kharagpur campus, lecturing on subjects like labour law. Whether this presents a foreseeable conflict of interest is for the students to decide.

Apparently, the students have decided. In a gathering of 5th year students at Veggies yesterday night, it was clear that the students are unsatified with Justice Banerjee's appointment. A letter was drafted at the meeting itself, addressed to the Acting Director, indicating the students' disapproval. The students opine that should Justice Banerjee investigate this affair, the findings may not be unbiased.

The ball is now in the Institute's court once again... let's see how the authorities respond to the students' apprehensions. Watch this space for further updates.


  1. In my openion : His appointment may lead to a baised decision. Even if the decision is not baised,no doubt it will be questioned by masses

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