Shah Commisssion Report – Lost and Regained

published on December 20, 2010


Today, I have been invited to Chennai to release a unique publication.  I describe it as unique because this book was originally published more than three decades back as a Government of India publication titled SHAH COMMISSION REPORT.  But the addition of a sub-title “Lost and Regained” to the main title, and some imaginative re-editing gives it a new and significant meaning.

This new book has been compiled and edited by an old friend and Parliamentary colleague of mine, Era Sezhiyan.  Born in 1923, Sezhiyan became an ardent follower and highly trusted assistant of C.N. Annadurai, founder of the DMK.  He was in Parliament from 1962 to 1984.  After the 1977 elections, he was a Founder-Member of the Janata Party and served in its National Working Committee and Parliamentary Board. This fresh compilation, re-editing and republication makes the book Sezhiyan’s signal service to history. His  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION is a startling revelation as to what actually provoked him to go in for this sort of private republication of an official document.  He writes :

“It is part of the political history of India that in the 1977 General Election to Lok Sabha, Janata Party formed and inspired by Jaiprakash Narayan dealt a devastating defeat to Indira Gandhi and her Party.  The Janata Government appointed a Commission of Inquiry with former Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Justice J.C. Shah, as its Chairman, to investigate the misuse and abuse, excesses and malpractices, committed by the Government of the 1975-77 Emergency period.

The Shah Commission submitted its third and Final Report on August 6, 1978.  For taking action on the findings of the Shah Commission, the Morarji Desai Government appointed a Committee with L.P. Singh as Chairman and B.S. Raghavan as Secretary.”

Sezhiyan adds:

    “When I wanted in the middle of September 2010 some background material about the declaration of June 1975 Emergency, I was astounded by the positive statements in some websites about the disappearance of the Shah Commission Report with assertive conclusion that ‘not a single copy of the Report exists in India’.

    I made a close study to collect the following positive statements about withdrawal/ disappearance of the Shah Commission Report in India :    

    (1) Wikipedia:
    “The report was particularly scathing of Indira Gandhi, her son Sanjay Gandhi and the officers belonging to civil services who helped Sanjay Gandhi.  This report was later rejected by the congress government headed by Indira Gandhi, which was back in power in 1980.  The government also took the extraordinary step of recalling every published report of the Shah Commission and destroying the copies.  It is now believed that not a single copy of this report exists in India.  A third and final report of the commission seems to have slipped out and is currently held by National Library of Australia.”
    (The Wikipedia website stated: “This page was last modified on 14 August 2010)

(1) Frontline April 28-May 11, 2001 – Book review made by Sukumar Muralidharan: on ‘Indira – The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi’ by Katherine Frank.

“As a family with a strong sense of its own destiny, the Nehru’s were once fastidious record-keepers.  Yet during Indira Gandhi’s later tenure as Prime Minister, the family proved eager to efface certain aspects of the public record.  An instance is the J.C.Shah Commission of Inquiry into political excesses during the Emergency – many hours of tape-recording of the depositions before the Commission have been lost and it is believed that not one copy of its final report has survived within the country.”

(2) Indian Express (Mumbai) July 4, 2000 – ‘How they buried Shah Commission Report, even without an epitaph’ by Amrit Lal :

By March 1980,  a Congress government led by Indira was in power.  All the cases were slowed down, and slowly killed, either by not pursuing them or by not prosecuting the guilty’, says an officer who was part of the Commission.  He adds that the government seems to have ordered to destroy all the copies of the inquiry report.  The fact is the Report of the Shah Commission of Inquiry is now a rarely found document”.

(3) “Indira – The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi’ by Katherine Frank, Harper Perennial, Edition 2005:

“Despite its serious shortcomings, the Shah Commission Report survives as a treasure trove of evidence for Sanjay Gandhi’s illicit power in the period leading up to and during the Emergency, and of the sycophancy and cowardice of numerous public servants and government officials during the same period.  It is not surprising that Indira Gandhi had all the copies of the Report withdrawn as soon as she regained power in 1980”

“When Indira Gandhi returned to power, she invalidated the report and had it withdrawn from circulation.  The only existing copies of the three volumes that I am aware of are at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.”

(4) The Week July 25, 2010, ‘Probe The Commission.’

“The Shah Commission was appointed in 1977 by the Morarji Desai government.  Its 500-page report, submitted in August 1978, indicted Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay, after going through more than 46,000 complaints and 100 sittings.  However, the subsequent Charan Singh government did not show any interest in prosecuting those held guilty by the Commission. With Indira returning to power in 1980, the Shah Commission report was gradually buried.”

(5) Ashok H. Desai, Former Attorney General, in his Foreword to ‘Citizens’ Rights and the Rule of Law – Essays in Memory of Justice J.C. Shah’ :

“The Shah Commission Report is a meticulous analysis made all the more effective because, without any flourishes of language, it relates, incident after incident of abuse of power during the emergency.

Unfortunately, it disappeared from Government publication sales depots under a later Government.

One wishes that the Government of India could be bound by the same obligation as in England to supply a copy of the report of every Commission when requested to do so by a citizen.”

L.K. Advani
New Delhi
19th Dec. 2010

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