calcutta high court

Calcutta High Court: In a petition seeking transfer of investigation to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a fair and effective probe into the violent attack on Enforcement Directorate officials during a raid related to the Public Distribution System Scam, a single-judge bench comprising of Jay Sengupta,* J., considering the ineptitude of the local police and allegations of bias, suggested the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising CBI and State police personnel for a fair and effective investigation. The Court issued directions for the SIT, including the nomination of a CBI officer as the team head, equal representation from State and CBI, and reporting directly to the jurisdictional Magistrate.

Factual Matrix

In the instant matter, the petitioner, Enforcement Directorate was investigating a money laundering case related to the Public Distribution System Scam, involving a State Cabinet Minister’s arrest. During a raid on Sajahan Sk.’s residence, a violent mob, allegedly instigated by him, attacked Enforcement Directorate officials, causing injuries to three Enforcement Directorate officials and looted their belongings. The State police registered FIRs presenting a counter version alleging theft and molestation. A Co-ordinate Bench of the Court stayed the proceeding on FIR, raising doubts about the impartiality of Nazat Police Station officers. The Enforcement Directorate contended that the State police is attempting to influence the investigation by adding graver sections to the case and seeks a transfer to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Parties’ Contentions

The Enforcement Directorate contended that while uncovering a significant political money trail, Enforcement Directorate’s officials faced a violent attack during a raid. It was contended that the State police, in collusion with miscreants, registered a false FIR and manipulated subsequent investigations. While citing Vinit Narayan, (1998) 1 SCC 226 for CBI’s neutrality, the Enforcement Directorate asserted the State police’s interference in Enforcement Directorate’s probe.

The CBI expressed the willingness to investigate but requested time to nominate an officer.

The State contended that the local police, under supervision, is investigating the case, having arrested seven persons and added additional charges. The State denied the allegations of interference by the State police in Enforcement Directorate’s investigation, and placed reliance on State of W.B. v. CPDR, (2010) 3 SCC 571 and Bimal Gurung, (2018) 15 SCC 480.

Court’s Observations:

The Court observed that a violent incident occurred during the Enforcement Directorate’s investigation, leading to serious injuries and interference by the State police. The Court observed that the registration of a counter FIR before a complaint raises doubts about the police’s impartiality. The Court noted several flaws in the State police investigation, including the absence of serious efforts to apprehend the accused.

Courts’ Directions

The Court issued following directions:

  1. A SIT comprising CBI and State police officers, headed by a CBI Superintendent of Police, is formed to investigate Nazat Police Station Case Nos. 8 and 9 of 2024. Both Team Heads can include an equal number of members from the State Police and the CBI.

  2. The SIT can seek assistance from State and Central forces for search, seizure, and arrest operations.

  3. The SIT shall report directly to the jurisdictional Magistrate, and the Court will monitor the investigation.

  4. No involvement of Nazat Police Station personnel in the investigation.

  5. The existing police pickets and CCTV cameras shall continue.

  6. The present Investigating Officer is relieved, and the case diary is handed over to the SIT.

  7. Progress reports must be submitted to the Court without filing a final report without the Court’s leave.

  8. The matter is listed for mention on 12.02.2024 at 2:00 p.m.

[Enforcement Directorate v. State of W.B., 2024 SCC OnLine Cal 418, order dated 17-01-2024]

*Judgment by Justice Jay Sengupta

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. S.V. Raju, ld. ASGI., Mr. Dhiraj Trivedi ld. DSGI., Ms. Debjani Ray, Mr. Samrat Goswami. Ms. Sohini Dey, Counsel for the Petitioners

Mr. Kishore Dutta ld. AG, Mr. Amitesh Banerjee ld. SSC, Ms. Ipsita Banerjee, Mr. Debangsu Dinda, Counsel for the State

Mr. Billwadal Bhattacharyya ld. DSGI, Mr. Amajit De, Counsel for the CBI

Mr. Biswarup Mukherjee, Counsel for the Intervenor

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