“When truth meets sunshine, justice will not prevail on the living alone but after Life’s fitful fever, now the departed will also sleep well. Satyameva Jayate.”
Supreme Court: A single judge bench of Hrishikesh Roy, J has held the ongoing investigation by the CBI to be lawful and further directed that if any other case is registered on the death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput and the surrounding circumstances of his unnatural death, the CBI is directed to investigate the new case as well. Such enabling order will make it possible for the CBI to investigate the new case, avoiding the rigors of Section 6 of the DSPE Act, requiring consent from the State of Maharashtra.
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
The order came on Rhea Chakraborty’s plea seeking the transfer of an FIR, from Patna to Mumbai, accusing her of abetting in Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide on June 14, 2020. Chakraborty, who was reportedly Sushant Singh’s girlfriend at the time of his death, has challenged Bihar police’s jurisdiction in the matter, given that the alleged crime took place in Maharashtra. Apprehending that all facets of the death of the his son will not be investigated properly by the Mumbai police, Krishna Kishore Singh has filed the above FIR on 25.07.2020, which led to registration of the case by Rajeev Nagar Police Sation, Patna. Several allegations are leveled against Chakraborty in connection with the suicidal death of the Actor and, therefore, she has filed this Petition for transfer of the proceedings from the Bihar Police to the Mumbai Police Authorities. Bihar Police had, however, recommended for a CBI probe into death case of actor and the Centre has accepted the same.
DETAILED ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGMENT
TRANSFER POWER UNDER SECTION 406 CRPC
The scope of exercise of this power is for securing the ends of justice. The precedents suggest that transfer plea under Section 406 CrPC were granted in cases where the Court believed that the trial may be prejudiced and fair and impartial proceedings cannot be carried on, if the trial continues. The Court held that only cases and appeals (not investigation) can be transferred.
SCOPE OF SECTION 174 CRPC PROCEEDING AND MUMBAI POLICE’s EXERCISE OF POWER THEREOF
The Court noticed that the proceeding under Section 174 CrPC is limited to the inquiry carried out by the police to find out the apparent cause of unnatural death. These are not in the nature of investigation, undertaken after filing of FIR under Section 154 CrPC.
It further said that the Mumbai Police has attempted to stretch the purview of Section 174 without drawing up any FIR and therefore, as it appears, no investigation pursuant to commission of a cognizable offence is being carried out by the Mumbai police. They are yet to register a FIR. Nor they have made a suitable determination, in terms of Section 175(2) CrPC. Hence,
“The inquiry conducted under Section 174 CrPC by the Mumbai police is limited for a definite purpose but is not an investigation of a crime under Section 157 of the CrPC.”
JURISDICTION OF PATNA POLICE TO REGISTER COMPLAINT
The Court held that the Patna police committed no illegality in registering the Complaint. Looking at the nature of the allegations in the Complaint which also relate to misappropriation and breach of trust, the exercise of jurisdiction by the Bihar Police appears to be in order.
“Registration of FIR is mandated when information on cognizable offence is received by the police and at the stage of investigation, it cannot be said that the concerned police station does not have territorial jurisdiction to investigate the case.”
Moreover, the allegation relating to criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of money which were to be eventually accounted for in Patna (where the Complainant resides), could prima facie indicate the lawful jurisdiction of the Patna police.
It has hence, been held that the stage of investigation, they were not required to transfer the FIR to Mumbai police. For the same reason, the Bihar government was competent to give consent for entrustment of investigation to the CBI and as such the ongoing investigation by the CBI is held to be lawful.
INVESTIGATION ENTRUSTMENT TO CBI
“While the CBI cannot conduct any investigation without the consent of the concerned state as mandated under section 6, the powers of the Constitutional Courts are not fettered by the statutory restriction of the DSPE Act.”
The Court noticed that the FIR at Patna was transferred to the CBI with consent of the Bihar government during pendency of this Transfer Petition. However, in future, if commission of cognizable offence under section 175(2) CrPC is determined, the possibility of parallel investigation by the Mumbai Police cannot be ruled out. Section 6 of the DSPE Act, 1946 read with Section 5 prescribe the requirement of consent from the State government, before entrustment of investigation to the CBI.
“As the CBI has already registered a case and commenced investigation at the instance of the Bihar government, uncertainty and confusion must be avoided in the event of Mumbai Police also deciding to simultaneously investigate the cognizable offence, based on their finding in the inquiry proceeding.”
The Court was hence of the opinion that a decision by this Court on the point would confer legitimacy to the investigation.
“… for the innocents, who might be the target of vilification campaign. Equally importantly, when integrity and credibility of the investigation is discernible, the trust, faith and confidence of the common man in the judicial process will resonate.”
COURT’S DIRECTION ON INVESTIGATION
Noticing that as because both states are making acrimonious allegations of political interference against each other, the Court said that the legitimacy of the investigation has come under a cloud. Accusing fingers are being pointed and people have taken the liberty to put out their own conjectures and theories.
“Such comments, responsible or otherwise, have led to speculative public discourse which have hogged media limelight. These developments unfortunately have the propensity to delay and misdirect the investigation.”
The Court was, hence, of the opinion that to ensure public confidence in the investigation and to do complete justice in the matter, it is appropriate to invoke the powers conferred by Article 142 of the Constitution.
It further noticed that while the steps taken by the Mumbai police in the limited inquiry under Section 174 CrPC may not be faulted on the material available before this Court, considering the apprehension voiced by the stakeholders of unfair investigation, this Court must strive to ensure that search for the truth is undertaken by an independent agency, not controlled by either of the two state governments. Most importantly, the credibility of the investigation and the investigating authority, must be protected.
The Court, hence, noted that a fair, competent and impartial investigation is the need of the hour. The expected outcome then would be, a measure of justice for the Complainant, who lost his only son. For the petitioner too, it will be the desired justice as she herself called for a CBI investigation. The dissemination of the real facts through unbiased investigation would certainly result in justice.
[Rhea Chakraborty v. State of Bihar, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 654, decided on 19.08.2020]