Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Narendra Kumar Vyas, J., rejected bail and dismissed the petition being devoid of merits.

The facts of the case are such that the petitioners are engaged in trading of gold and silver ornaments in shop owned by petitioner 1 situated at Rajnandgaon where search and seizure was conducted upon receiving an intelligence output. The petitioners were thereby arrested by respondent authorities for alleged commission of offence under Section 135 of the Customs Act, 1962 (for short “the Act, 1962”) and was also held to be an offence under provision of the Money Laundering Act, 2002 (for short “the Act, 2002”) by Enforcement Directorate (ED). The petitioners moved an application for grant of interim bail for 90 days before Chief Judicial Magistrate, Raipur as per direction of Supreme Court in the matter of Suo Motu Petition (C) No. 01/2020 in Contagion of Covid 19 Virus in prisons for releasing them for 90 days looking to the present scenario of pandemic Corona (Covid-19) which was rejected. Assailing this, instant writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for grant of interim bail was filed.

Relevant recommendation made by the High Power Committee on 12.05.2021 reads as under:

“Criteria for release of Under trial prisoners:

“…… The under trial prisoners, who are satisfying the following criteria shall be released:

  1. Under Trial prisoners (UTPs)/ Remand Prisoners (with respect to whom, charge sheet are yet to be filed), who are in custody for 15 days or more, facing trial in a case which prescribes a maximum sentence of 07 years or less;
  2. Under trial prisoners (UTPs), who are senior citizens of 60 or more than 60 years of age and are in custody for three months or more, facing trial in a case which prescribes a maximum sentence of 10 years or less”

“It has further been resolved that following category of UTPs, even if falling in the above criterion should not be considers:-

  1. Those under trial prisoners who are facing trial under Prevention of Corruption Act (PC Act)/ PMLA; and
  2. Case investigated by CBI/ED/NIA/Special Cell, Crime Branch, SFIO, Terror related Cases, Riot cases, cases under Anti-National Activities and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act etc.”

The Court observed that as per the submission of the petitioners it is clear that that as per Section 135 (1)(b) of the Act, 1962, the case of the petitioners is squarely covered in clause 3 of recommendation issued by the High Power Committee, which provides that the under trial prisoners (UTPs)/ Remand Prisoners (with respect to whom, charge sheet are yet to be filed), who are in custody for 15 days or more, facing trial in a case which prescribes a maximum sentence of 7 years or less shall be released, whereas it reflects from clause 5 & 6 of the recommendation as mentioned above that person belong to the under trial prisoners category even if following in the above criterion should not be considered for release. The under trial prisoners, who are facing trial under Prevention of Corruption Act/ Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 and cases investigate by CBI/ED/NIA/ Special Cell, Crime Branch, SFIO, Terror related cases, Riot cases, under Anti-National Activities and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act etc., are not entitled to be released.

The Court observed that prima facie it is established that the petitioners are habitual offenders and are very much involved in smuggling of gold and silver, which is injurious to economic growth of the nation. Further, the investigation is in a primary stage and may take some time, and since they are big financial resource persons, possibility of influencing the witnesses, cannot be ruled out.

The Court relied on judgment State of Kerala v. Mahesh, Criminal Appeal No. 343 of 2021 wherein it was held:

“37. In Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.1 of 2020 In Re: Contagion of Covid 19 Virus In Prisons, this Court expressed concern over the possibility of spread of COVID-19 amongst prisoners lodged in overcrowded correctional homes and accordingly issued directions from time to time, directing the authorities concerned to inter alia take steps as directed by this Court, to minimize the risk of spread of COVID amongst the inmates of correctional homes. This Court also directed that a High Powered Committee be constituted by the States and Union Territories to consider release of some prisoners on interim bail or parole during the Pandemic, to prevent overcrowding of prisons.

  1. It appears that the High Court has completely mis- appreciated the object, scope and ambit of the directions issued by this Court from time to time in In Re : Contagion of Covid 19 Virus In Prisons. This Court did not direct release of all under-trial prisoners, irrespective of the severity of the offence. By way of example, this Court directed the States/Union Territories to consider release of prisoners convicted of minor offences with prescribed punishment of seven years or less. The orders of this Court are not to be construed as any direction, or even observation, requiring release of under-trial prisoners charged with murder, and that too, even before investigation is completed and the chargesheet is filed. The Respondent Accused, it is reiterated, is charged with murder in the presence of an eye witness, and the impugned order granting bail was filed even before the chargesheet was filed. The Chargesheet appears to have been filed on 01.01.2021. Moreover, the Respondent Accused had been absconding after the incident.”

The Court thus held “The possibility of the accused /petitioners absconding or otherwise defeating or delaying the course of justice, reasonable apprehension of witnesses being threatened or influenced or of evidence being tempered, therefore, the petitioners are not entitled to get benefit from order of the Supreme Court and the recommendation of the High Power Committee.” [Vijay Baid v, Assistant Director, Director of Revenue Intelligence, 2021 SCC OnLine Chh 1952, decided on 07-07-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearances:

For Petitioners: Mr. Shashank Thakur

For Respondent: Mr. Ramakant Mishra

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Arvind Singh Sangwan, J., stayed the proceedings against former Chief Minister of Haryana–Bhupinder Singh Hooda with regard to Panchkula Land Allotment case.

The instant petition had been file to assail the impugned order passed by the Special Court, CBI, Panchkula registered under Sections 120-B and 420 of IPC, 1860, Sections 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, vide which while dismissing the application for discharge, charges had been framed against the petitioners.

Factual Fulcrum of the Case

Cancellation of Initial Allotment of the Land

Brief facts of the case were that the petitioner–M/s. Associate Journals Ltd. (AJL) sent a request letter to Sh. Bhajan Lal, the then Chief Minister of Haryana for allotting land to the company for the establishment of an office of National Heralds and Publication of Hindi Newspaper Navjivan. A plot measuring 3360 sq. mts. was allotted to AJL, on the basis of ‘No Profit No Loss’ @ Rs.91 per sq. mts. Later, on 30.10.1992, the plot was resumed by the Estate Officer, HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority) , in exercise of powers under Section 17(4) of the HUDA Act, 1977 on the ground that AJL had failed to carry out the construction within the stipulated time as per the terms and conditions of the letter of allotment and an amount of Rs.27300/- was forfeited whereas the balance amount of Rs.1,55,662/- was refunded to AJL through a cheque, which was never encashed by the petitioner – AJL and therefore, the entire allotment amount of the plot remain deposited with HUDA.

Subsequent Allotment made by Former CM-Bhupinder Singh Hooda

Later on, when the Chairman of AJL made few representations to Sh. Bansi Lal, the then Chief Minister for restoration of the plot a noting was recorded to seek opinion of L.R., HUDA which, having been considered as appeal was forwarded to the Town and Country Planning Department and but the same was rejected. In the meantime, the HUDA Act, 1977 was amended on 17-03-2004 and Sub-section (8) to Section 17 was inserted, which provided that an aggrieved person can prefer a revision to the Secretary to Government of Haryana, Town and Country Planning Department. Proviso to Sub-section (8) empowered the Revisional Authority to entertain the revision petition even after expiry of period of limitation if the Revisional Authority would satisfy that aggrieved person was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the revision petition in time. Pursuant to which, AJL again wrote a letter to the petitioner – Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who was the then Chief Minister of Haryana with a request to restore the plot. A recommendation was made by the petitioner – Bhupinder Singh Hooda that the plot be restored to AJL at original price along with interest due upto the date of restoration of allotment and a condition was put that the same should be subject to the condition that the AJL will start the construction in 06 months and complete the same within 02 years, thereafter.

HUDA Authority

The recommendation of the petitioner–Bhupinder Singh Hooda, was placed before HUDA Authority i.e. the competent authority. Though, there were certain objections raised by some of the functionaries to the effect that the plot may be re-allotted either on the market price or by way of advertising and allowing AJL to participate in the same; the petitioner – AJL remained in continuous possession of this plot since 1981 and at no point of time, even during the period of 10 years when the plot was cancelled by the Estate Officer, no action was taken by HUDA for re-possessing the plot and as such, till 2016, the possession was 35 years old. After the revival of the allotment, the petitioner – AJL completed the construction and started its business.

Alleged Act of Corruption

In the backdrop of the above, the State of Haryana registered an FIR dated 05-05-2016 under Sections 409, 420, 120-B IPC and Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, alleging illegality and irregularity in the re-allotment of the institutional plot to AJL. Later on, the Government transferred the investigation to CBI and the present FIR No. RC CHG 2017 A0008 was registered. It was stated in the FIR that in view of the opinion of the Town & Country Planning Department the plot could not be re-allotted as the appellate/revisional order had attained finality and it should be allotted at the current market rates as well as in view of the fact that the HUDA and the Financial Commissioner, Town and Country Planning Department, had proposed that an advertisement be floated for re-allotment of the plot by inviting applications wherein the petitioner – AJL can also apply, the action of the Chairman, HUDA in re-allotting the plot to AJL at old rates applicable in the year 1982 was in conspiracy with each other as the period of construction as per the terms and conditions of the letter of allotment has already lapsed.

It is also concluded in the investigation that the accused i.e. the petitioner – Bhupinder Singh Hooda and the petitioner – AJL, in conspiracy with each other had misused the official position in re-allotment of the plot and thereby causing wrongful loss to State Exchequer and wrongful gain to the petitioner – AJL.

Arguments on Behalf of the Petitioner-accused

It was the case of the petitioner–AJL that since 1981, neither any proceedings for taking the possession were initiated by HUDA nor at any subsequent stage, the order of restoration was challenged before the competent Court of law and therefore, the liability, if any, was purely of civil nature as it is a case of allotment/cancellation of allotment and then restoration of allotment. In addition to that following submissions were made by the petitioners in their defence:

  1. That the Trial Court had brushed aside all the arguments raised by the petitioners on the ground that at the stage of framing of charges, only prima facie allegation is to be seen and not the documentary evidence; therefore, the impugned order was based on non-application of judicial mind.
  2. The recommendation for restoration was made in an open and transparent manner as the comments of all the concerned department were sought on the representation made by the petitioner – AJL and the recommendations were placed before the HUDA for approval and consideration. The authority by a full majority as per Section 7 of the Act has taken a decision in its meeting to approve the recommendation dated 28.08.2005.
  3. The objections were raised by the Chief Administrator, HUDA or the Financial Commissioner, Town and Country Planning Department, who were also signatory to the meeting.
  4. That the initial allotment was made on the basis of ‘No Profit No Loss’ and the entire price of the plot was deposited by AJL and despite the fact that while the allotment was cancelled by the Estate Officer, HUDA, the cheque of Rs.1,55,662/- was never encashed by AJL and therefore, the total price of the plot throughout remained with HUDA and thus, no loss was caused to HUDA.
  5. Since AJL throughout remained in possession of the plot for 35 years till registration of FIR and no effort was made by HUDA at any level either to seek the possession of the plot back or subsequent to restoration of allotment, the order was never challenged for a considerable period of 10 years before any competent Court of law.
  6. The AJL in compliance of the restoration of the allotment of plot had also paid interest to the HUDA and the same was accepted without raising any objection much less challenging this restoration order before any Court. Moreover, it was argued that no offence under Section 120-B IPC was made out as there was no allegation of conspiracy prima facie as per the FIR or the charge-sheet.

Stand taken by the Petitioners regarding Corruption Charge

Regarding the allegation of corruption, the petitioners contended that the offence under Section 13(1)(d) stands deleted in view of the amendment in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1998 through the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018, and therefore, the charge-sheet prepared on 30-11-2018, could not be filed under Section 13(1)(d) of the Act. It was further submitted that,

“Objection that the restoration of the allotment of plot was made by not adhering to the market price did not prove any ‘mens rea’ on the petitioner as the market price as assessed at the time of allotment of plot throughout remained with HUDA and was never returned back in pursuance to the cancellation of allotment.”

Relying on the decision in C.K. Jaffar Sharief vs State (through CBI)”, (2013) 1 SCC 205, wherein the Supreme Court had held that, “mere error of judgment or transgression of departmental norms, would not ‘ipso facto’ establish dishonest intention.”; the petitioners argued that even the charge under Section 13(1)(d)(ii) read with Section 13(1)(2)(iii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, was not made out. It was further pointed out before the Court that in order to frame the charge under Sections 13(1)(d)(ii) and 13(1)(d), the Court had to assign specific reason as to how the offence is made out and the same was missing in the order of the Trial Court. Lastly, it was submitted that it was not the case of CBI that either bribe or gratification was paid, therefore, in the absence of any prima facie evidence that the petitioner – Bhupinder Singh Hooda had acted in a manner that he obtained a valuable thing or pecuniary advantage from AJL, the charge under Section 13(1)(d)(ii) and (iii) was not at all made out.

Considering the abovementioned, the Bench stayed the proceedings before the Trial Court and issued a notice to CBI in that regard. The matter is lighted for 11-08-2021 for further hearing.[Bhupinder Singh Hooda v. CBI, CRR-650-649-2021, order dated 01-02-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance before the Court by:

For Bhupinder Singh Hooda: Sr.  Advocate Kapil Sibal with Advocate Pradeep Poonia, Advocate Adit Pujari and Advocate A.S. Cheema

For AJL: Sr. Advocate R.S. Cheema with Advocate Tarannum Cheema and Advocate Sumanjit Kaur

For CBI: Sr. Advocate Sumeet Goel assisted by Advocate Sameer Rathore and Advocate A.K. Ranolia

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: The Division Bench of Mohammad Rafiq, CJ. and Vijay Kumar Shukla, J., heard a petition which was in pursuance to the detailed order passed on 10-01-2014. It was in regard to the creation of the Directorate of Prosecution in terms of Section 25-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure. On 23-08-2017 the Court had disapproved the practice of appointment of Public Prosecutors on a contract basis and categorically held that it cannot be a post for appointment on contract basis as such the post is pivot for the administration of justice.

On 28-08-2019 the Government Advocate was granted a week’s time to seek instructions and apprise the Court of the steps taken by the Government to fill up the posts of Public Prosecutors and Assistant Public Prosecutors. On 29-09-2019 he informed the Court that a Gazette notification had been published in terms of Section 24 sub-section (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure as of 07-01-2019.

Mr Siddharth R. Gupta, Advocate appearing for the High Court submitted that this matter was pending before this Court for quite some time and the practice of engaging Panel Lawyers to appear before the High Court in criminal matters even without experience of seven years was being wrongly followed and that the State Government should comply the requirement of Section 24(1) and Section 24 (7) of CrPC before authorizing any Advocate to appear as Public Prosecutor before the High Court.

The Court directed the Respondent-State to clarify certain stands,

  • Whether one Public Prosecutor is appointed for each Court in all districts of the State to attend the Criminal matters and if not whether multiple number of Courts are assigned to one available Public Prosecutor and if yes, give the details thereabout?
  • As to how many posts in the cadre of Additional District Prosecution Officers, District Prosecution Officers and Deputy Director (Prosecution) are lying vacant in the State?
  • Whether the promotions may not be granted against the unfilled posts of the quota of promotion in the cadre of the District Prosecution Officers and Deputy Director (Prosecution) to the extent not affected by order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, with regard to which there is no dispute?
  • Can the State Government not consider appointing Additional District Prosecution Officers/District Prosecution Officers on retainership basis for fixed duration against unfilled posts of Public Prosecutors?
  • Whether a Panel Lawyer may appear in the Court before the High Court in criminal matters like Criminal Appeals, Bail Applications, Criminal Revisions, application for suspension of sentence, MCRCs etc. even without having practice of minimum of seven years and without the consultation with the High Court as required under Section 24(1) of Cr.P.C.?
  • How can appointment on contract basis without recourse to Section 24(4) of Cr.P.C. on the basis of panel proposed by the District Magistrate in consultation with the Sessions Judge particularly when Section 24(5) of Cr.P.C. provides that no person shall be appointed by the State Government as the Public Prosecutor or Additional Public Prosecutor for the district unless his name appears in the panel of names prepared by the District Magistrate under sub-section (4) of Section 24 of Cr.P.C.?

The Central Government was further asked to provide with the details with regard to compliance of Section 24(1) and Section 24(4) of Cr.P.C. as to whether the Advocates who appear on behalf of the agencies like Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate etc. before High Court and courts subordinate thereto, are appointed by process of consultation with the High Court or Sessions Judge, as the case may be, in terms of Section 24(1) and 24(4) of Cr.P.C. respectively.

Matter to be taken up on 26-07-2021.[Gyan Prakash v. Govt. of M.P., 2021 SCC OnLine MP 1211, decided on 22-06-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: After accepting the fact that the Narada Scam Case is being heard by a 5-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court, the Central Bureau of Investigation has withdrawn the case filed before the Supreme Court challenging the May 21 order of the High Court that had put the 4 TMC Leaders under House Arrest.

The vacation bench of Vineet Saran and BR Gavai, JJ noted in the order,

“…we have not examined the matter on merit and are not passing any orders or observations on the merits of the case.”

The Narada Scam case relates to a sting operation was conducted by Narada news founder Mathew Samuel for over two years in West Bengal. Samuel had formed a fictitious company named Impex Consultancy Solutions and approached several TMC ministers, MPs and leaders, asking them for favours in return for money. In the 52-hour long footage, several TMC leaders were seen accepting alleged bribes in the form of wads of cash in exchange for extending unofficial favours for the fictitious company.[1]

[Central Bureau of Investigation v. Firhad Hakim, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 399, order dated 25.05.2021]


[1] Explained: What is the Narada bribery case? Here is a recap, by Santanu Chowdhury, Published on May 25, 2021, https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/narada-bribery-case-tmc-7318516/

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[Narada Scam Case] Cal HC| Court gives split verdict in relation to interim bail application; TMC leaders put under house arrest

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: The Division Bench of Rajesh Bindal, CJ(A). and Arijit Banerjee, J., was called upon to deal with an extra-ordinary situation where Chief Minister of the State can sit on a dharna outside the office of the Central Bureau of Investigation (‘CBI’) along with her supporters, which had investigated the case and was to present a charge-sheet in court against the accused who are senior party leaders of the party in power in the State, some of them being Ministers. Law Minister of the State was also present in Court where the accused were to be presented along with mob of 2000 to 3000 supporters.

Y.J. Dastoor, Additional Solicitor General of India had submitted that a a letter of request has been sent by the CBI on official e-mail id of the Chief Justice of this Court and the Registrar General pointing out certain glaring facts regarding the manner in which the Chief Minister, Law Minister and other senior Ministers of the Government in the State of West Bengal along with their supporters in thousands were obstructing CBI in discharge of its official duties. A case was registered in terms of the order passed by this Court in WP No. 5243(W) of 2016 under Sections 120B IPC, Sec. 7, 13 (2) r/w 13 (1) (a) & (d) of the P.C. Act 1988 against number of accused. The allegation against them was that they had accepted substantial amount of illegal gratification from Mathew Samuel, a sting operator.

The accused were arrested on 17-05-2021 in the morning and were to be produced in the court of CBI Special Judge (I) Kolkata. Immediately after their arrest, as they are political leaders of the party in power in the State, number of followers gheraoed the CBI office in Nizam Palace area and did not allow the CBI officers to move out of their office to enable them to produce the accused in court. The matter did not end here. The Chief Minister of West Bengal-Smt. Mamta Banerjee also arrived at the spot at 10.50 hours and sat on dharna along with the mob. Unconditional release of the accused was sought from the CBI office itself. It was under these circumstances that the matter was mentioned before this Court immediately in the after-noon today seeking a direction to the State to allow the CBI to discharge its function and enable them to produce the accused in court.

The prayer made by Mr Y.J. Dastoor was treated as filed on the judicial side, before this Bench on the day itself however it was mentioned that proper pleadings shall be brought on record by 19-05-2021.

Mr Kishore Dutta, Advocate General counsel for the respondent submitted that Nizam Palace where the CBI Office was situated, the major part of it is protected by Para Military Forces. Whenever any senior leader of the party is arrested, supporters always collect there. Senior police officers along with 100 police officials were on duty and no untoward incident was allowed to happen. CBI officers were provided full protection by the local police for discharge of their duty and there was no official complaint filed by the CBI with the police about any incident.

The Court observed that the facts of the case were not disputed; it was claimed by Mr Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India that the Chief Minister was demanding their unconditional release but the fact that she was present there and some supporters were also there, was not denied by Advocate General. The Court found that the Law Minister remained in the Court complex throughout the day till the arguments were heard. In these facts and circumstances if any order is passed by the Court the same will not have faith and confidence of the people in the system of administration of justice. Confidence of the people in the justice system will be eroded in case such types of incidents are allowed to happen in the matters where political leaders are arrested and are to be produced in the Court. Public trust and confidence in the judicial system is more important, it being the last resort.

The Court opined that the given facts and circumstances were sufficient to take cognizance of the present matter with reference to the request of the Solicitor General of India for examination of the issue regarding transfer of the trial. The Court deemed fit to stay the bail order of the Court below and directed that the accused person shall be treated to be in judicial custody till further orders.

[CBI ACB Kolkata v. Firhad Hakim, 2021 SCC OnLine Cal 1629, decided on 17-05-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

For the Petitioner : Mr Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India, Mr Y.J. Dastoor, Addl. Solicitor   General of India

For the State Respondents : Mr Kishore Dutta, Advocate General, Mr Abhratosh Majumdar, Addl. Advocate General, Mr Sayan Sinha

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Rajbir Serawat, J., addressed the controversial case of     regarding three incidents of alleged sacrilege qua Guru Granth Sahib-the Holy Book of Sikhs. The Court was dealing with the incident of Kotkapura firing, wherein the petitioner had sought for quashing of the reports of the Commissions of Inquiry asserting that they have been named in the report without having been granting any opportunity of hearing. The Bench, which while going hard on the manner of investigation, stated,

“What could have been a simple investigation of a crime committed either by the protestors or by the police or by both, have been made to fester and convert itself to a quagmire wherein every concerned person finds himself entrapped.”

Kotkapura Firing

The case relates back to the protest held against the incident of alleged sacrilege; wherein some Saroops (Books) of Guru Granth Sahib went missing from a Gurudwara and two hand written posters containing some sacrilegious contents qua Guru Granth Sahib were found pasted near a Gurudwara. During the process of maintaining the law and order some police persons were seriously injured and one protestor was alleged to have received grievous gunshot injury on thigh and some other persons are alleged to have received minor injuries.

Total 47 police persons got injured at the hands of protestors. The public sentiments got aroused and the issue was further aggravated by the religious leaders. Meanwhile, keeping in view the public outcry for justice and to ensure a fair investigation, the then State Government had referred the all the FIRs related to sacrilege to CBI.

Later on asserting that the earlier report of Justice (Retired) Zora Singh Commission was inconclusive, the incoming State Government set-up another Commission of Inquiry into the incidents of sacrilege, as well as, into the police firing at Kotkapura, by appointing Justice (Retired) Ranjit Singh to head the Commission, which recommended registration of criminal cases against the police persons and some political functionaries.

Withdrawal of Investigation from CBI

Since there was resentment in political circles against handing over the investigation to the CBI, the State Government had put up the matter before the State Legislative Assembly, which passed a resolution calling upon the government to take back the investigation from the CBI. Consequently, the matter was withdrawn from the CBI and the same was handed over to the Punjab Police. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was constituted for this comprising of 5 officers including Senior IPS Officers. However, allegedly, Sh. Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh  (respondent 3) tried to exclusively take over the investigation by excluding the other members of the SIT. Hence, allegedly, they wrote letter to DGP raising their protest expressing their dissent qua the investigation being conducted by the respondent 3.

It had been alleged by the petitioner, that the respondent 3 had tried to bulldoze the SIT and be a de-facto boss, despite two IPS officers senior to him being there in the SIT. Allegedly, since the respondent 3 was acting as per the preplanned agenda to further the political plans of the current political dispensation, therefore; subsequently, he was made de-jure head of the SIT by the DGP, Punjab. Reportedly, the respondent 3 did not carry investigation qua FIR No. 192 dated 14-10-2015 which contained the first version of the incident recorded by the police. On the contrary; he exclusively conducted the investigation in FIR No. 129 dated 07-08-2018, which dealt with protestor’s version of the incident.

A Dangerous Mixing of Religion, Politics and Police Administration

Evidently, the respondent 3 had a tendency of misusing his official position and authority in performance of his duties, i.e. to bulldoze and deviate the process, as well as, to make an attempt to over awe the judicial process. Reportedly, when he could not get remand of the petitioner for desired period he went to the extent of alleging that the reason that the CJM granted only two days remand was CJM’s close family linkage with Prakash Singh Badal, the outgoing CM of Punjab while no details of such family linkage was given on record. This mischief was done by the respondent 3 only to pressurize the Courts at Faridkot and to overawe the judicial process. The Bench expressed,

“The respondent 3 is a person who indulges in misuse of his official position to further his designs; makes attempt to over-awe the processes and the authority and who indulges in theatrics and political maneuvering to draw mileage out of it.”

In April 2019 when the Parliamentary Elections were taking place, the respondent 3 gave interview to a TV Channel and named certain political leaders of the party rival to the political dispensation heading the current government; knowing that such an interview at such a juncture would enhance the political prospects for one political party and would damage the political prospects of another political party. For which the Election Commission had debarred him from election duty during that election. Political patronage of the respondent 3 is evident from the fact that the government did not remove him from the investigation despite the orders of the Election Commission (ECI). The political backing of the respondent 3 further becomes clear as the top functionaries of the political party heading the present government, as well as, the CM itself wrote to the ECI for revoking the order passed against the respondent 3.

Investigation Tainted by Political Maneuvering

While recording the selective statements of alleged witnesses, the respondent 3 was conducting only manipulative exercise in the name of investigation; to declare some persons as innocent and to make some persons accused at his whims.

The apprehension of the petitioner(s) that the respondent 3 could not be expected to act fairly and impartially in the conduct of investigation; was found to be reasonable one even as per the standards of an ordinary person of ordinary prudence. Through the misadventures of respondent 3, the SIT already constituted was reduced to one man show, although the respondent 3 was a de-facto sole controller of the investigation even earlier. In any case, no law required the respondent 3 to go to media and to give such interview which had political overtones; qua the investigation and during the election time. The Bench expressed,

All these incidents lend credence to the submission of the petitioner that the respondent 3 was pressurizing him to withdraw the writ petition and to become a witness to implicate the other senior officers of the Police Department and some top political functionaries of the rival political party.”

Was the Firing a Result of Conspiracy Backed by the then CM, Prakash Singh Badal?

During investigation, the respondent 3 had not examined any one of the injured police persons so as to assess the respective assertions of the parties in the FIRs. He had examined only the alleged injured protestors and filed a report; wherein he had declared the firing by the police to be totally ‘unprovoked’ and the protestors to be totally ‘peaceful’.

An allegation was raised by the respondent 3 claiming a conspiracy between the then CM, the then Deputy CM, the then senior police officers and the petitioners on the basis of the call record showing the CM talking to the DGP and the District Administration, as well as, to his political representative in the area. The Court stated that, mere factum of a Chief Minister talking to the District Administration or to the DGP of the State in the times of a situation where the law and order is disturbed, in itself, would not be sufficient to infer his conspiracy to kill or injure anybody through firing by the police upon the protestors, unless there is some other material collected by the investigating officer to establish prior meeting of minds for conspiracy and then directly linking the Chief Minister to such conspiracy.

The Court opined that it rather suggest that the CM was alive to the situation and to his responsibility even in the odd hours. Also, none of the other witnesses was stated to have even remotely suggested that the then CM conspired to kill the protestors by police firing. The Bench further stated that, mustering of police force from various sources of state to control the law and order situation is nothing uncommon. Rather, sensing ill intentions on the part of respondent 3, the Bench said that despite mentioning their names in the charge sheet and recording therein that their conspiracy was established, the respondent 3 did not array the then CM as accused by filing any charge sheet against them which suggest he was waiting for a political horse to be flogged only at an opportune time, whenever the elections are around the corner or when it otherwise suits him.

The integrity of the investigation totally stands demolished because of this manipulation on the part of the respondent 3, as he repeatedly pressed that the police resorted to ‘unprovoked firing’ on ‘peaceful protestors’; despite the fact that the magistrate present on the spot had assessed the situation that had arisen on the spot and had granted permission to use tear gas in the first instance, lathi charge thereafter, and the gun firing at the third stage. As per record, this permission was granted on the basis that the protestors were resorting to large scale violence and destruction of property; and that because of this the situation had gone out of control. Description of Second Inquiry Commission also recorded the protestors to have chased and attacked the police, including with the swords.

Directions by the Court

In view of the above, the fairness of investigation stands vitiated since the investigation conducted by the respondent 3 suffers from malice, irrationality and absurdity. The Bench expressed that in such case the Court is duty bound to step-in to prevent miscarriage of justice, instill confidence in the investigation and also to pre-empt the misuse of the process of the court; by quashing the investigation and the consequent report under section 173 CrPC.

Hence, it was held that the investigation deserves to be conducted by an independent team of senior police officers; by being totally free from all kinds of internal or external extraneous pressures and interference. The matter was disposed of with the following directions:

  • State shall constitute a SIT of three senior IPS officers which shall not include the respondent 3. There shall be no interference from any quarter; internal or external; with this SIT qua the investigation.
  • The SIT shall not report to any State executive or police authority qua the investigation in question but to the Magistrate concerned.
  • The SIT so constituted shall work jointly. All the members of the SIT shall put their signatures on all the proceedings of the investigation as a mark of the fact that they have agreed to the said investigation;
  • Once constituted, that SIT shall not be changed by State except in case of retirement, incapacity or death of the officer concerned;
  • The members of SIT shall not leak any part of the investigation, before filing the final report and shall not interact with media qua any aspect of investigation.

[Gurdeep Singh v. State of Punjab, CWP No. 17459 of 2019, decided on 09-04-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

Counsel for the Petitioner: R. S. Cheema, Senior Advocate, with K. S. Nalwa, A. S. Cheema and Chakitan V. S. Papta

Counsel for the State: Pankaj Singhal
Counsel for CBI: Sumeet Goel

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ. and G.S. Kulkarni, J. has directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a preliminary enquiry into the complaints against the Home Minister of the State of Maharashtra, Anil Deshmukh. The Court’s order came after the former Commissioner of Mumbai Police, Param Bir Singh, and others moved the High Court seeking investigation into allegations of illegal money collection ordered by the Home Minister, Anil Deshmukh. While opining that the information furnished prima facie discloses commission of cognizable offence by Anil Deshmukh, and directing that preliminary inquiry be preferebly concluded within fifteen days, the Court held:

[Anil] Deshmukh is the Home Minister. The police department is under his control and direction. There can be no fair, impartial, unbiased and untainted probe, if the same were entrusted to the State Police Force. As of necessity, the probe has to be entrusted to an independent agency like the CBI.”

  1. Backdrop, Timeline and the Factual Matrix

In February, a vehicle laden with explosives was found parked at Altamount Road, Mumbai, near ‘Antilia’, the residence of Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman and Managing Direcotr of Reliance Industries Ltd. In this matter, on 25-2-2021, an FIR was registered with Gamdevi Police Station, Mumbai, and investigation was handed to the Anti-Terror Squad. Simultaneously, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) started conducting investigation. Soon thereafter, the owner of the vehicle died under mysterious circumstances. During NIA’s investigation, the role of one Sachin Vaze, a police officer attached to the Mumbai Crime Branch came under scanner and he was arrested.

On 17-3-2021, the incumbent Commissioner of Mumbai Police, Param Bir Singh was transferred. On 20-3-2021, Param Bir Singh, in a letter to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, took exception to statements made against him by the Home Minister wherein he said that there were serious lapses committed by the Commissioner’s office, and Param Bir Singh’s transfer was not on administrative grounds.

In his letter to the Chief Minister, Param Bir Singh made some serious allegations stating that the Home Minister, Anil Deshmukh, had instructed Sachin Vaze to assist in collection of funds for the Home Minister, with a target of accumulating Rs 100 crores a month. As per further allegations, similar instructions were given by Anil Deshmukh to some other officers of the Mumbai Police. It was also alleged that Anil Deshmukh, on several occasions, called officers of the Mumbai Police to instruct them to adopt a specific course of action in police investigations. Param Bir Singh asserted that the Home Minister found his reservations and resistance undesirable and his transfer seem to be for extraneous and vindictive reasons.

On 21-3-2021, Param Bir Singh moved the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking a writ of mandamus directing the CBI to conduct an impartial and fair investigation into the complaints against Anil Deshmukh, and to quash his transfer order. This writ petition was however withdrawn by Param Bir Singh with a liberty to approach the High Court. Availing such liberty, Param Bir Singh approached the High Court on 24-3-2021, filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

On 21-3-2021 itself, one Dr Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil lodged a complaint with the Malabar Police Station and the Director, Anti-Corruption Bureau of the CBI in the same matter. No action was taken on the complaint, which prompted Dr Patil to file a Criminal Writ Petition in the present matter before the High Court seeking direction to CBI/ED to investigate the matter.

  1. Analysis

2.1. Need for an FIR

There was much debate at the Bar in respect of the omission or failure to furnish information to/lodge a complaint before the police for the same to crystallize into an FIR, which could be investigated. According to the High Court, the issue paled into insignificance in view of the disclosure made by Dr Patil of she having lodged a complaint disclosing commission of cognizable offence on 21-3-2021 and that such complaint was not given the attention that it deserved. Had such disclosure been made at the inception of hearing, much of the early exchanges may not have been necessary at all and could be avoided.

2.2. Maintainability of Param Bir Singh’s PIL

The High Court refused to be drawn into the larger controversy raised by the respondent State on the aspect of maintainability of the PIL filed by Param Bir Singh and another PIL filed by another petitioner (there were a total of three PILs including that of Param Bir Singh and one Criminal Writ Petition of Dr Patil, which were heard together). The controversy, in the Court’s opinion, which was common to the petitions, could be taken care of within a narrow compass by deciding whether, if at all, and to what extent, if any, action on the complaint of Dr Patil should be directed to be taken.

2.3. Maintainability of Dr Patil’s Criminal Writ Petition

The High Court noted that registration of a case is a sine qua non for starting an investigation. The jurisdictional fact for setting the criminal law in motion in the present case was traceable in the Criminal Writ Petition of Dr Patil, who provided a crucial breakthrough by lodging a complaint in the matter.

2.3.1. Writ Petition versus Efficacious Alternate Remedy

The State’s objection to Dr Patil’s Criminal Writ Petition was primarily grounded on existence of an efficacious alternative remedy before the Magistrate under the CrPC, which she had not availed of.

The Court explored the answer to the question: The Criminal Writ Petition of Dr Patil raises an important issue of lack of enforcement of law by the police. Does this per se warrant entertainment of the Criminal Writ Petition?

In the context of the nature of the concern expressed in the Criminal Writ Petition, the Court considered that the restriction to be kept in mind in deciding the question of entertainability is, whether there exists any equally efficacious alternative remedy in a criminal court and even if such a forum of redress is available, should the writ court entertain the writ petition. The Court found answer to this stating that where the facts of any case are such that the remedy provided by the law is found to be inadequate or inefficacious to the judicial mind, a writ petition may be entertained and decided. Provisions in Section 23 of the Police Act, 1861 and the CrPC cast a duty on the police to prevent commission of offence and to bring an offender to justice. Where a person or authority is vested with a duty by specific statutory provisions, to compel such person or authority to perform such duty is certainly within the power and jurisdiction of a writ court.

[T]he courts shall not countenance violation of Constitutional principles by anyone, howsoever high an office he occupies, and hence while acting as the sentinel on the qui vive and being always there as a watch guard of the Constitution to repel any attack on it, the courts would ensure that the democratic values enshrined in the Constitution are respected and the ideals upheld.

On this point, the High Court relied on several decisions of the Supreme Court including, Municipal Council, Ratlam v. Vardichan, (1980) 4 SCC 162; Union of India v. R. Redappa, (1993) 4 SCC 269; and N. Kannadasan v. Ajay Khose, (2009) 7 SCC 1.

While finally deciding this point, the Court held that it is not unknown that despite the existence of a remedy, the remedy against the particular mischief complained of and the redress sought for, at times, might be of no avail. It would be opposed to Constitutional philosophy if relief is refused only on the ground of existence of an alternative remedy, which may not be equally efficacious. Therefore, if a case presented before a writ court appears to it to be extraordinary, which the Criminal Writ Petition of Dr Patil indeed is, there is no bar that could operate for entertaining the same. After all, the rule which requires exhaustion of an alternative remedy is a rule of convenience and discretion, rather than a rule of law.

[I]t is indeed unheard of and unprecedented that a Minister could be so openly accused of wrongdoings and corrupt practices by none other than a senior police officer attracting wide attention from all and sundry.”

2.4.  Cognizable Offence (prima facie)

The High Court perused the complaint of Dr Patil to consider whether it makes out a prima facie case of a cognizable offence. It was clarified that examination of the veracity and/or credibility of the allegations contained therein is not the Court’s task at this stage. Dr Patil annexed to her complaint, a copy of Param Bir Singh’s letter to the Chief Minister.

As per the Court prima facie opinion, the information furnished therein discloses commission of cognizable offences by Anil Deshmukh and should have been acted upon in the manner required by the CrPC, and as judicially interpreted by the Supreme Court in Lalita Kumari v. State of U.P., (2014) 2 SCC 1.

2.5. CBI Investigation

The High Court noted that a CBI inquiry cannot be ordered as a matter of routine or merely because a party makes an allegation. But, if after considering the materials on record, the Court concludes that such materials disclose a prima facie case calling for investigation by the CBI, the Court can make the necessary order. Reliance was placed on Common Cause v. Union of India, (1999) 6 SCC 667 and T.C. Thangaraj v. V. Engammal, (2011) 12 SCC 328, among others. The Court opined that w]hen high officials are likely to be involved and a question of public confidence in the impartial working of the State agencies arises, the writ court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution is certainly not powerless to order such inquiry and investigation by the CBI.

It was noted by the Court that Dr Patil had submitted her complaint to the Senior Police Inspector of the Malabar Hill Police Station on 21-3-2021; however, except for making an entry in the Inward Register, no action whatsoever, was initiated. The allegations made by Param Bir Singh in his letter dated 20-3-2021, which triggered Dr Patil to lodge the complaint are of a serious nature and against the highest functionary of the Government of Maharashtra, when it comes to the functioning of the police department. Prima facie, the issues are such that the very faith of citizens in the functioning of the police department is at stake. If there is any amount of truth in such allegations, certainly it has a direct effect on the citizens’ confidence in the police machinery in the State. Such allegations, therefore, cannot remain unattended and are required to be looked into in the manner known to law when, prima facie, they indicate commission of a cognizable offence

It is, hence, certainly an issue of credibility of the State machinery, which would stare at the face when confronted with the expectations of the law and when such complaints are received against high ranking public officials. This Court cannot be a mere spectator in these circumstances. There is certainly a legitimate public expectation of a free, fair, honest and impartial inquiry and investigation into such allegations which have surfaced in the public domain.

2.6. Preliminary Inquiry

While holding that to instill public confidence and safeguard the fundamental rights of the citizens, it is necessary that an inquiry and investigation is conducted by an independent agency, the Court also noted the caution in P. Sirajuddin v. State of Madras, (1970) 1 SCC 595, wherein the Supreme Court held that before a public servant is publicly charged with acts of dishonesty which amount to serious misdemeanour or misconduct and a first information is lodged against him, there must be some suitable preliminary enquiry into the allegations by a responsible officer. The means adopted no less than the end to be achieved must be impeccable.

  1. Directions

Concluding the discussion, the High Court ordered the following:

3.1. Although there is no immediate reason to direct registration of an FIR by the CBI based on Dr Patil’s complaint, interest of justice would be sufficiently served if the Director, CBI is directed to initiate a preliminary inquiry into the complaint of Dr Patil which has the letter of Param Bir Singh addressed to the Chief Minister, as an annexure.

3.2. Such preliminary inquiry shall be conducted in accordance with law and concluded as early as possible but preferably within 15 (fifteen) days from receipt of a copy of the instant order.

3.3. Once the preliminary inquiry is complete, the Director, CBI shall be at liberty to decide on the future course of action, also in accordance with law. Should the Director, CBI see no reason to proceed further, Dr Patil shall be duly informed of the same.

3.4. Param Bir Singh shall be at liberty to raise grievances, if any, in regard to transfers and postings of police officers and for enforcement of the directions in Prakash Singh v. Union of India, (2006) 8 SCC 1, before the appropriate forum in accordance with law, if so advised.[Param Bir Singh v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 516, dated 05-4-2021]


Advocates who appeared in this case:

Mr. Vikram Nankani, Senior Advocate a/w Dr. Birendra Saraf and Mr. Sharan Jagtiani, Senior Advocates, a/w Mr. Subodh Desai, Mr. Chetan Kapadia, Mr. Sunny Punamiya and Mr. Akshay Bafna, Advocates for Petitioner.

Mr. A.K. Singh and Mr. Piyush Singh, Advocates for Applicant/Intervenor in I.A. St. No. 6356/2021.

Mr. A.A. Kumbhakoni, Advocate General a/w Mr. Deepak Thakare, Public Prosecutor, a/w Mr. Akshay Shinde, “B” Panel Counsel and Mr. Manoj Badgujar, Advocate for State.

Mr. Anil C. Singh, Additional Solicitor General a/w Mr. D.P. Singh, Mr. Amogh Singh and Mr. A.A. Ansari, Advocates for Respondent nos. 2 and 3.

Dr. Jaishri L. Patil, Petitioner-in-person.

Mr. A.A. Kumbhakoni, Advocate General a/w Mr. Deepak Thakare, Public Prosecutor, a/w Mr. Akshay Shinde, “B” Panel Counsel and Mr. Manoj Badgujar, Advocate for State.

Mr. Subhash Jha, Mr. Nilesh Ojha a/w Mr. Samir Vaidya, a/w Mr. Harekrishna Mishra a/w Mr. Siddharth Jha, Mr. Abhishek Mishra a/w Mr. Munish Hemani i/b Law Global for Petitioner.

Mr. A.A. Kumbhakoni, Advocate General a/w Mr. Deepak Thakare, Public Prosecutor, a/w Mr. Akshay Shinde, “B” Panel Counsel and Mr. Manoj Badgujar, Advocate for State.

Mr. Alankar Kirpekar and Mr. Shekhar Bhagat, Advocates i/b Maglegal for petitioner.

Mr. A.A. Kumbhakoni, Advocate General a/w Mr. Deepak Thakare, Public Prosecutor, a/w Mr. Akshay Shinde, “B” Panel Counsel and Mr. Manoj Badgujar, Advocate for State.

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI): The Court of Shivank Singh, Special Judicial Magistrate (CBI) while convicting the accused of the offences under Sections 120B, 420 of Penal Code, 1860 acquitted the accused of the offences under Sections 467, 468, 471 of Penal Code, 1860.

In the present matter, Alishan Khan with Asad Ali (accused in the present matter) were accused of criminal conspiracy with each other for dishonestly and fraudulently availing the benefit of wrongful gains to themselves and subsequently causing wrongful loss to the Department of Customs. In that process, evasion of the payment of customs duty, act of falsely claiming themselves as Manufacturer Exports with the support of forged documentation was carried out. Further the facilities otherwise available to firms were availed, again with forged documents, to waive off the condition to deposit bank guarantee. Subsequently, they again approached the office of Jt. Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) for issue of an advance import licence for a Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) value of Rs. 2.02 Crores which was almost 20 times the value of the earlier licence. It was during investigation, that the exports claims so made were also found to be false. Interestingly, the firm or the unit from where they supposedly functioned was also found to be non-existent.

Therefore, the substantial question was of the role of the accused in the entire criminal transaction and involvement in the affairs of the non-existent firm.

The prosecution examined 25 witnesses, and intriguingly, the defence had no witness in support.

The Court while taking note of the testimonies of the witnesses so put forth, arguments advanced and charges levied, considered it appropriate to deal with the provisions of all substantive offences one by one.

While acquitting under Section 467 of IPC, the Court referred to, Sheila Sebastian v. R. Jawaharaj, (2018) 7 SCC 3, wherein it was held that the charge of forgery cannot be imposed on a person who is not the maker of the same. For Section 468 of IPC, the court was firm that use of the forged shipping bills, rent receipts, etc. were not proved beyond reasonable doubt. And further for Section 471 read with 467 of IPC, was of the opinion that, the evidence on record revealed that the accused was the beneficiary of the forged documents “…but it is not established by the prosecution that accused had used the very ‘forged documents’ in question as genuine. Law is settled on this point, that however strong the suspicion maybe, it cannot take place of proof…”.

For conviction under Section 420 of IPC, after a conjoint reading of the testimonies of the witnesses and the corroborating evidences, the Court very firmly stated that, “the prosecution has very clearly manifested Asad Ali’s role in the entire chain of transaction and has proved that it was Asad Ali who had acted upon, manoeuvered and operated the affairs of M/s United Exports sub rosa…”. For Section 120-B, the Court mightily opined that, “…it is settled law that in the case of conspiracy there cannot be any direct evidence. Privacy and secrecy are more characteristics of a conspiracy, than of a loud discussion in an elevated place open to public view…”. “…the circumstances proved before, during and after the concurrence have to be considered to decide about the complicity of the accused…”. “…It would have been difficult for any of the accused, to execute alone such conspiracy or cheating. But with the combined efforts they were able to do the same…”.

Therefore, the Court after considering the entire facts and circumstances, convicted the accused for the offence under Section 120-B of IPC, to undergo rigorous imprisonment of 3 years and pay fine of Rs. 10,000/- and for the offence under Section 420 of IPC, to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 03 years and pay fine of Rs. 10,000/- which shall run concurrently. Also, the accused was entitled to set off under Section 428 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 for the period already undergone in judicial custody, if any.[CBI v. Asad Ali, 5103092/2005 decided on 01-04-2021]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Special Court, CBI, Ghaziabad: The Court of Shivank Singh, Special Judicial Magistrate (CBI), issued summons against the builder for the alleged unapproved imaginary construction and the fraud thereafter, the two bogus allottees for cheating the bank, and the two Punjab National Bank (Bank) officials for turning a blind eye, under relevant sections.

In the pertinent ‘infamous case’, the construction company, Shri Balaji Hi-Tech Constructions Pvt. Ltd., had constructed multi-storey residential flats in Ghaziabad. The builder (also the Director) with the allottees cheated the bank, by issuing more than one allotment letter for the same flat to different individuals and issued allotment letters for the non-existent flats on the 16th floor of the building. The housing loan was secured in name of the purported allottees. The bogus allottees, then secured a housing loan for the same ‘imaginary house’.  Interestingly, this was an alleged criminal conspiracy where not only the builder, the allottees but very clearly the Bank officials were also involved.

The Court very categorically acknowledged and took cognizance of each of the issues and individuals involved at various stages of the fraud. Primarily, the Court took note of the fact that the Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) approved only one ground floor and 14 upper floors, indicating that the imaginary house was not even approved. Further, the role of the ‘sanctioners’ (Bank Officials) was very prominently highlighted, as the two housing loan proposals of the bogus allottees were processed and recommended by the then Manager and Senior Manager of the Bank. What is captivating is that, “…sanction for prosecution u/s 19 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 was sought from the competent authority in PNB but the same was declined…”. Moving in the same direction, the Court further made a remark, “…The act of processing, recommending and sanctioning the housing loans by the bank officials on non-existent flats is an act which is without any imprimatur…”. While taking cognizance, the Court in the operative part of the order opined that, “no sanction under section 197 CrPC is required for the offences of IPC against them as both of them are not the officials which are removable by the sanction of Government as required by the provision of Section 197 CrPC. K. Ch. Prasad v. J. Vanalatha Devi, (1987) 2 SCC 52 and S.K. Miglani v. NCT of Delhi in Criminal Appeal No. 744 of 2019 were relied on.

The Court took note of the “lapses shown by the Bank Officials” and refused to believe that the fraud could otherwise be committed successfully, had they not turned a blind eye to the verification process while sanctioning.  Therefore, the Builder and the two bogus allottees were summoned for the offences under Sections 120B read with  420,467,468,471 of the Penal Code as well as substantive offences under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 of the Penal Code. And the ‘sanctioners’ or the Bank officials under Section 120B read with 420, 467, 468, 471 Penal Code and for offences under Section 409 of the Penal Code.[CBI v. Harpreet Singh Saigal, Cri. Misc. Cases/0000352/2021, decided on 15-03-2021]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Special Court, CBI, Ghaziabad- The Court of Shivank Singh, Special Judicial Magistrate (CBI), allowed the application where permission to lead secondary evidence was sought for.

In the present matter, the charge sheet along with certain photocopies (made from the original) were lost from the CBI office, with an enquiry pending for the same. The earlier application was dismissed by the same court, since the CBI could not prove the loss of documents, and therefore the present application.

The defence opposed the application by stating that the CBI filed the application with a malafide intention as the agency wants to protect its officials from the misconduct. And that it changed its stance from not traceable to stolen/missing.

The Court was of the opinion that the present application was filed after the registration of an FIR (which was missing in the previous application) of the lost documents, therefore it fulfilled the criteria under Section 65(c), Evidence Act. It further took note of the fact that permission to lead secondary evidence was sought only for the documents on record. It even clearly demarcated the responsibilities of the department and the absolute no correlation with the independent functions of the Court. The Court took the changed circumstances into consideration and further held that the, “…disposal of this application would not amount to review as the earlier application was dismissed by this court on the ground that prosecution has not fulfilled the criteria u/s 65(c) of the Evidence Act…”. And was thus of the opinion that granting the permission would not hamper the interests of justice of the accused.[CBI v. Lokeshwar P. Mathur, Cri. Case/5100004/2014, decided on 09-03-2021]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Special Court, CBI, Ghaziabad: Shivank Singh, Special Judicial Magistrate (CBI), rejected the closure report filed by the CBI, stating that the Court was of the view that a prima facie case was made out. And resultantly, took cognizance under Section  120B r/w 302, 201 as well as substantive offences under Sections 302, 201 of the Penal Code, 1860.

In the present case, a first year MBBS student, Neeraj Bhadana, allegedly committed suicide by jumping from the 5th floor of the hostel building on 6-7-2013, in the college premises of Teerthankar Mahaveer University, Moradabad. Subsequently, on 7-7-2013, an FIR was lodged with the local police against unknown persons. On 10-07-2013, a further complaint was lodged by the complainant (father) with the allegations against the administration (with specific names) including the Vice-Chancellor, students/hostel-mates for subjecting the deceased to sexual exploitation. The investigation was initiated by the local police, later it went to the CB CID and thereafter was transferred to CBI on 25-07-2013.

Now the question was on the dubious and mysterious circumstances in which the victim died and the different factual matrix that ensued further.

During investigation some startling revelations were made which not only outright contradicted the different versions but also the narration of the cause.  Thereby, raising questions on the veracity of the doctor who treated the deceased in the emergency ward and had seen the deceased ‘gasping’, alongwith the authorities while the medical evidence and the treatment papers spoke differently.  Notably, the doctors who conducted the post mortem made observations of Ante-mortem injuries, torn hymen, ‘asphyxia as a result of smothering’. The Court took note of the many fallacies, on the basis of which the CBI wanted the closure report be treated as “untraced”. The logic of being “untraced” was also dealt at length in the detailed order.

The findings were made differently for incriminating the students involved and the College authorities. After a conjunctive reading of the material and documents so placed, the Court observed that the “…victim was killed by the way of smothering and was thrown from the building…”. Moreover, the Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature Test (BEOS), and the inconsistent versions of the students were taken note of, contending that they had seen her either falling or heard her voice. While there were enough witnesses recorded by the CBI stating that the deceased was “cold and numb when it fell”. The Court then made pertinent observations based on the witnesses, stating, “Such natural witnesses have no motive to state falsely. The only witness who have said that the victim was gasping was the staff/officials of Teerthankar Mahaveer University”. Further in regards with the College authorities, it was concluded that they “prepared false records under some pressure” and held that “the officials have participated in destruction of evidence. Had it been the involvement of only students in the alleged murder, then in that case, the officials (wardens etc.) would not have participated…”.

The present case was dealt by the Court in profundity, from an abyss to a sky scrapping detail. The Court while perusing the documents and appreciating the evidences, considered the case to be a classic example of “people may lie, but circumstances cannot”. The Court also made a remark on the investigation officer for not recording the legitimate findings in the closure report, “for the reasons, best known to IO” and found it hard to believe why no investigation was done on crucial points, which the Court later enumerated in the detailed summon order. The Court exclaimed, “this Court is constrained to say that the investigation in the present case is bereft of any logic, rationale and bonafide approach”.

The Court thus summoned the students/hostel-mates under Section 120B r/w 302, 201 along with the substantive offences under Sections 302, 201 of the Penal Code, 1860. Accused Vice-Chancellor was summoned under Section 120B r/w 302, 201 of the Penal Code, 1860. And the college authorities were issued summons under Section 120B r/w 302, 201 and the substantive offence under Section 201 of the Penal Code, 1860.[CBI v. Closure report, 6 (S)/2013 SCU. V SC-II CBI, dated 15-02-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of S.S. Shinde and M.S. Karnik, JJ., found prima facie case against Late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s sister Priyanka Singh.

It may be that the relations between the petitioner and the respondent 2 are strained, but we cannot overlook the serious allegations made in the complaint and materials on record and the fact that the investigation is in progress and same is not yet concluded.

In the present matter, it was stated that the petitioners suffered the untimely and unfortunate demise of their brother Sushant Singh Rajput on 14-06-2020.

Petitioners stated that they find themselves in the midst of controversy as a result of the registration of an impugned FIR based on unfounded allegations, unsubstantiated facts and a misleading complaint filed as a counterblast FIR filed by petitioner’s father against respondent 2.

Petitioners case was that the FIR was registered by respondent 1 on the complaint of Rhea Indrajit Chakraborty (Respondent 2) in a most illegal and arbitrary manner without following the due process of law.

Analysis and Decision

While perusing the facts and circumstances of the case, Bench notes that the present matter relates to the tragic incident in which the Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead at his residence.

Respondent 2 filed a complaint contending that the accused persons conspired with each other and illegally procured false prescription on the letterhead of Government hospital which contained psychotropic substances that are listed in the Schedule of NDPS Act and administered the same to the late actor.

Whether filing of the second FIR or counter-complaint permissible as done by the Respondent 2?

Bench referring to the decision of Supreme Court in Upkar Singh v. Ved Prakash, (2004) 13 SCC 292, found that the filing of the counter-complaint is permissible.

Elaborating the above point in terms of the present matter, Court expressed that:

Supreme Court has laid down that any further complaint by the same complainant against the same accused, subsequent to the registration of a case, is prohibited under the Criminal Procedure Code. because an investigation in this regard would have already started and further the complaint against the same accused will amount to an improvement on the facts mentioned in the original complaint, hence, will be prohibited under Section 162 CrPC.

Present Petitioners are not accused in the first FIR.  2nd respondent has filed the 2nd FIR in the nature of counter-complaint in respect of the same incident having different versions of the events which are legally permissible.

Further, the Bench stated that the allegations made in the complaint revealed the exchange of messages between petitioner 1 and late actor regarding the list of medicines. The FIR consisted of the allegations pertaining to the prescription with regard to the various medications controlled under the NDPS Act. Dr Tarun Kumar prescribed medicines which were prohibited from being prescribed electronically for the purpose of anxiety.

The allegation was that the accused prescribed psychotropic substances without any consultation or examination in violation of provisions of the NDPS Act and the Telemedicine Practice Guidelines, 2020.

Bench expressed that the allegations along with other material enclosed prima facie disclose the alleged offences as against the petitioner 1.

It is a well-settled principle of law that the power of quashing a criminal proceeding should be exercised very sparingly and with circumspection and that too in the rarest of rare cases.

 Supreme Court in the State of Karnataka v. Pastor P. Raju, (2006) 6 SCC 728, settled the legal position stating that the High Court ought not to interfere with and quash the entire proceedings in exercise of power conferred by Section 482 CrPC when the matter was still at the investigation stage.

In the case of State of Telangana v. Habib Abdullah Jeelani, (2017) 2 SCC 779, it was held that there is no denial of the fact that the power under Section 482 Cr.P.C. is of very wide amplitude but it needs no special emphasis to state that conferment of wide power requires the Court to be more cautious. It casts an onerous and more diligent duty on the Court.

Hence, Court opined that the allegations made in the complaint do constitute a cognizable offence against the petitioner – Priyanka Singh justifying the registration of a case and an investigation thereon.

With regard to petitioner 2, the allegation has been made against her based only on suspicion that the medicine might have been procured by her.

However, the complaint primarily proceeded on the allegation that the banned medicines prescribed by Dr Tarun Kumar were at the behest of petitioner No.1 who was having knowledge that the said banned medicine and heavy doses of medicine may result in a chronic anxiety attack which may damage the health of Sushant Singh Rajput.

While concluding, the Court added that:

FIR registered at the instance of the late actor’s father has already been transferred to the CBI for investigation in the light of the directions of the Supreme Court, and even Senior Advocate for the respondent 3 submitted that so far as FIR lodged by late actor’s father is concerned, the CBI is conducting investigation meticulously and professionally without being hindered by any external factor and would thoroughly look into each and every aspect relating to the death of the late actor in a fair and impartial manner.

Decision

From the reading of the complaint and materials on record, it was seen that the allegations were primarily against petitioner 1 and Dr Tarun Kumar. The FIR appeared to have been registered against the petitioner 2 only on suspicion without attributing specific overt acts qua petitioner 2 that she aided or abetted the alleged act of suicide by the late actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

Hence, on overall consideration, allegations against petitioner 2 were vague and general and the counter-complaint filed by the respondent 2 qua second petitioner is to be set aside and quashed and so far as petitioner 1 – Priyanka Singh was concerned, no merit was found in the present petition, therefore deserves to be dismissed.

Rejection of this Petition qua petitioner No.1 – Priyanka Singh shall not be construed as an impediment to petitioner No.1 to avail of an appropriate remedy in case Investigating Officer decides to file the chargesheet.[Priyanka Singh v. State of Maharashtra,  2021 SCC OnLine Bom 207, decided on 15-02-2021]


Advocates who appeared in the matter:

Mr. Vikas Singh, Sr. Advocate a/w Mr. M.V. Thorat i/b Mr. M.V. Thorat, for the Petitioners

Mr. Satish Maneshinde a/w Ms. Namita Maneshinde, for Respondent No.2.

Mr. Devdatta Kamat, Sr. Advocate a/w Mr. Deepak Thakre, PP, Mr. S.R.Shinde, APP a/w Mr. J.P. Yagnik, APP, Mr. Rajesh Inamdar and Mr. Hemant Shah, for Respondent No.1 – State.
Mr. Anil C.Singh, ASG a/w Mr. Sandesh Patil a/w Mr. D.P. Singh, for Respondent No. 3 – CBI.


Also Read:

Unmasking the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 [Explainer on certain provisions]

Hot Off The PressNews

The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered a case against 06 then officials of Indian Overseas Bank, Vijaywada/Guntur and other unknown persons & public servants alleging misappropriation of depositor’s money. It was alleged that the Secretary, Arogya Bhadratha was maintaining Savings Accounts with Indian Overseas Bank, Mangalagiri Branch, District, Guntur and having four deposits of Rs 90 lakh each and another account with deposit of Rs 68,84,111, totalling to Rs 428.84 lakh. It was further alleged that the Bank Officials & unknown others entered into a  conspiracy and closed the said four deposit accounts of the Secretary, Arogya Bhadratha, without any request from the account holder. It was further alleged that the proceeds of the four deposit accounts amounting to Rs 387.71 lakh(appox) & also Rs 68.84 lakh(approx) in another account in the name of the Secretary, Arogya Bhadratha were withdrawn in cash partially on various dates and transferred to unrelated accounts after routing through various Banks Office Accounts & third party accounts. Thus, the accused has allegedly misappropriated funds and caused loss to the Indian Overseas Bank to the tune of around Rs 456.55 lakh( (including interest accrued).

            Searches were conducted at the premises of accused at various places located in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, which led to recovery of several incriminating documents.


Central Bureau of Investigation

[Press Release dt. 29-01-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ and G.S. Kulkarni, J., while addressing the several questions on reporting by electronic media, expressed that:

“The duty of the press/media to have news items printed/telecast based on true and correct version relating to incidents worth reporting accurately and without any distortion/embellishment as well as without taking sides, cannot, therefore, be overemphasized.”

Genesis of the Several Public Interest Litigations

In the instant matter, several PIL’s cropped from the unnatural death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput on June 14, 2020.

Insensitive and Disparaging Comments by News Channels

On June 20, 2020, a complaint was lodged against one of the prominent news channels before the Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting seeking action for insensitive and disparaging comments against the Indian Army and the coverage of the death of the actor, stated to be in defiance with the Programme Code.

Further, it was said that no action against the media channel was taken in regard to the complaint made.

Media Trials

Since the time of death of the actor, several prominent media channels have been literally conducting ‘media trials’ and ‘parallel investigation’ by conducting and broadcasting debates, rendering opinions, exposing the material witnesses, examining and cross-examining the witnesses, chasing the officials of CBI who were investigating the case.

Petitioners added that the above-stated telecast and broadcast are available in the public domain.

Sensationalization and Scandalize the death of the Actor

It is said that the prominent news channels in their attempt to sensationalize the issues have gone as far as displaying the CDR records which is a vital piece of evidence, thereby resulting in the several threat calls and messages sent to the alleged accused.

The petitioners say that to scandalize and sensationalize the death of the actor, irresponsible reporting to implicate one of the prominent ministers of the State of Maharashtra and have been making derogatory, false and distasteful remarks against several ministers.

Further, it was also pointed that the news anchors and reporters were examining and cross-examining all the proposed witnesses exposing the probable evidence to the public which could be examined only by the investigating agency or by the competent courts during the course of the trial.

Press Council of India

PCI had also issued a statement wherein it was stated that the coverage of the alleged suicide of the actor by many media outlets was in contravention of the norms of journalistic conduct.

Undermining the concept of free and fair trial

Petitioners submitted that the freedom of the media, especially of the TV channels, cannot be allowed to super stretch to a point where, by outpouring reprobate information, begins to clog and cloud the pellucid comprehension of ‘facts/news’ in the people’s minds and impinges upon free and fair investigation.

Fundamental Question

Whether the media under the garb of reporting news, can serve their own opinions as facts/news?

Petitioner observed that media works to create or induce opinions by narrating and reporting opinionated and tailored facts as news, which is beyond the scope, power and privilege accorded to the proverbial fourth pillar and a blatant abuse and misuse thereof.

Petitioners assert that media is plagued with the affliction of disproportionate reporting, which may be seen from the undue coverage given to inconsequential and mindless matters, unrelated to the greater good of the people of the country, as opposed to issues of national and international importance which the people are grappling with such as the COVID 19 crisis, mass joblessness, economic downfall, starvation, medical and healthcare structural problems, farmers issues, domestic violence, etc.

Adding to the above, petitioners stated that it is not the media’s domain to prove someone guilty a definitely no question of calling out someone guilty or innocent until the investigation and trial is complete.

Petitioners referred to the Supreme Court decision in Manu Sharma v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2010) 6 SCC 1, wherein the Supreme Court has commented on the danger of serious risk of prejudice if the media exercises unrestricted and unregulated freedom, and stated that people at the helm of affairs should ensure that trial by media does not hamper fair investigation by the investigating agency and more importantly does not prejudice the right of defence of the accused in any manner whatsoever.

Petitioners refer to the decision of the Supreme Court in R.K. Anand v. Delhi High Court, reported in (2009) 8 SCC 106, where the Supreme Court observed that it would be a sad day for the court to employ the media for setting its own house in order and the media too would not relish the role of being the snoopers of the court.

Observation

Contention that media houses have crossed the ‘Lakshman Rekha’

Bench opined that the petitions filed aimed at redressal of genuine public harm or public injury and involve substantial public interest.

Hence, the Court overruled the objections of the media houses to the maintainability of the writ petitions.

Important Legal Questions before the Court

  1. What does the expression “administration of justice in any other manner” in Section 2(c)(iii) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 connote, and whether trial by media/pre-judgment while a police investigation is in progress could lead to interference with/obstruction to “administration of justice”, thereby constituting criminal contempt under the aforesaid section?
  2. Is it necessary to construe “judicial proceedings” in Section 3 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 to have commenced with the registration of an FIR? Also, is it at all necessary to read Section 3 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 in the manner the petitioner in PIL (St.) 2339 of 2020 urges us to read?
  3. Whether media trial in respect of matters pending investigation of a criminal complaint, fall within the restrictions as contained in the Programme Code as postulated under Section 5 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the rules framed thereunder?
  4. Whether the regime of self-regulation adopted by the news channels would have any sanctity within the statutory framework?
  5. While emphasizing on the need to strike the right balance between freedom of speech and expression and fair investigation/right to fair trial, to what extent, if at all, should press/media reporting be regulated if the same interferes with or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, “administration of justice”?

Further, the Court also proposes to address the following incidental questions:

  1. Are the guidelines for reporting cases of deaths by suicide sufficient? If insufficient, should further guidelines be laid down for reporting cases of deaths by suicide?
  2. Has the media coverage complained of in these writ petitions interfered with/obstructed and/or tends to interfere with/obstruct “administration of justice”, and thus amounts to criminal contempt within the meaning of section 2(c)(iii) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971? and whether criticism of Mumbai Police by the electronic media is fair?
  3. Is the accusation that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, being the Nodal Ministry, has abdicated its statutory functions [under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act and the rules framed thereunder read with the Policy Guidelines of 2011 and the license executed with the broadcaster] of deciding complaints received in respect of offending programmes, by forwarding the same to private bodies like the News Broadcasting Authority (NBA) and the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF), justified?
  4. Should an order be made, on facts and in the circumstances, postponing reporting of events by the media in respect of investigation by the CBI into the FIR registered by it pursuant to the complaint of the actor’s father? Also, is it necessary for the Court to suggest measures for regulating media coverage of incidents such as the one under consideration to address the concerns expressed in these writ petitions?

Analysis

  • Investigative Journalism

The controversy in the instant matter raises questions of contemporary importance touching upon the right of the press/media to express views freely, the right of the deceased to be treated with respect and dignity after death, the need to ensure investigation of the crime to proceed on the right track without being unduly prejudiced by media reports based on “investigative journalism”, and the right of the accused to a free and fair trial as well as the right to not be prejudged by the media.

“Right guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution is not merely a right of speech and expression but a right to freedom of speech and expression.”

 In Supreme Court’s decision of Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) (P) Ltd. v. Union of India, (1985) 1 SCC 641 the need to protect the ‘Freedom of Press’ was highlighted, which is the heart of social and political intercourse.

Further, the Court referred to in LIC v. Manubhai D. Shah (Prof.), (1992) 3 SCC 637, wherein the flavour of the right to freedom of free speech and expression was brought out by the Supreme Court.

 “What resonates in our ears now is whether the right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) is the most abused right in recent times?”

 To the above stated, Court answered in negative and expressed that “it is a reminder of what has at times been the unsavoury past of the press/media in India crossing the proverbial ‘Lakshman Rekha’.”

Rule of Law

There can be no two opinions that in a society governed by the rule of law, no price is too high to maintain the purity of administration of justice; and, as a Constitutional court, we have the power, nay the duty, to protect not only the Fundamental Rights of the citizens as well as the press/media in the judicious exercise of our jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution but also to secure that the stream of administration of justice flows unsullied and unpolluted, uninfluenced by extraneous considerations.

 Supreme Court’s decision in Harijai Singh, In Re., (1996) 6 SCC 466 held that:

“10. But it has to be remembered that this freedom of press is not absolute, unlimited and unfettered at all times and in all circumstances as giving unrestricted freedom of speech and expression would amount to an uncontrolled licence. If it were wholly free even from reasonable restraints it would lead to disorder and anarchy. The freedom is not to be misunderstood as to be a press free to disregard its duty to be responsible. In fact, the element of responsibility must be present in the conscience of the journalists.”

PCI Guidelines

Electronic media should also be guided by the contents of the guidelines of the PCI on reporting of death cases by suicide for two reasons: first, the said guidelines have a statutory flavour and similar such binding guidelines on reporting cases of death by suicide are non-existent for the electronic media; and secondly, the absence of such guidelines could lead to the dignity of the dead being breached with impunity.

The death of the actor was followed by such crude, indecent and distasteful news reporting by a few of the TV channels that we do not consider it worthy of being referred to here and be a part of this judgment.

Court’s Ruling

“No report/discussion/debate/ interview should be presented by the press/media which could harm the interests of the accused being investigated or a witness in the case or any such person who may be relevant for any investigation, with a view to satiate the thirst of stealing a march over competitors in the field of reporting.”

High Court opined that the press/media ought to avoid/regulate certain reports/discussions/debates/interviews in respect of and/or touching upon any on-going inquiry/investigation into a criminal offence.

Hence, Bench directed the press/ media to exercise restraint and refrain from printing/displaying any news item and/or initiating any discussion/debate/interview of nature, as indicated hereunder:

  1. In relation to death by suicide, depicting the deceased as one having a weak character or intruding in any manner on the privacy of the deceased;
  2. That causes prejudice to an ongoing inquiry/investigation by:

(i)  Referring to the character of the accused/victim and creating an atmosphere of prejudice for both;

(ii)  Holding interviews with the victim, the witnesses and/or any of their family members and displaying it on screen;

(iii)  Analyzing versions of witnesses, whose evidence could be vital at the stage of trial;

(iv)  Publishing a confession allegedly made to a police officer by an accused and trying to make the public believe that the same is a piece of evidence which is admissible before a Court and there is no reason for the Court not to act upon it, without letting the public know the nitty-gritty of the Evidence Act, 1872;

(v)  Printing photographs of an accused and thereby facilitating his identification;

(vi)  Criticizing the investigative agency based on half-baked information without proper research;

(vii)  Pronouncing on the merits of the case, including pre-judging the guilt or innocence qua an accused or an individual not yet wanted in a case, as the case may be;

(viii)  Recreating/reconstructing a crime scene and depicting how the accused committed the crime;

(ix)  Predicting the proposed/future course of action including steps that ought to be taken in a particular direction to complete the investigation; and

(x)  Leaking sensitive and confidential information from materials collected by the investigating agency;

  1. Acting in any manner so as to violate the provisions of the Programme Code as prescribed under section 5 of the CTVN Act read with rule 6 of the CTVN Rules and thereby inviting contempt of court; and
  2. Indulging in character assassination of any individual and thereby mar his reputation.

Role of Media Houses

Bench advised media houses to inform, guide and advise the guest speakers to refrain from making public utterances which are likely to interfere with and/or obstruct the administration of justice and thereby attract contempt.

The role of the anchor, in such cases, is also important. It is for him/her to apply his/her mind and avoid the programme from drifting beyond the permissible limits. Muting the speaker if he flies off or shows the tendency of flying off at a tangent could be one of several ways to avoid embarrassment as well as contempt.

Investigative Agencies

Court also reminded the investigative agencies that they are entitled to maintain secrecy in the course of the investigation and are under no obligation to divulge materials thus collected.

Further, the Court added that:

If indeed there is leakage or disclosure of materials, which has the potential of stifling a proper investigation, it could pave the way for such information being laid before the competent court having powers to punish for cri6minal contempt under Section 2(c) of the CoC Act and in an appropriate case, for being dealt with in accordance with law.

Appointment of an Officer as a Link between the Investigator and Media Houses

Agreeing with Mr Datar’s suggestion Court observed that:

Mumbai Police, as well as the other investigating agencies, may consider the desirability of appointing an officer who could be the link between the investigator and the media houses for holding periodic briefings in sensitive cases or incidents that are likely to affect the public at large and to provide credible information to the extent such officer considers fit and proper to disclose and answer queries as received from the journalists/reporters but he must, at all times, take care to ensure that secret and confidential information/material collected during the investigation, the disclosure whereof could affect the administration of justice, is not divulged.

In case an officer as stated above would be appointed, he would be expected to bear in mind the Supreme Court’s decision in Rajendran Chingaraveluv. R.K. Mishra, (2010) 1 SCC 457.

“Every journalist/reporter has an overriding duty to the society of educating the masses with fair, accurate, trustworthy and responsible reports relating to reportable events/incidents and above all to the standards of his/her profession. Thus, the temptation to sensationalize should be resisted.”

Therefore, in light of the above discussions, the Court disposed of the PIL’s filed.[Nilesh Navalakha v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 56, decided on 18-01-2021]


Advocates for the Parties:

Mr. Devadatt Kamat, Senior Advocate a/w Mr. Rajesh Inamdar with Mr.Shashwat Anand, Mr. Pankaj Kandhari, Ms. Smita Pandey, Mr.Amit Pai, Mr. Vishal Jagwani, Kevin Gala, Siddharth Naik, Pinky Chainani, Mr. Ankur Azad, Mr. Sarveshwari Prasad, Mr. Rahat Bansal, Mr. Faiz Ahmad. i/b Mr. Pankaj Kandhari for Petitioners.

Mr. Anil Singh, Additional Solicitor General a/w Mr. Sandesh Patil, Mr.Aditya Thakkar, Mr.Amogh Singh, Ms. Apurva Gute, Mr. Chintan, Mr. Mayur Prashant Rane, Mr. Sumedh Sahakari, Mr. D. P. Singh, Ms.Reshma Ravapati, Mr. Saurabh Prabhulkar and Medvita Trivedi for respondent Nos.1, 4, 12 and 13.

Mr. Arvind Datar, Senior Advocate i/by Mr. Bharat Manghani for respondent 3 (NBA)

Mr. P. P. Kakade, Govt. Pleader with Mrs. R. A. Salunkhe, AGP for respondent 5 -State.

Mr. Rajeev Pandey with Mr. Madhur Rai i/by PRS Legal for respondent No.6(The India Today Group).

Mr. Kunal Tandon a/w Ms. Prachi Pandya i/by Corporate Attorneys for respondent No.7 (Times Now).

Ms. Malvika Trivdei a/w Mr. Saket Shukla, Mr. Vasanth Rajshekharan, Mr. Mrinal Ojha, Mr. Debashri Datta, Mr.Rajat Pradhan, Ms. Madhavi Joshi and Mr. Siddhant Kumar i/by Phoenix Legal for respondent 8 (Republic TV).

Mr. Angad Dugal, Mr. Govind Singh Grewal, Shiva Kumar, Tanya Vershney, Raj Surana a/w Rishi Murarka for respondent 9 (NDTV Ltd.).

None for respondent  10 (News 18).

Mr. Ankit Lohiya a/w Mr. Hetal Thakore, Mr. Kunal Parekh, Ms. Bhavika Tiwari i/by Dua Associates AOR Mumbai for respondent 11 (Zee News).

Ms. Hetal Jobhanputra for respondent No. 14 (ABP News).

Mr. Jayant Mehta a/w Mr. Alankar Kirpekar a/w Mr. Tejveer Bhatia, Mr. Rohan Swarop, Mr. Shekhar Bhagat i/by MAG Legal for respondent 15 (India TV).

Mr. Siddhesh Bhole, Mr. Rishabh Dhanuka i/by Alba Law Offices for respondent No. 16 (News Nation).

Mr. Siddharth Bhatnagar, Senior Advocate a/w Mr. Pralhad Paranjape for respondent No. 17 (NBF).

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of AM Khanwilkar and BR Gavai, JJ has held that not obtaining prior consent of the State Government under Section 6 of the the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (DPSE Act) would not vitiate the investigation unless the illegality in the investigation can be shown to have brought about miscarriage of justice or caused prejudice to the accused.


Background of the case


In the present case, a joint surprise raid was conducted by the CBI in factory premises of Fertico Marketing and Investment Private Limited and it was found that the coal purchased under the FSA was sold in the black market. It was further found by CBI that this was done in connivance with the unknown government officials which led to loss of Rs.36.28 crore to the Central Government. Hence, an FIR was registered by CBI for the offences punishable under Sections 120B and 420 of the IPC and Section 13 (2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the PC Act’) against Anil Kumar Agarwal, Director of said company and unknown officials of the District Industries Centre (DIC), Chandauli.

During the course of investigation, it was found that two officers namely Ram Ji Singh, the then General Manager, DIC, Chandauli and Yogendra Nath Pandey, Assistant Manager, DIC, Chandauli were also part of the conspiracy. Investigation revealed that these two officials had abused their official positions and fraudulently and dishonestly sent false status reports regarding working conditions of the accused companies and thereby, dishonestly induced the Northern Coalfields Limited to supply coal on subsidized rates, for obtaining pecuniary advantage. Hence, a Post-Facto sanction was granted on 7th September 2018.


Arguments


Appellants

The appellants submitted that in the absence of the consent of the State Government under Section 6 of the DSPE Act, the DSPE (CBI) had no powers to conduct investigation in view of the provisions contained in Section 6 of the DSPE Act and that failure in obtaining the consent prior to registration of the FIR would go to the root of the matter and vitiate the entire investigation. It was submitted that an offence under Section 120B of the IPC read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act cannot stand unless there is a meeting of minds between public servant and the private individuals and as such, an FIR could not be registered. Hence, that investigation in a matter which concerns the conspiracy between the private individual and the public servant, the same would not be permitted unless there is a valid consent under Section 6 of the DSPE Act. Further, the Post-Facto sanction granted on 7th September 2018, would not cure the defect of obtaining the prior consent.

State

The State of Uttar Pradesh has accorded a general consent for extension of powers and jurisdiction of the Members of DSPE, in whole of the State of Uttar Pradesh for investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, with the rider that no such investigation shall be taken up in cases relating to the public servants, under the control of the State Government except with the prior permission of the State Government. As such, insofar as the private individuals are concerned, there is no embargo with regard to registration of FIR against them inasmuch as, no specific consent would be required under Section 6 of the DSPE Act.

Further, public servant under the control of the State Government, if not named in the First Information Report, but if, in the further investigation, is found to be involved in the said crime, the prior permission of the State Government would not be required for investigation and the Post-Facto consent was sufficient.


Analysis


The Court noticed that though Section 5 of DPSE Act enables the Central Government to extend the powers and jurisdiction of Members of the DSPE beyond the Union Territories to a State, the same is not permissible unless, a State grants its consent for such an extension within the area of State concerned under Section 6 of the DSPE Act.

Vide notification dated 15th June 1989, the State of Uttar Pradesh accorded a general consent thereby, enabling the Members of DSPE to exercise powers and jurisdiction in the entire State of Uttar Pradesh with regard to investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and also to all or any of the offence or offences committed in the course of the same transaction or arising out of the same facts.

On appeal filed by the private individuals

“As such, for registration of FIR against the private individuals for the offences punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act and other offences under the IPC, committed in the course of the same transaction or arising out of the same facts, the Members of DSPE have all the powers and jurisdiction. As such, we find absolutely no merits in the appeals filed by the private individuals.”

On appeal filed by the public officers

“… there are no pleadings by the public servants with regard to the prejudice caused to them on account of non-obtaining of prior consent under Section 6 of the DSPE Act qua them specifically in addition to the general consent in force, nor with regard to miscarriage of justice.”

The Court, hence, found no reason to interfere with the finding of the High Court with regard to not obtaining prior consent of the State Government under Section 6 of the DSPE Act.

[Fertico Marketing and Investment Pvt. Ltd. v. Central Bureau of Investigation, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 938, decided on 17.11.2020]

Interviews

Dr. G. K. Goswami, IPS is a decorated officer currently serving as Inspector General of Police, State of Uttar Pradesh. He is a three-time recipient of the Police Medal for Gallantry, the highest national award for police. He is also a proud recipient of the Police Medal for Meritorious Service conferred by the President of India and the Gold Medal for Gallantry conferred by the Governor of Uttar Pradesh. He recently became the first Indian to be awarded the postdoctoral DSc degree from National Forensic Sciences University, Gandhi Nagar.

Having served as Joint Director, Central Bureau of Investigation for seven years, Dr. Goswami talks about the roles and functions of CBI and why it continues to be the preferred agency for investigation of sensitive cases in this interview with Prachi Bhardwaj.

1. Please tell our readers something about your academic and professional background

Well, I hail from rural part of Western Uttar Pradesh. My initial schooling was in Hindi medium from my village school. Later, I did Masters and PhD in Medicinal Chemistry. Meanwhile I got selected for Provincial Civil Service in my State. In 1997, I joined Indian Police Services and was allotted Uttar Pradesh Cadre. While in service, I completed LLB and LLM and secured several gold medals. My passion for learning motivated me to complete second PhD from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Recently, I have recently been awarded postdoctoral DSc degree from National Forensic Sciences University, Gandhi Nagar under the mentorship of Dr. JM Vyas, Vice Chancellor. My focus in research is mainly to explore the interface between Law and Science. I have been selected for Flex Award of the Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Fellowship (2020-21) and plan to visit soon the Cornell University in the USA to learn about fine nuances of “Innocence Project” which pertains to correcting the injustice done to wrongly convicted innocent persons. National Law University, Delhi (NLUD), National Forensic Science University (NFSU, Gandhinagar and Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU), Gandhinagar in recognition of my academic contribution, have designated me as their Honorary Professor of Law.

After serving for more than seven years, on central deputation as Joint Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, India, I joined State of Uttar Pradesh as Inspector General of Police. I got opportunity to serve as District Police Chief (SSP) in various districts including Lucknow, Agra, Varanasi, NOIDA, Moradabad, Etawah, etc. I also rendered my expertise as Operational Chief while posted as SSP, Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Uttar Pradesh. Earlier, I also worked on foreign deputation as an expert on organised crimes in the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) and had the opportunity to visit many countries to share experience and views on wide spectrum of issues related to policing and law enforcement.

2. Almost everyone knows what CBI is but not many know that it was originally set up only to investigate bribery and corruption. Please enlighten our readers about how the CBI that we know today came into existence.

The origin of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) can be traced back to 1941 during Second World War, when the British Government in India, for specific purpose, initiated Special Police Establishment (SPE) with headquarter at Lahore, to investigate cases of alleged bribery and corruption in transactions with War and Supply Department of India. The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 braces the legal sanctity for this organisation and widened its scope for investigation to entire country. The name CBI came into existence from 1 April 1963 having Padam Bhushan Sri DP Kohli as its founding director.

3. What is a CBI investigation and how is it different from a police investigation?

Well, legally speaking, CBI and State police draw investigating powers from same sources like the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. However, there may be very few procedural variations based on traditions. The major strength of CBI lies in its procedural probity and professionalism. The investigators in CBI, compared to local police are specialised and over the period of time have gained domain expertise. Further, CBI equally emphasises on follow up of cases during court proceedings. The local police have multi-tasking, having foremost priority for maintaining law and order; consequently, for them investigation and trial take the back seat in order of priority. On the other hand, CBI is devoted to investigation with scientific temper and rigorous multi-layered supervision by senior and experienced police officers. Senior police officers are selected from all over India for time bound deputation based on a rigorous process. These supervisory officers are the backbone of the Bureau since they have huge experience and repute and provide all India canvas to the organisation. Prosecutors also immensely contribute to CBI during investigation in addition to courtroom activities.

4. How is the CBI different from the National Investigation Agency?

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is mandated primarily to investigate and prosecute cases related to national sovereignty and security. Earlier this mandate was assigned to CBI but now NIA, under the NIA Act, 2008 is assigned this onerous task. Dealing with terrorism in tandem with the States is forte of NIA.

5. What kind of crimes can the CBI investigate?

The areas for crime investigation by CBI are assigned under Section 3 of the DSPE Act. At present, CBI investigates and prosecutes various domain of heinous and complex cases like conventional crimes (murder, rape, etc.), anti-corruption, banking and financial institutions’ frauds, economic offences, cybercrimes, etc. CBI has specialised branches, having territorial jurisdiction, spread all over India.

6. Can CBI suo-motu initiate investigation in a matter?

One must understand that crime control and maintenance of law and order are subject of State List as enshrined under the Seventh Schedule of Article 246 of the Indian Constitution, 1950. The DSPE Act enables CBI to register and investigate a criminal case against public servant (including private persons or company) serving in an office of the Central Government located anywhere in India. Legally speaking, CBI has inherent jurisdiction in Union Territories for offences described under Section 3 of the DSPE Act.

However, as convention for amicable relationship, cases related to other than office of Central Government are being investigated by CBI only after a notification (under Section 5 of the DSPE Act) of the Central Government on the request of transfer of investigation to CBI by Notification of the State Government (under Section 6 of the DSPE Act). The Central Government has discretion to accept or reject the notification of the State government for transfer of investigation. In case of offences, with certain exceptions, under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 read with PC (Amendment) Act, 2018 prior approval of the government under Section 17-A is needed prior to institute enquiry, inquiry or investigation. However, the constitutional courts (the Supreme Court for entire India and the high court within territorial jurisdiction) has inherent power to transfer the investigation of a criminal matter to CBI, PIL here plays significant role.

7. Some States have withdrawn “General Consent” to investigate – what does that mean and how does that function? Can the Supreme Court or High Courts still direct a CBI investigation in those States?

Section 3 of the DSPE Act, empowers the Central Government to specify the offences that may be investigated by CBI, in furtherance of which, State Governments extends written consent i.e. “general consent” that investigation may be carried out by CBI for such specified offences as far as the persons employed in the Central Government are concerned. Consent or no consent, CBI suo motu cannot initiate investigation against any State Government official or employee without specific notifications of the state and the central government.

The State also has the power to withdraw its consent, if so desired, but from a prospective effect. It cannot withdraw consent retrospectively after the case has been registered by CBI. The effect of the withdrawal of the consent would be that CBI cannot initiate investigation or enquiry against employees of the central government.

As far as the second part of the question is concerned, there is neither a written law that states that the Supreme Court and the High Courts can direct a CBI investigation in the States where general consent has been withdrawn, nor is there any bar on the higher judiciary to do so. However, as per precedents, the Supreme Court and High Courts can direct a CBI investigation anywhere in the country without the consent of the State.

8. How important is the role of State Police in CBI investigation? What kind of relationship do both share?

CBI, once assume a criminal case, per se, is completely independent to investigate and State Government has no direct role or control. However, it is expected from the State to cooperate CBI in order to facilitate fair investigation, and if needed, provides basic amenities and support like guest house, etc.

9. As we recently saw in the Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case, most often than not, by the time a case is handed over to the agency, much time has already lapsed since the date of occurrence of the event that is to be investigated. Would you walk us through the process of enquiry and collection of evidence in such cases?

It is a fact that CBI assumes cases after lapse of time which sometimes may extend to several years. By the time, the scene of crime generally got contaminated due to multiple visits by several persons including the local police. The casual approach of stakeholders, ruthlessly compromise the integrity of crime scene, posing great challenge to investigators for collection of physical and forensic evidence having evidentiary credence. Nevertheless, professional agency like CBI does its level best to collect the evidence with the help of forensic and other domain experts to reach to the bottom of truth behind a crime. Law enforcement agencies (LEA), in conventional crime like murder, constitutes a team of domain experts, which visit the crime scene, conduct detailed inspection of place of occurrence (PoO) and if needed, recreates the crime scene. For this purpose, dummies and other forensic tools are used to recreate the chain of events. Indeed, Criminalistics plays great aid for investigation in such situations. In cold or blind cases, LEAs take services of experts of deception detection techniques (DDTs or Truth machines) such as Polygraph (Lie Detector), Brain Mapping, Narco-analysis and psychological autopsy. However, the finding of these techniques, per se, has no evidentiary value until lead to some recovery under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act. However, these techniques may be useful to get some clinching clues as ray of hope in blind landscape for advancing investigation. Narco-analysis has evident conflicts with the right against testimonial compulsion and hence banned in various developed nations. In India, Selvi v. State of Karnataka [(2010) 7 SCC 263] deals with this issue and allowed to conduct DDT with prior consent of the subject. However, in my view this issue needs detailed legal discourse.

10. High profile cases such as the Sushant Singh Rajput investigation or as we saw in Arushi-Hemraj case, investigation is under extreme media scrutiny, some would say, the media is being the investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury all in one,

(a) how difficult is it to investigate such?

(b) Investigation officers are after all human, can they be expected to not be influenced by the media reports?

Well, I feel that once a case is assigned to prestigious Bureau, people including media must have faith on the investigating agency and if anyone has any clue, it may be shared with the investigating team or the Bureau. Media widely influences public perception and hoi polloi wish to have same result of investigation as projected on TV screen, which may be sometimes otherwise based on final analysis of facts and evidence of a case. Normally, professional agency like CBI is used to face such adverse conditions, but independent witness of the case may suffer more with the line of media projection and may vacillate to come forward to assist during the course of investigation.

11. To sum up, despite criticism, why do you think CBI continues to be the preferred agency for investigation of sensitive case?

As discussed above, CBI is known for its professional approach which is recognised by everyone including judiciary and media. Neutrality and transparency in decision making including investigation, in general, are the essentials to earn public faith. Further, I strongly believe that State police have excellent officers at all ranks, but they are not specialised, and more so, overburdened with umpteen number of duties having priority over investigation and trial. In my humble opinion, if State police is strengthened in terms of the separation of law and order from criminal investigation, training of investigators and supervisory officers, facilitating culture of specialisation, augmenting forensic facilities, legal assistance at level of investigation, the faith of common men in investigation by the State police may be restored, which is need of the hour.


*Associate Editor, EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd. 

Legislation UpdatesNotifications

Government of Punjab vide Notification No. S.O. 52/C.A.25/1946/S.6/2020 withdraws the general consent accorded to the members of the Delhi Special Police Establishment.

In view of revocation of all previous general consents issued earlier, prior consent of the Government of Punjab shall be required, hereinafter, on a case-to-case basis for investigation of any offence or class of offences under Section 3 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, by the Delhi Special Police Establishment.


Government of Punjab

[Notification dt. 06-11-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Jyotsna Rewal Dua JJ. disposed of the petition giving relief to the students and awarding litigation expenses as compensation to be paid by the defaulting respondent college.

The instant petition was filed by students seeking the return of their original documents submitted to Himalayan School of Nursing, being run by the Himalayan Group of Professional Institutions, under the aegis of Maa Saraswati Education Trust, registered in the State of Haryana at the time of admission in course GNM i.e. General Nursing & Midwifery Diploma. Even after having approached the authorities on multiple occasions, the college failed to provide the original documents and later confessed to not having them in their possession and the same to be seized by CBI.

Counsel for the respondent submitted that the original certificates are not in their possession and has been seized by CBI. In view of this, Court asked CBI to file a reply. The reply by CBI stated that during search proceedings, files were found and seized for further investigation qua Himalayan Group of Professional Institutions, Kala Amb, Tehsil Nahan, District Sirmaur, H.P., before the Court of Special Magistrate (CBI)-cum-CJM, Shimla.

The Court relied on various judgments emphasizing the evolution of education and its importance, namely Tamil Nadu v. K. Shyam Sunder, (2011) 8 SCC 737 and observed when educator gets down to hand twisting and blackmailing by retaining the original certificates and other documents of its students so as to ensure that their wings are clipped and they do not migrate to any other college or for that matter leave the college.

The Court directed the CBI to retain the photocopies for investigation and return the original documents to the students to prevent any further mental trauma.

The Court further relied on a judgment titled Maharishi Dayanand University v. M.L.R. Saraswati College Education, (2000) 7 SCC 746 and held that petitioner students to be compensated for the legal expenses and hence Rs 50,000 each to be paid by the institution to the students.

In view of the above, the petition stands disposed off.[Twinkle Pundir v. State of H.P., 2020 SCC OnLine HP 1845, decided on 06-10-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Andhra Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of Rakesh Kumar and J. Uma Devi, JJ., while ordering CBI investigation in regard to defamatory posts being put up against the Judiciary on social media sites, observed that,

“Petitioner i.e. High Court of Andhra Pradesh is being attacked by some corner with some oblique motive.”

High Court

Petitioner i.e. High Court, whose shoulder is heavily burdened with the responsibility of mainly protecting the right of a citizen guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution of India, is itself before this Court with inward pain due to indirect/direct attack on it by some of the malefactors.

News Trend: Abuse the High Court & Judges

This Court has since April, 2020 noticed that a new trend has developed in the State of Andhra Pradesh which is to abuse the High Court and its Judges on different social media sites along with interviews on electronic media.

No platform for Judges

Judges do not have any platform to prove their sincerity, integrity, etc. even in a case they are otherwise abused or insulted.

Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

Provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, in a case of willful disobedience/insult to the Court, one can be dealt with, but the fact remains that penal provisions under the Contempt of Courts Act are though enough to deter persons, who have some faith in the system; but not enough to deter such malefactors in making unwarranted allegations against the Judiciary or Judges.

Waging War –> Judiciary

It has been noted that the person occupying high posts are indulging in waging war against the State of Andhra Pradesh’s Judicial system. The said war against the judicial system will certainly create unnecessary doubt in the citizen’s mind leading to crippling the entire system.

Article 226 of the Constitution of India

In view of the above background, the Andhra Pradesh High Court, Amravati has preferred to invoke the writ jurisdiction under Article 226 with a view to protecting its entity from the attack of some antisocial elements in the State.

Increase in defamatory posts on social media

After filing two complaints by the Registrar General of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh for the offences under Sections 505 (2) and 506 of the Penal Code, 1860, instead of a decline in posting defamatory posts on social media, it started increasing.

In an earlier incident, one of the alleged accused Kondareddydhanireddy, YSRCP had shared a defamatory post against one of the Judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

In the present context, the Judges have been abused in view of some of the orders passed by this Court.

Impact | Orders against State Government and its functionaries

On 22-05-2020, different benches of this Court had passed different orders against the orders and actions of the State Government and its functionaries.

Immediately after the passing of the above-stated orders, social media was flooded with objectionable posts. Even the persons occupying high positions went to the media and gave interviews against the High Court and its Judges, that too, from the party office belonging to a political party, which is in power.

Investigation

Petitioners Counsel tried to persuade the Court that against the Judiciary, which is one of the main pillars of the democracy, such scathing attack is being made with impunity, which requires immediate intervention and thorough investigation; and, as such, it was prayed to entrust the investigation into the aforesaid matter to an independent investigating agency.

He further submitted that since the attack has been made by the persons occupying high positions and associated with the Government, there was no possibility of an independent and fair investigation at the hands of the State Government controlled agency.

Bench in view of the above directed to entrust all the FIRs to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Court added that,

While conducting an investigation, it would be necessary to examine as to whether such attacks on Judiciary were made as a result of a larger conspiracy or not.

If it is noticed that it was due to the result of larger conspiracy, the CBI is required to take appropriate action against such culprits irrespective of the post and position.

Court while concluding its decision directed that CBI immediately after taking up investigation may take steps so that all the defamatory posts available on social media, i.e., private respondents, may be struck down and may also take steps to block such users in accordance with the law.

CBI shall submit its report in a sealed cover to the Court within 8 weeks.

The matter has been lited for 14-12-2020.[High Court of Andhra Pradesh at Amaravati v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 2020 SCC OnLine AP 1019, decided on 12-10-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee, JJ has directed a de novo investigation into the suspicious death of National Law University (NLU)-Jodhpur student Vikrant Nagaich in 2017.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

The third-year law student, Vikrant was found dead on August 14, 2017, under unnatural circumstances near a railway track opposite the university. As per the authorities, the student committed suicide due to alleged depression.

Neetu Kumar Nagaich, the mother of the deceased student, had sought transfer of the investigation in the case from the Rajasthan police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). She approached the court and accused the state police of “lackadaisical and callous manner of the probe” into the FIR lodged on June 29, 2018, with Jodhpur’s Mandore police station. She has sought an independent inquiry while complaining of a shoddy probe with probable collusion to shield some influentials.

She that the FIR in the case was not registered for a period of 10 months from the date when the incident occurred, and was reluctantly filed thereafter. Three years since, the investigation is at a standstill with no progress and no chargesheet filed in the case, stated the plea. In the plea, she added that the state was “criminally negligent in the investigation” or was “trying to cover” up for the perpetrators or had some malafide intention.

KEY FACTS TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION BY THE COURT

  • The occurrence took place in the intervening night of 13.08.2017 and 14.08.2017.
  • The inquest proceedings under Section 174 Cr.P.C. were registered on 14.08.2017 but remained inconclusive, and in view of the closure report deserves to be consigned. The death of the deceased was initially sought to be passed off as accidental by collision with a train or suicidal due to depression.
  • The F.I.R. under Section 302, IPC was registered very much belatedly on 29.06.2018, albeit reluctantly, only at the persistence of the petitioner and her husband after they repeatedly approached the higher authorities.
  • Even thereafter the investigation remained at a standstill till the filing of the counter affidavit before this Court as recent as 03.07.2020 with the respondents insisting that the death was accidental and that the nature of injuries could not attribute a homicidal death.
  • Earlier the husband of the petitioner had also petitioned the High Court where till 20.07.2019 the respondents insisted that the death was accidental in nature.
  • The Supreme Court had, on 08.07.2020, directed the completion of investigation within 2 months, after which a ‘very lengthy’ investigation closure report was placed before the Court us taking a stand that though the death was homicidal there was no clue.

COURT’S OBERVATIONS

The Court said that the High Court, despite noticing the long pendency of the investigation, took a misguided approach that the petitioner had not expressed suspicion against any one and neither had he alleged biased against the Investigating Officer, to pass an open ended order to investigate the case and file a report. Hence, the investigation remained inconclusive for nearly three long years with the investigating agency sanguine of passing it off as an accidental death without coming to a firm conclusion avoiding to complete the investigation.

The Court noticed that when, on 08.07.2020, it directed that the investigation be concluded within a period of two months and the final report be placed before it, suddenly a very lengthy investigation closure report was filed taking a stand that though the death was homicidal there was no clue. It, hence, said that

“The closure report is therefore, to our mind, a clear hasty action leaving much to be desired regarding the nature of investigation, because if a detailed investigation had already been done as is sought to be now suggested, there is no reason why a final report could not have been filed by the investigating agency in the normal course of events and needed an order to do so from this Court. The entire investigation and the closure report therefore lack bonafide.”

It was, hence, of the opinion that the interest of justice therefore requires a de novo investigation to be done, to sustain the confidence of the society in the rule of law irrespective of who the actors may be.

DIRECTIONS

  • closure report set aside and a de novo investigation by a fresh team of investigators to be headed by a senior police officer of the State consisting of efficient personnel well conversant with use of modern investigation technology also directed.
  • No officer who was part of the investigating team leading to the closure report shall be part of the team conducting de novo investigation.
  • fresh investigation must be concluded within a maximum period of two months and the police report be filed before the court concerned whereafter the matter shall proceed in accordance with law.

[Neetu Kumar Nagaich v. State of Rajasthan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 741, decided on 16.09.2020]