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]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of A.A. Sayed and Surendra P. Tavade, JJ. addressed a Public Interest Litigation filed by former IPS officers with regard to the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.

Media Trial

Present PIL was filed by former IPS Officers, raising concerns with regard to media coverage pertaining to the unnatural death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, which the petitioner’s states may tantamount to media trial.

Petitioners Counsel brought the Court’s attention to the “Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards” issued by respondent 3 — News Broadcasting Association which inter alia speaks of ‘principles of self-regulation’, impartially, objectivity, neutrality and privacy.

Further, the media advisory dated 28-08-2020 of the respondent 2 — Press Council of India has also been observed.

Bench on perusal of the above urged and expected the respondents to exercise restrain in the media reporting pertaining to the investigation of the unnatural death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput which would in any manner hamper or prejudice the ongoing investigation which is being carried out by the respondent 4 – CBI after imprimatur of the Supreme Court vide judgment and order dated 19-08-2020.

Court directed respondent 4 — CBI along with other respondents to file and affidavit in reply.

Matter to be listed on 10-09-2020.[Nilesh Navlakha v. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 895, decided on 03-09-2020]


Read More:

Sushant Singh Rajput death case| SC dismisses Law student’s petition seeking CBI probe

Sushant Singh Rajput death case| SC asks Mumbai Police to submit status of investigation so far; says truth must come out

Sushant Singh Rajput death | Bom HC defers hearing till 21st August, 2020 on plea seeking CBI investigation

Sushant Singh Rajput Death case| SC reserves verdict in Rhea Chakraborty’s plea seeking transfer of case from Patna to Mumbai

Bom HC | Citing Supreme Court’s verdict on transfer of investigation into unnatural death of Sushant Singh Rajput to CBI, Court declines to entertain PILs

Sushant Singh Rajput| Here’s why SC ordered CBI probe into the actor’s death [DETAILED REPORT]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ and Revati Mohit Dere, J., declined to entertain the instant PIL related to the unnatural death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput seeking the same to be transferred for investigation to the CBI  in light of a decision pronounced by the Supreme Court on 19-08-2020.

Court observed that, Supreme Court by its decision on 19-08-2020 ordered investigation into the unnatural death of the film actor Sushant Singh Rajput to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Petitioner-in-person submitted that her PIL should be kept pending so that this Court could monitor the investigation to be conducted by the CBI.

Further, the petitioner’s counsel Subhash Jha urged that Advocate General should make a statement that the officers of the CBI shall not be put under quarantine once they arrive in Mumbai.

High Court dismissed the PIL in light of the same being beyond the scope and as far as petitioner’s counsel’s request was concerned, Court stated that they ought no to pass any order based on an apprehension.

Hence, the Court passed the following order:

Having regard to the directions passed by the Supreme Court in its order dated 18-08-2020 entrusting the investigation to the CBI, nothing practically survives for decision on this set of PIL petitions.

[Priyanka Tibrewal v. Union of India, PIL-CJ-LD-VC-37 of 2020, decided on 21-08-2020]


Read More:

Sushant Singh Rajput| Here’s why SC ordered CBI probe into the actor’s death [DETAILED REPORT]

Sushant Singh Rajput death | Bom HC defers hearing till 21st August, 2020 on plea seeking CBI investigation

Case BriefsSupreme Court

“When truth meets sunshine, justice will not prevail on the living alone but after Life’s fitful fever, now the departed will also sleep well. Satyameva Jayate.”

Supreme Court: A single judge bench of Hrishikesh Roy, J has held the ongoing investigation by the CBI to be lawful and further directed that if any other case is registered on the death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput and the surrounding circumstances of his unnatural death, the CBI is directed to investigate the new case as well. Such enabling order will make it possible for the CBI to investigate the new case, avoiding the rigors of Section 6 of the DSPE Act, requiring consent from the State of Maharashtra.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

The order came on Rhea Chakraborty’s plea seeking the transfer of an FIR, from Patna to Mumbai, accusing her of abetting in Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide on June 14, 2020. Chakraborty, who was reportedly Sushant Singh’s girlfriend at the time of his death, has challenged Bihar police’s jurisdiction in the matter, given that the alleged crime took place in Maharashtra. Apprehending that all facets of the death of the his son will not be investigated properly by the Mumbai police, Krishna Kishore Singh has filed the above FIR on 25.07.2020, which led to registration of the case by Rajeev Nagar Police Sation, Patna. Several allegations are leveled against Chakraborty in connection with the suicidal death of the Actor and, therefore, she has filed this Petition for transfer of the proceedings from the Bihar Police to the Mumbai Police Authorities. Bihar Police had, however, recommended for a CBI probe into death case of actor and the Centre has accepted the same.

DETAILED ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGMENT

TRANSFER POWER UNDER SECTION 406 CRPC

The scope of exercise of this power is for securing the ends of justice. The precedents suggest that transfer plea under Section 406 CrPC were granted in cases where the Court believed that the trial may be prejudiced and fair and impartial proceedings cannot be carried on, if the trial continues. The Court held that only cases and appeals (not investigation) can be transferred.

SCOPE OF SECTION 174 CRPC PROCEEDING AND MUMBAI POLICE’s EXERCISE OF POWER THEREOF

The Court noticed that the proceeding under Section 174 CrPC is limited to the inquiry carried out by the police to find out the apparent cause of unnatural death. These are not in the nature of investigation, undertaken after filing of FIR under Section 154 CrPC.

It further said that the Mumbai Police has attempted to stretch the purview of Section 174 without drawing up any FIR and therefore, as it appears, no investigation pursuant to commission of a cognizable offence is being carried out by the Mumbai police. They are yet to register a FIR. Nor they have made a suitable determination, in terms of Section 175(2) CrPC. Hence,

“The inquiry conducted under Section 174 CrPC by the Mumbai police is limited for a definite purpose but is not an investigation of a crime under Section 157 of the CrPC.”

JURISDICTION OF PATNA POLICE TO REGISTER COMPLAINT

The Court held that the Patna police committed no illegality in registering the Complaint. Looking at the nature of the allegations in the Complaint which also relate to misappropriation and breach of trust, the exercise of jurisdiction by the Bihar Police appears to be in order.

“Registration of FIR is mandated when information on cognizable offence is received by the police and at the stage of investigation, it cannot be said that the concerned police station does not have territorial jurisdiction to investigate the case.”

Moreover, the allegation relating to criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of money which were to be eventually accounted for in Patna (where the Complainant resides), could prima facie indicate the lawful jurisdiction of the Patna police.

It has hence, been held that the stage of investigation, they were not required to transfer the FIR to Mumbai police. For the same reason, the Bihar government was competent to give consent for entrustment of investigation to the CBI and as such the ongoing investigation by the CBI is held to be lawful.

INVESTIGATION ENTRUSTMENT TO CBI

“While the CBI cannot conduct any investigation without the consent of the concerned state as mandated under section 6, the powers of the Constitutional Courts are not fettered by the statutory restriction of the DSPE Act.”

The Court noticed that the FIR at Patna was transferred to the CBI with consent of the Bihar government during pendency of this Transfer Petition. However, in future, if commission of cognizable offence under section 175(2) CrPC is determined, the possibility of parallel investigation by the Mumbai Police cannot be ruled out. Section 6 of the DSPE Act, 1946 read with Section 5 prescribe the requirement of consent from the State government, before entrustment of investigation to the CBI.

“As the CBI has already registered a case and commenced investigation at the instance of the Bihar government, uncertainty and confusion must be avoided in the event of Mumbai Police also deciding to simultaneously investigate the cognizable offence, based on their finding in the inquiry proceeding.”

The Court was hence of the opinion that a decision by this Court on the point would confer legitimacy to the investigation.

“… for the innocents, who might be the target of vilification campaign. Equally importantly, when integrity and credibility of the investigation is discernible, the trust, faith and confidence of the common man in the judicial process will resonate.”

COURT’S DIRECTION ON INVESTIGATION

Noticing that as because both states are making acrimonious allegations of political interference against each other, the Court said that the legitimacy of the investigation has come under a cloud. Accusing fingers are being pointed and people have taken the liberty to put out their own conjectures and theories.

“Such comments, responsible or otherwise, have led to speculative public discourse which have hogged media limelight. These developments unfortunately have the propensity to delay and misdirect the investigation.”

The Court was, hence, of the opinion that to ensure public confidence in the investigation and to do complete justice in the matter, it is appropriate to invoke the powers conferred by Article 142 of the Constitution.

It further noticed that while the steps taken by the Mumbai police in the limited inquiry under Section 174 CrPC may not be faulted on the material available before this Court, considering the apprehension voiced by the stakeholders of unfair investigation, this Court must strive to ensure that search for the truth is undertaken by an independent agency, not controlled by either of the two state governments. Most importantly, the credibility of the investigation and the investigating authority, must be protected.

The Court, hence, noted that a fair, competent and impartial investigation is the need of the hour. The expected outcome then would be, a measure of justice for the Complainant, who lost his only son. For the petitioner too, it will be the desired justice as she herself called for a CBI investigation. The dissemination of the real facts through unbiased investigation would certainly result in justice.

[Rhea Chakraborty v. State of Bihar, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 654, decided on 19.08.2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A single judge bench of Hrishikesh Roy, J has reserved verdict actor Rhea Chakraborty’s plea seeking the transfer of an FIR, from Patna to Mumbai, accusing her of abetting in Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide on June 14, 2020. The Court has, in the meantime, asked the parties to submit written submissions by Thursday i.e. August 13, 2020.

Chakraborty, who was reportedly Sushant Singh’s girlfriend at the time of his death, has challenged Bihar police’s jurisdiction in the matter, given that the alleged crime took place in Maharashtra. Apprehending that all facets of the death of the his son will not be investigated properly by the Mumbai police, Krishna Kishore Singh has filed the above FIR on 25.07.2020, which led to registration of the case by Rajeev Nagar Police Sation, Patna. Several allegations are leveled against Chakraborty in connection with the suicidal death of the Actor and, therefore, she has filed this Petition for transfer of the proceedings from the Bihar Police to the Mumbai Police Authorities.

Earlier, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Sushant Singh Rajput’s father, submitted that

“the Complainant is apprehensive about misdirection of the investigation by the Mumbai Police and, therefore, the Bihar Police Authorities should be permitted to carry on their investigation into the suspicious circumstances on the death of the son of the Complainant.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also informed the Court that Centre has accepted Bihar government’s recommendation for CBI probe into death case of actor. the Bihar Police

State of Maharashtra on the other hand, argued that Patna police has no jurisdiction to either lodge an FIR or investigate it and this has been made a political case. Senior advocate R. Basant submitted,

“the Bandra Police Authorities are conducting a professional investigation and he be given time to place on record the stage and nature of the investigation, conducted so far.”

Senior Advocate Shyam Devan, appearing for Chakraborty, argued that the case is registered at the instance of the deceased actor’s father by the Patna Police Authorities, without any jurisdiction.


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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ, and A.S. Gadkari, JJ., deferred the hearing for PIL’s filed in view of the unnatural death of Sushant Singh Rajput, a film actor.

In the present two Public Interest Litigations, it has been sought that CBI should be entrusted with the investigation into the unnatural death of a film actor, Sushant Singh Rajput.

Advocate General for the State, A.A. Kumbhakoni informed the Court that a petition with similar relief was moved before the Supreme Court, but the same was dismissed.

The petitioner on being asked for the copy of the petition stated answered in negative and added that the Supreme Court while dismissing the petition granted liberty to approach this Court.

Another significant point that the Court noted was the Supreme Court’s order dated 5-08-2020 wherein a status report has been called for from the State of Maharashtra in regard to the stage of investigation by Mumbai Police.

Hence, the Advocate General for the State states that the Court may not pass any order on the present petition and may await the Supreme Court’s decision.

Additional Solicitor General, Anil Singh submitted that on acceptance of the request of the deceased father, the CBI has already registered an FIR, inter alia, under Section 306 of the Penal Code, 1860. He has also questioned the approach of the Mumbai Police in quarantining an IPS officer of the Bihar cadre, who had come to Mumbai for the purpose of ascertaining facts, although four other officers of Bihar Police who had earlier visited Mumbai were not meted out such treatment.

Hence in view of the above stated, Court while deferring the hearing till 21-08-2020, stated that CBI has registered an FIR and it would not be appropriate, at this stage, to express any opinion either way.

It would be just and proper to await the orders of the Supreme Court in the pending Transfer Petition, referred to above. [Priyanka Tibrewal v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 848, decided on 07-08-2020]


Also Read:

Sushant Singh Rajput death case| SC asks Mumbai Police to submit status of investigation so far; says truth must come out

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court:  A bench headed by SA Bobde, CJ dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

“Who are you. You are a total stranger who is unnecessarily interfering in the case. The victim’s father is pursuing the case. We are dismissing your petition. Dismissed,”

The Supreme Court was hearing a petition filed by law student DD Dubey seeking a CBI or NIA probe into the death of the actor.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the senior law officer of the Central government, submitted before the Supreme Court that the FIR registered in Patna in the case has already been transferred to the CBI for investigation.

CJI asked the petitioner,

“We are told CBI has filed an FIR. What is the locus standi of yours (petitioner), in the matter,”

Advocate Subhash Jha, appearing for the petitioner, had sought a CBI probe into the death case, to which the bench said, “don’t argue like this and make absurd statements”.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had earlier sent a recommendation to the Central government for CBI investigation in the case filed in Patna based on the complaint of Sushant’s father KK Singh against actor Rhea Chakraborty under sections including abetment of suicide on July 25.

Bollywood actor Rhea Chakraborty has also filed plea before Supreme Court  seeking the transfer of an FIR, from Patna to Mumbai, accusing her of abetting in Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide on June 14, 2020. Chakraborty, who was reportedly Sushant Singh’s girlfriend at the time of his death, has challenged Bihar police’s jurisdiction in the matter, given that the alleged crime took place in Maharashtra.

Apprehending that all facets of the death of the his son will not be investigated properly by the Mumbai police, Krishna Kishore Singh has filed the above FIR on 25.07.2020, which led to registration of the case by Rajeev Nagar Police Sation, Patna. Several allegations are leveled against Chakraborty in connection with the suicidal death of the Actor and, therefore, she has filed this Petition for transfer of the proceedings from the Bihar Police to the Mumbai Police Authorities.

A single judge bench of Hrishikesh Roy, J has directed Mumbai Police to to file status report on probe conducted so far in Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput death case. Asking the parties to file reply within 3 days, the Court has said that it would hear the matter next week. Read more

(Source: ANI)


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Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A single judge bench of Hrishikesh Roy, J has directed Mumbai Police to to file status report on probe conducted so far in Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput death case. Asking the parties to file reply within 3 days, the Court has said that it would hear the matter next week.

The Court is hearing Bollywood actor Rhea Chakraborty’s plea seeking the transfer of an FIR, from Patna to Mumbai, accusing her of abetting in Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide on June 14, 2020. Chakraborty, who was reportedly Sushant Singh’s girlfriend at the time of his death, has challenged Bihar police’s jurisdiction in the matter, given that the alleged crime took place in Maharashtra.

Apprehending that all facets of the death of the his son will not be investigated properly by the Mumbai police, Krishna Kishore Singh has filed the above FIR on 25.07.2020, which led to registration of the case by Rajeev Nagar Police Sation, Patna. Several allegations are leveled against Chakraborty in connection with the suicidal death of the Actor and, therefore, she has filed this Petition for transfer of the proceedings from the Bihar Police to the Mumbai Police Authorities.

Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Sushant Singh Rajput’s father, submitted that

“the Complainant is apprehensive about misdirection of the investigation by the Mumbai Police and, therefore, the Bihar Police Authorities should be permitted to carry on their investigation into the suspicious circumstances on the death of the son of the Complainant.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also informed the Court that Centre has accepted Bihar government’s recommendation for CBI probe into death case of actor. the Bihar Police

State of Maharashtra on the other hand, argued that Patna police has no jurisdiction to either lodge an FIR or investigate it and this has been made a political case. Senior advocate R. Basant submitted,

“the Bandra Police Authorities are conducting a professional investigation and he be given time to place on record the stage and nature of the investigation, conducted so far.”

Senior Advocate Shyam Devan, appearing for Chakraborty, argued that the case is registered at the instance of the deceased actor’s father by the Patna Police Authorities, without any
jurisdiction.

Observing that truth should come out so far as actor’s death is concerned, the Court placed the matter for hearing next week.

” three days time is granted to all parties to place on record their respective stand in the matter. The State of Maharashtra should apprise the Court on the stage of investigation by the Mumbai Police by the next date.”

[Rhea Chakraborty v. State of Bihar, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 625 , order dated 05.08.2020]


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Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A bench headed by RF Nariman, J has granted Rajasthan Police two months deadline to complete the investigation into the suspicious death of National Law University (NLU)-Jodhpur student Vikrant Nagaich in 2017.

The court was hearing a plea by the student’s mother seeking transfer of the investigation in the case from the Rajasthan police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Neetu Kumar Nagaich, the mother of the deceased student, had 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.

The mother of 21-year-old NLU student claimed 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.

The third-year law student, Vikrant was found dead on August 14, 2017, under unnatural circumstances near a railway track opposite the university. The authorities tried to present the case as that of suicide due to alleged depression.

[Neetu Kumar Nagaich v. State of Rajasthan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 561 , order dated 08.07.2020]

(With inputs from ANI)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Arvind Singh Sangwan, J., dismissed the revision petition filed against the rejection of bail to the accused. The revision petition was filed by the juvenile accused of murdering another child in the washroom of a private school in Gurugram.

Order passed by Principal Magistrate, Juvenile Justice board, Gurugram has been prayed to be set aside which dismissed the application for bail filed by petitioner as well as the Order passed by the Appellate Court, Gurugram.

Rupinder Khosla, Senior Counsel for the petitioner submitted that on perusal of the Order passed by lower Courts the language used by them does not entitle the petitioner concession of bail as the following was observed:

no misplaced sympathy can be shown to a juvenile who has perpetrated the offence like murder.

Further it was argued that, as per Section 12 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 a person who is apparently a child alleged to be in conflict with law, be notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or in any other law for the time being in force, be released on bail with or without surety or placed under the supervision of a probation officer or under the care of any fit person.

Senior counsel for the petitioner has further submitted that in the earlier petition, the CBI has admitted that it has no infrastructure to investigate the case. It is further argued that in the observation home there is overcrowding of children and the petitioner has already lost considerable weight, therefore, the petitioner be released on bail.

State’s Counsel submitted that as per the statement recorded by the probation officer, petitioner’s attitude towards the class was aggressive, he used to remain upset most of the time as he disclosed this fact to his music teacher; he was short-tempered and shouted over children; a low average student in studies; found under the influence of liquor.

Further CBI contended that the petitioner has on his own stated in the Supreme Court that he wants his application to be decided as an adult, there will be no applicability of Section 12 of the Act.

CBI also argued that proper hygiene condition are maintained in the protection home.

CBI adding to its contentions has also argued that considering the nature and gravity of the charge, severity of punishment in the event of conviction and the danger of accused absconding or fleeing, if released on bail; character, behaviour, means, position and standing of the accused; likelihood of the offence being repeated; reasonable apprehension of the witnesses being tampered with and danger of justice being thwarted by grant of bail.

Since petitioner has been facing allegation of committing heinous crime of a 7 year old minor child in a very barbaric manner by cutting his throat and then trying to demolish the evidence, no sympathy should be given.

Counsel for the complainant has also submitted that it is the petitioner’s side, who is not allowing the trial to conclude as they have challenged every order passed by the Courts below.

Bench found it appropriate to not grant bail for the following reasons:

  • Court is not inclined to grant any relief to the petitioner, in view of the order dated 28.02.2019 passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, directing that for deciding the bail application, the petitioner be treated as an “Adult”, therefore, there is little scope for this Court to find out whether the petitioner can be granted the relief under Section 12 of the Act.
  • Board and the Appellate Court have passed a detailed order declining the concession of bail to the petitioner in view of the proviso to Section 12(1) of the Act and this Court find no reason to form a different opinion.
  • arguments raised by senior counsel for the petitioner that the petitioner is not kept in a congenial atmosphere at Children’s Home and is facing medical problem, are not proved from the two reports of the Medical Board stating that the petitioner is not facing any serious problem/illness and rather it is noticed that the petitioner is gaining weight.
  • prosecution has cited certain witnesses, who are minors including the sister of the deceased and therefore, possibility of tampering the evidence, cannot be ruled out, at this stage in view of the totality of circumstances and the affidavit filed by the CBI.

Thus, in above view, revision petition was dismissed. [Bholu v. State of Haryana, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 835 , decided on 30-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: A Division Bench of P.N.Prakash and B. Pugalendhi, JJ., issued directions in regard to the procedure to be followed while transferring the Custodial Death matter of “Jeyaraj and Bennix” to CBI.

In the present petition, petitioner has sought direction to respondent 1 to submit a report on the death of Bennix and Jeyaraj or pass any other order/direction in the present circumstances of the matter and thus render justice.

K. Chellapandian, Additional Advocate General submitted that the State Government intends to transfer the investigation of Sathankulam case to the Central Bureau of Investigation after getting formal nod of the Court.

Bench for the above, stated that with regard to transfer or not to transfer the case to C.B.I, it is a policy decision of the State Government and thus the same will be governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.

Court further issued the following directions on the premise that the case is likely to be transferred to the CBI:

  • Registrar (Judicial), Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, shall take a photocopy of the preliminary post-mortem certificates and certify them and keep them in safe custody and send the original post-mortem certificates in a sealed cover to the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Tuticorin, who, in turn, shall hand over the same to the Investigating Officer of the C.B.I.
  • Judicial Magistrate No.I, Kovilpatti, shall send a copy of his report to this Court in a sealed cover and keep the original report with him in safe custody and hand over the same to the Investigating Officer of the C.B.I.
  • Deputy Superintendent of Police, Kovilpatti Range, shall hand over the Case Diaries in Kovilpatti East P.S. Cr. Nos.649 and 650 of 2020, to the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Tuticorin, for safe custody, who, in turn, shall hand over the same to the Investigating Officer of the C.B.I.
  • Though the accused in Sathankulam P.S. Cr. No.312 of 2020, viz., Jeyaraj and Bennix, are no more, the Superintendent of Police, Tuticorin District, shall hand over the Case Diary and other related records in Sathankulam P.S. Cr. No.312 of 2020 to the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Tuticorin, who, in turn, shall hand over the same to the Investigating Officer of the C.B.I., as those records will aid the C.B.I. Investigation.

Court directed the District Collector, Tuticorin to depute Revenue Officers to the Sathankulam Police Station, for the purpose of preserving the clue materials. 

Assistant Director of Mobile Forensic Science Laboratory, Tuticorin, directed to immediately go the Sathankulam Police Station, to collect the clue materials and assist the Judicial Magistrate No.I, Kovilpatti.

Matter to be listed today, i.e. 30-06-2020. [Registrar (Judicial) Madurai Bench of Madras High Court v. State of Tamil Nadu, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 1249 , decided on 29-06-2020]


Also read:

TN Custodial Deaths | Madras HC passes slew of directions for conducting of enquiry by the Judicial Magistrate in the brutal killing of father-son duo

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A Division Bench of Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and M.R. Shah, JJ., while rejecting the Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV Arnab Goswami’s  prayer to transfer the investigation into FIR lodged against him to CBI, issued a series of directions which may be summed up as follows:

  • Prayer to transfer the investigation to CBI is rejected.
  • Protection against coercive action granted to Arnab Goswami to continue for a period of 3 weeks to enable him to pursue remedies available in law.
  • FIR which has now been numbered as 164 of 2020 shall be investigated by the NM Joshi Marg Police Station in Mumbai.
  • Prayer for quashing FIR No. 164 of 2020 under Article 32 rejected.
  • The FIR does not cover the offence of defamation under Section 499 IPC, hence will not form subject matter of the investigation.
  • All FIRs except FIR No. 164 of 2020 at NM Joshi Police Station are quashed.
  • No other FIR or, as the case may be, complaint shall be initiated or pursued in any other forum in respect of the same cause of action emanating from the broadcast on 21 April 2020 by the petitioner on R Bharat.
  • Based on the threat perception, CP (Mumbai) may provide police protection to Arnab Goswami if it is considered appropriate and for the period during which the threat perception continues.
  • Nothing in the present judgment to be considered as an expression on merits of the allegations in the FIRs. 

Background

Following the broadcasts on Republic TV dated 16-4-2020 and on R Bharat dated 21-4-2020, multiple FIR’s and criminal complaints were lodged against the petitioner ? Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV and the Managing Director of ARG Outlier Media Asianet News Private Limited which owns and operates R Bharat.

The broadcasts were in regard to an incident that occurred in Palghar District of Maharashtra wherein 3 persons including 2 sadhus were brutally killed by mob, allegedly in the presence of police and forest guard personnel. In the said broadcasts, petitioner had raised issues with regard to the tardy investigation of the incident.

Petitioner claimed that the Indian National Congress had after the said broadcast launched a “well coordinated, widespread, vindictive and malicious campaign” against him.

The said campaign by the INC was carried out through various news reports, tweets and multiple complaints against the petitioner seeking investigation into offences alleged to have been committed by him under Sections 153, 153-A, 153-B, 295-A, 500, 504, 506 and 120-B of the Penal Code, 1860. Campaign on social media using the hashtag ? #ArrestAntiIndiaArnab was also doing rounds.

To affirm his claim, the petitioner also stated that the FIRs and complaints were lodged in the State where the Governments were formed owing allegiance to the INC. 

Petitioner refused any propagation of communal views being broadcasted by him on the news channel that gave rise to the numerous complaints. Asserting his fundamental right to the Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India, the petitioner approached the Court seeking protection.

Another petition was filed which was occasioned by registration of an FIR against the petitioner on 2nd May 2020 wherein it was stated that the petitioner had on 29th April 2020 made certain statements on his broadcast on R Bharat that “people belonging to Muslim religion are responsible for COVID-19 spread.”

Challenging the said FIR, the petitioner sought to invoke the jurisdiction of Court for quashing the said FIR and directing that no cognizance should be taken on any complaint or FIR on the same cause of action.

Submissions

Senior Counsel Harish Salve, on behalf of the petitioner, submitted that the petition raises “wider issues” implicating the freedom of speech and expression of a journalist to air view which fall with the protective ambit of Article 19(1)(a). Further adding to his submission, Mr Salve also stated that this Court should necessarily lay down safeguards which protect the democratic interest in fearless and independent journalism.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the investigation be handed over to CBI as the conduct of police in the present case has been disturbing.

Senior Counsel Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, on behalf of the investigating agency of the Maharashtra Police, submitted that: 

  • Facts of the present case clearly demonstrate that in the garb of an arc of protection, the accused is attempting to browbeat the police;
  • Interference in the course of an investigation is impermissible.
  • Though the petitioner is entitled to the fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(a), their exercise is subject to the limitations stipulated in Article 19(2).
  • Transfer of an ongoing investigation to the CBI has been held to be an extraordinary power which must be sparingly exercised in exceptional circumstances

Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal stated that in the exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 32, the Supreme Court may well quash all the other FIRs and allow the investigation into the FIR which has been transferred to the NM Joshi Marg Police Station in Mumbai to proceed in accordance with law.

Analysis

Multiplicity of FIRs

The Bench analysed that the law concerning multiple criminal proceedings on the same cause of action has been analysed in a Supreme Court decision in TT Anthony v. State of Kerala, (2001) 6 SCC 181, and held that there can be no second FIR where the information concerns the same cognisable offence alleged in the first FIR or the same occurrence or incident which gives rise to one or more cognisable offences.

Further analysing the present matter, the Court held that barring situations in which a counter-case is filed, a fresh investigation or a second FIR on the basis of same or connected cognizable offence would constitute an “abuse of the statutory power of investigation”.

The Court on perusal of the various complaints and FIRs observed that they were worded in identical terms and thus in no manner leave a doubt that an identity of cause of action underlies the allegations levelled against the petitioner. Moreover, the language, content and sequencing of paragraphs and their numbering was identical.

Further with regard to numerous proceedings Court went on to say that, subjecting an individual to numerous proceedings arising in different jurisdictions on the basis of the same cause of action cannot be accepted as the least restrictive and effective method of achieving the legitimate state aim in prosecuting crime.

Journalistic Freedom

India’s freedoms will rest safe as long as journalists can speak truth to power without being chilled by a threat of reprisal.

The Court stated that “the exercise of journalistic freedom lies at the core of speech and expression protected by Article 19(1)(a).” However, it was also stated that the right of journalists under Article 19(1)(a) is no higher than the right of the citizen to seek and express.

Free citizens cannot exist when the news media is chained to adhere to one position.

Considering all the aspects, in the present case, the Court thought necessary to intervene to protect the rights of the petitioner as a citizen and as a journalist to fair treatment and liberty to conduct an independent portrayal of views.

Transfer of investigation to CBI

It was noted that the precedents of the Supreme Court emphasise that transferring of investigation to CBI is an “extraordinary power” to be used “sparingly” and “in exceptional circumstances”.

Further the Bench opined that one factor that courts may consider is that such transfer is “imperative” to retain “public confidence in the impartial working of the State agencies”.

Reiterating the principle laid down in the decision of Romila Thapar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 753, the Court opined that accused does not have a say in the matter of appointment of investigating agency. Reliance was placed on a number of Supreme Court’s earlier decisions.

The Court held that so long as the investigation does not violate any provision of law, the investigation agency is vested with the discretion in directing the course of investigation, which includes determining the nature of the questions and the manner of interrogation.

Having analysed all the aspects, the Court issued the directions as mentioned above.[Arnab Ranjan Goswami v. Union of India,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 462 , decided 19-05-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench Dr DY Chandrachud and MR Shah, JJ has refused to transfer to CBI the criminal cases lodged against Republic TV Editor in-Chief Arnab Goswami for alleged defamatory news show telecast on April 21 in connection with the Palghar mob-lynching case. It also quashed all FIRs against Arnab Goswami except one which was filed in Nagpur and which has been transferred to Mumbai via order dated 24.04.2020. The Court, however, held,

“The petitioner would be at liberty to pursue such remedies as are available in law under the CrPC before the competent forum. Any such application shall be considered on its own merits by the competent court”

The Court further directed that the protection granted to the Goswami on 24 April 2020 against coercive steps be extended for a period of three weeks to enable him to pursue the remedies available in law. It also asked the CP, Mumbai to consider the request of Goswami for the provision of security at his residence and business establishment in Mumbai, in accordance with law.

“Based on the threat perception, police protection may be provided if it is considered appropriate and for the period during which the threat perception continues.”

Factual Background

Goswami had attacked Sonia Gandhi in one of his shows on Republic TV and had claimed that she had orchestrated the Palghar lynching in Maharashtra, where 3 Hindu religious leaders, who were on their way to Silvassa on April 16, were lynched by local residents on the suspicion that they were thieves. He questioned Sonia Gandhi’s silence over the incident and asked if she would have been quiet if Muslim or Christian religious leaders would have been lynched instead of Hindu leaders.

After the incident was given a communal angle, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh shared the list of 101 people taken into custody in connection with the lynching, and said none of those arrested were Muslim.Goswami later attacked Congress for orchestrating an attack on him and his wife in Mumbai after they were returning from work.

On refusing to transfer the matter to CBI

On the scope of power to transfer the case to CBI, the  no inflexible guidelines are laid down, the notion that such a transfer is an “extraordinary power” to be used “sparingly” and “in exceptional circumstances” comports with the idea that routine transfers would belie not just public confidence in the normal course of law but also render meaningless the extraordinary situations that warrant the exercise of the power to transfer the investigation.

“An accused person does not have a choice in regard to the mode or manner in which the investigation should be carried out or in regard to the investigating agency.”

The Court considered the fact that Goswami had requested for and consented to the transfer of the investigation of the FIR from the Police Station Sadar, District Nagpur City to the NM Joshi Marg Police Station in Mumbai. He did so because an earlier FIR lodged by him at that police station was under investigation. The Court was irked by the fact that Goswami now sought to preempt an investigation by the Mumbai police on untenable grounds.

Grounds on which transfer was sought

    1. The length of the interrogation which took place on 27 April 2020;
    2. The nature of the inquiries which were addressed to the Petitioner and the CFO and the questions addressed during interrogation;
    3. The allegations leveled by the petitioner against the failure of the State government to adequately probe the incident at Palghar involving an alleged lynching of two persons in the presence of police and forest department personnel;
    4. Allegations which have been made by the petitioner on 28 April 2020 in regard to CP, Mumbai; and
    5. Tweets on the social media by activists of the INC and the interview by the complainant to a representative of R Bharat.

Noticing that as long as the investigation does not violate any provision of law, the investigation agency is vested with the discretion in directing the course of investigation, which includes determining the nature of the questions and the manner of interrogation, the Court said,

“The line of interrogation either of the petitioner or of the CFO cannot be controlled or dictated by the persons under investigation/interrogation”

It was noticed that though an individual under investigation has a legitimate expectation of a fair process which accords with law,

“The displeasure of an accused person about the manner in which the investigation proceeds or an unsubstantiated allegation (as in the present case) of a conflict of interest against the police conducting the investigation must not derail the legitimate course of law and warrant the invocation of the extraordinary power of this Court to transfer an investigation to the CBI.”

On quashment of all but one FIR

The Court stated that the filing of multiple FIRs arising out of the same telecast of the show hosted by the petitioner is an abuse of the process and impermissible. Hence, stating that it has not gone into the merits of any of the FIRs, the Court directed,

“No other FIR or, as the case may be, complaint shall be initiated or pursued in any other forum in respect of the same cause of action emanating from the broadcast on 21 April 2020 by the petitioner on R Bharat.”

It, further, clarified that any other FIRs or complaints in respect of the same cause of action emanating from the broadcast on 21 April 2020, other than the FIRs or complaints quashed by the Court, are also not maintainable.

On non-quashment of FIR transferred to Mumbai from Nagpur

The Court noticed that the FIR which is now under investigation at the NM Joshi Marg Police Station in Mumbai does not and cannot cover any alleged act of criminal defamation.

It, hence, said that it would be inappropriate for the court to exercise its jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution for the purpose of quashing FIR under investigation at the NM Joshi Marg Police Station in Mumbai considering that the checks and balances to ensure the protection of the Goswami’s liberty are governed by the CrPC.

It further took note of the fact that despite the liberty being granted to Goswami on 24 April 2020, he did not pursue available remedies in the law, but sought instead to invoke the jurisdiction of this Court. Whether the allegations contained in the FIR do or do not make out any offence as alleged will not be decided in pursuance of the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 32, to quash the FIR. Stating that Goswami has an equally efficacious remedy available before the High Court, the Court said that he must be relegated to the pursuit of the remedies available under the CrPC.

It, however, clarified,

“We should not be construed as holding that a petition under Article 32 is not maintainable. But when the High Court has the power under Section 482, there is no reason to by-pass the procedure under the CrPC, we see no exceptional grounds or reasons to entertain this petition under Article 32. There is a clear distinction between the maintainability of a petition and whether it should be entertained. In a situation like this, and for the reasons stated hereinabove, this Court would not like to entertain the petition under Article 32 for the relief of quashing the FIR being investigated at the NM Joshi Police Station in Mumbai which can be considered by the High Court.”

[Arnab Ranjan Goswami v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 462 , decided on 19.05.2020]


Also read: 

SC grants 3 weeks protection from arrest to Arnab Goswami; stays all but one FIR

Verdict reserved; Goswami’s interim protection extended till the delivery of judgment

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The Court has declined to stay the investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged involvement of some PMO officials in the coal scam case against Jindal Steel.

The CBI had on January 5 registered another case in the coal block allocation scam, which took place during 1993 and 2005. The case was registered against JSW Ispat Steel Limited, then Nippon Denro Ispat Limited (NDIL), and some unknown public servants. According to FIR, the Ministry of Coal at the time had allocated the coal block to NDIL, which was not in line with the notification issued for the coal block to be allocated to private companies.

The CBI said that the Coal Ministry had issued a notification that allowed a company to have two subsidiary companies, with one running a power plant and
the other for mining coal exclusively for the plant. However, the arrangement resulted in the coal block to be run by the Central India Power Company Limited (CIPCO), a company set up by the Ispat Group, with another company — Central India Coal Company Limited (CICCL) — would be mining the coal, while the Ispat Urja Limited owned 26 per cent equity capital in both the firms.

The CBI further alleged the NDIL was allocated the Khiloni Block even after several screening committees agreed not to put it up for allocation. The NDIL FIR pertains to the blocks allocated to it from 1996 to 1998. The preliminary enquiry in the case covered the allocation of 24 coal blocks during the period of 1996-2005. The preliminary enquiry (PE) was started in 2012 based on a complaint by seven MPs including Sandeep Dikshit, which was converted into an FIR on December 31, 2019.

(Source: ANI)