Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud*, Vikram Nath and BV Nagarathna, JJ has held that a Preliminary Enquiry is not mandatory in all cases which involve allegations of corruption.

The Court said that in case the information received by the CBI, through a complaint or a “source information”, discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, it can directly register a Regular Case instead of conducting a Preliminary Enquiry, where the officer is satisfied that the information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence.

Holding that the institution of a Preliminary Enquiry in cases of corruption is not made mandatory before the registration of an FIR under the CrPC, Prevention of Corruption Act or even the CBI Manual, the Court said that issuing a direction to that affect will be “tantamount to stepping into the legislative domain.” 

However, it was made clear that holding the aforesaid will not take away from the value of conducting a Preliminary Enquiry in an appropriate case.

“The registration of a Regular Case can have disastrous consequences for the career of an officer, if the allegations ultimately turn out to be false. In a Preliminary Enquiry, the CBI is allowed access to documentary records and speak to persons just as they would in an investigation, which entails that information gathered can be used at the investigation stage as well. Hence, conducting a Preliminary Enquiry would not take away from the ultimate goal of prosecuting accused persons in a timely manner. However, we once again clarify that if the CBI chooses not to hold a Preliminary Enquiry, the accused cannot demand it as a matter of right.”

Important rulings

Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh, (2014) 2 SCC 1

If the information received discloses the commission of a cognizable offence at the outset, no Preliminary Enquiry would be required. Further, the scope of a Preliminary Enquiry is not to check the veracity of the information received, but only to scrutinize whether it discloses the commission of a cognizable offence.

Union of India v. State of Maharashtra, (2020) 4 SCC 761

The Court reversed the decision of a two Judge Bench in Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra, (2018) 6 SCC 454 [Read more] which had, inter alia, held that “a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by the DSP concerned to find out whether the allegations make out a case under the Scheduled Cases and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 and that the allegations are not frivolous or motivated”.

The three Judge Bench held that such a direction was impermissible since neither the CrPC nor the Atrocities Act mandate a preliminary inquiry.

“In case a cognizable offence is made out, the FIR has to be outrightly registered, and no preliminary inquiry has to be made (…). The direction would mean that even if a complaint made out a cognizable offence, an FIR would not be registered until the preliminary inquiry is held. In case a preliminary inquiry concludes that allegations are false or motivated, FIR is not to be registered, in such a case how a final report has to be filed in the Court. Direction 79.4 cannot survive for the other reasons as it puts the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in a disadvantageous position in the matter of procedure vis-à-vis to the complaints lodged by members of upper caste, for latter no such preliminary investigation is necessary. In that view of the matter it should not be necessary to hold preliminary inquiry for registering an offence under the Atrocities Act, 1989.”

Read more…

Charansingh v. State of Maharashtra,  (2021) 5 SCC 469

An enquiry at pre-FIR stage is held to be permissible and not only permissible but desirable, more particularly in cases where the allegations are of misconduct of corrupt practice acquiring the assets/properties disproportionate to his known sources of income. After the enquiry/enquiry at pre-registration of FIR stage/preliminary enquiry, if, on the basis of the material collected during such enquiry, it is found that the complaint is vexatious and/or there is no substance at all in the complaint, the FIR shall not be lodged.

However, if the material discloses prima facie a commission of the offence alleged, the FIR will be lodged and the criminal proceedings will be put in motion and the further investigation will be carried out in terms of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Therefore, such a preliminary enquiry would be permissible only to ascertain whether cognizable offence is disclosed or not and only thereafter FIR would be registered. Therefore, such a preliminary enquiry would be in the interest of the alleged accused also against whom the complaint is made.

Read more…

[CBI v. Thommandru Hannah Vijayalakshmi, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 923, 08.10.2021]

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Counsels:

For CBI: Aishwarya Bhati, Additional Solicitor General

For respondents: Senior Advocates Siddharth Luthra and Siddharth Dave


*Judgment by: Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud

Know Thy Judge| Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: Dr A.P. Thaker, J. passed an order to grant anticipatory bail for the offences punishable under Section 3(1)(r)(s) and 3(2)(v-a) of the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

An appeal was made to the court after an application for anticipatory bail was rejected by the Special Judge (Atrocity), City Session Court, Ahmedabad.

The fact of the case was that the complainant had a fight with the appellant and during the fight, the appellant assaulted the complainant who suffered some injuries. Thereafter, the complainant lodged an FIR against the appellant under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and Atrocity Act.  

The learned Counsel for the Appellant, Mahesh Bariya and Pooja Baswal, prayed for the grant of an anticipatory bail which was vehemently opposed by the respondent’s counsel, Monali Bhatt on the ground that the offence was made out under Atrocity Act and thus was a grave offence. 

The court placed reliance on the law laid down by the apex court in Gorige Pentaiah v. State of A.P., (2008) 12 SCC 531 which laid down that the preliminary inquiry shall be conducted by Deputy Superintendent of Police to find out whether allegation made out under the said act before registering an FIR relating to the commission of an offence and approval of appropriate authority shall be obtained before arrest of any person in connection with such offence.

The Court thus held that in the present case, it is doubtful as to commission of offence under Atrocity Act. Further, it appears from the affidavit of the complainant that the matter has been amicably settled between the parties and complainant has also tendered the affidavit for quashing the same FIR.  Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, without discussing the evidence in details, prima facie, this court is of the considered opinion that the discretion under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is required to be exercised. 

The anticipatory bail was thus granted with the condition that appellant shall remain present before the Magistrate on the first day of hearing of the application and after all the subsequent occasions as may be directed by the Magistrate. It was also clarified that the appellant, even if, remanded to police custody, upon completion of such period of police remand, shall be set free immediately, subject to other conditions of the anticipatory bail order.[Vipul Maganbhai Patel v. State of Gujarat, 2019 SCC OnLine Guj 832, decided on 10-05-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Holding that the absence of entries in the General Diary concerning the preliminary enquiry is not per se illegal, the bench of NV Ramana and SA Nazeer said:

“As the concept of maintaining General Diary has its origin under the Section 44 of Police Act of 1861 as applicable to States, which makes it an obligation for the concerned Police Officer to maintain a General Diary, but such non-maintenance per se may not be rendering the whole prosecution illegal.”

The Court noticed that CrPC itself has differentiated between irregularity and illegality. The obligation of maintenance of General Diary is part of course of conduct of the concerned officer, which may not itself have any bearing on the criminal trial unless some grave prejudice going to the root of matter is shown to exist at the time of the trial.

The Court, however, rejected the notion that maintaining the General Diary is not necessary and held that if the Officer has not recorded, then it is for the trial court to weigh the effect of the same for reasons provided therein. It said:

“we are aware of the fact that such non-maintenance of General Diary may have consequences on the merits of the case, which is a matter of trial. Moreover, we are also aware of the fact that the explanation of the genesis of a criminal case, in some   cases, plays an important role in establishing the prosecution’s case.”

[State v. H. Srinivas,  2018 SCC OnLine SC 576, decided on 18.05.2018]