This article is written by Gaurav Kumar, from Surendranath Law College (University of Calcutta). The key points on which the Apex Court allowed the CBI investigation in the actor Sushant Singh Rajput Case is depicted under this article.
The term “Police” and “Public order” are subject to the state list under the Seventh schedule of the Constitution of India. However, the Central Bureau of Investigation is an independent premier investigation agency of India. Working under the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions (India), the agency has the power to inquiry into any matter related to the breaches of Central laws. There are certain high profile matters like the present case where the death of the deceased is not natural and it is under suspect. Looking into the nature and ramification of the matter, it is supposed to be inquired at different places and agencies as for the sake of justice to the deceased and its family he left behind. In such cases where the intervention of CBI is sought, such permission to the CBI is granted either through the consent of the respective state government or order of the constitutional court.
The alleged case of unnatural death of a Patna based actor Sushant Singh Rajput (Hereinafter known as SSR) residing in Mumbai had collected numerous media attention for a long time due to the clashes between the two-state governments for the suspicion of transparency in the investigation. The jurisdiction of the incident was vested in the Maharashtra police whereas the First Information Report was also registered in Patna (home place of the deceased) after the complaint of the deceased’s father. Several legal issues pertaining to the jurisdiction of the case arose after the FIR was registered in Patna. This case presented before the apex court by the petitioner Rhea Chakraborty (girlfriend of the deceased) regarding the transfer of FIR registered in Patna to Mumbai as original jurisdiction of the case lies in the place where the incident had occurred. In this article, the author will analyse the legality and the reasons behind the case that led the apex court to allow the CBI investigation.
Brief facts of SSR case
Sushant Singh Rajput, a Patna based actor was residing in an apartment near Carter Road, Bandra in Mumbai where he was found to have died on 14th of June 2020. As the place of incident fell under the jurisdiction of the Mumbai Police so it was investigating the death under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. However, the father of the deceased registered an FIR on Rhea Chakraborty and her family, alleging that she had kept the deceased away from his family and was keeping his bank account, credit cards in her possession. The FIR comprised several charges under Section 341, 342, 380, 406, 420, 306 and 120(B) of the Indian Penal Code. The deceased father was not satisfied with the investigation carried out by the Mumbai police so he wanted the case to be investigated by the Bihar police. The petitioner Rhea Chakraborty reached the apex court seeking the transfer of FIR from Patna to Mumbai citing the Jurisdiction issue which was vested in the Mumbai police.
Arguments made by the petitioner and the respondents
The learned counsel for the petitioner made the arguments that the court in Bihar doesn’t possess a lawful jurisdiction in the matter of complaint as the acts as alleged in the complaint is related to Mumbai jurisdiction. The mere fact that the complainant is a resident of Patna, doesn’t confer rights on the Bihar police for carrying out an investigation. The counsel further added that as the Bihar police had no jurisdiction to make a probe into the case so the transfer of the case to CBI on the consent of the Bihar Government doesn’t amount to lawful consent as according to Section 6 of The Delhi Special Police Act, 1946. The contention was also made that the alleged charges in FIR were also misleading as the complaint fails to disclose how the petitioner’s action had caused the death of the SSR.
The counsel for Respondent no 1 (State of Bihar) learned counsel stated that as the complaint constituted a cognizable offence so it was on the Patna police to investigate the matter. He further added that the SIT formed by Bihar police was not allowed to make inquiries and they were quarantined. Such gesture shows the unprofessional behaviour of the Mumbai Police as they were trying to suppress the fair enquiry made by the Patna police. The counsel further added that for the purpose of the investigation to be conducted in Mumbai the FIR needs to be registered and as the FIR was not registered so the action of Bihar police was legally justified. However, the petitioner Rhea also wanted the inquiry to be conducted by the CBI.
The counsel for Respondent No. 2 (the complainant and the father of the deceased actor) stated that as the death of the deceased had occurred in a very suspicious condition so for the purpose of truth to reveal the fair inquiry is needed. The inquiry of the Mumbai police under Section 174 of CrPC was not about the allegations made by the complainant so the action of Bihar police was justified. The counsel contending the transfer of investigation to the Mumbai police as a result of invoking Section 406, will not be on the merits as the investigation on the issue was pending before the legally competent authority.
The counsel for the Maharashtra government said that the Maharashtra police had registered the Accidental Death Report and commenced inquiry under Section 174 of CrPC. The counsel contended that the Respondent no 2 had registered the FIR a month after as it was inspired by political vendetta.
The Solicitor General of India appearing for the Union of India and CBI stated that the power for inquiry under Section 174 of CrPC was limited to the Mumbai Police as it had not registered the FIR. The SG further added that as the police of both states were influenced by the external factors so the transfer of the case to an Independent agency CBI is justified. He stated that since the complaint included the fraud and money laundry allegations, the central agency Directorate of Enforcement should also be included for fair inquiry of the allegations and both the state police should be kept outside.
Need for CBI in this case
There were multiple issues before the apex court prior to deciding this case. The issues were whether the court had the power to transfer the investigation under Section 406 of CrPC; whether the inquiry made by the Maharashtra police under Section 174 be held as investigation; whether it was under the jurisdiction of the Bihar police to make investigation in the incident occurred in Mumbai, and as a conclusion what is the status of the investigation provided by the consent of Bihar Government; what is the power of a single judge in exercising the jurisdiction under Section 406 and Can the judge under its power vested under Article 142 of the Constitution of India make a decision for complete justice.
Transfer Power Under Section 406 of CrPC
Deciding the first issue the court was of the opinion that as the set precedent states that the transfer plea under Section 406 was only granted in the condition where the court believed that the impartial investigation can’t be carried on. However, such conditions exist in only exceptional cases where the court believes that in a case where if the transfer is not made, it may tamper the investigation, hence lead to denial of justice.
Scope of Section 174 CrPC exercised by Mumbai Police is an investigation or not
Pertaining to the second issue of whether the inquiry made by Maharashtra Police under Section 174 be termed as investigation, the court stated that the inquiry under Section 174 is applied to know the cause of unnatural death. The court further added that for the purpose of an investigation under Section 175(2) of CrPC there needs to be FIR registered under Section 154 or referred to the magistrate of nearer jurisdiction under Section 157. For this purpose, the court paid reverence to the judgment of Manoj Kumar Sharma v State of Chattisgarh stating that the inquiry as conducted by Maharashtra police under Section 174 and 175 was applicable for inquiry made for the cause of death in unnatural offences and it was totally different from the investigation done by Magistrate under Section 157 of the Crpc as the FIR was not registered by the Mumbai Police.
Jurisdiction of Patna Police to register FIR
Dealing with the third issue that whether the Bihar police hold the appropriate jurisdiction to make an inquiry in the incident occurred in Mumbai the court held that as the FIR was registered by Patna police under Section 154 of CrPC. The allegation of criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of money was held to be accounted for in Patna where the complainant resides, the court held that the investigation made by the police officer can’t be denied on the territorial ground. This position of the court was decided earlier in Rasiklala Dalpatram Thakkar Vs. State of Gujarat. Hence, the Court held that the registration of FIR by Patna police was valid and at this stage, they were not required to transfer the case to Mumbai police and the Bihar Police was the competent authority for the entrustment of a case to the CBI so, such transfer was also held as lawful.
Investigation Entrustment to CBI
The statutory provision of section 6 of the DSPE Act states that the concerned state government has to provide permission for the entrustment of the case to CBI. However, in this regard, the court was of the opinion that constitutional courts were not fettered by the statutory provision of Section 6 of the DSPE Act. The court further added that during the pendency of transfer petition the Bihar state government had handover the case to CBI, so in case the cognizable office is proved the possibility of the parallel investigation carried out by Mumbai police can’t be ruled out. Henceforth, the court in relation to endowing the case to CBI held that “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 the Investigation
The court was of the view that both states are making acrimonious allegations of political interference against each other, the legitimacy of the investigation has come under a cloud.
The court further added that 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 a speculative public discourse which have hogged media limelight and hence mislead the investigation of the case. So, for the purpose of doing complete justice with the parties and instil faith in the public the court invoked the powers conferred under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. The Court further added that in case more such cases pertinent to this matter is registered it shall be transferred to the CBI. Henceforth, the court concluded that fair and competent justice is the need of the hour. The outcome of the investigation shall serve as a justice to the complainant who has lost his son and for the petitioner too it will be the desired justice as she had herself called for the CBI investigation. The investigation by an independent body like CBI will surely serve justice.
Section 406 of the Code of Criminal Procedure
Under Section 406 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Supreme Court is empowered to transfer the cases and appeals and not an investigation for the purpose of reaching the ends of justice. However, it is done in certain cases where the court believes that the trail is to be prejudiced and the fair proceedings can’t be carried out.
Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure
Section 174 envisages the power to the police under state agency to the nearest jurisdiction where the incident of unnatural death has happened, to find the cause of the death. This power of inquiry under Section 174 is limited and it can’t be termed as investigation as it is conducted after the registration of FIR under Section 154. So, the nature of investigation under Section 174 is different from that of Section 157.
Section 175 of the Code of Criminal Procedure
This section deals with the power of the police to summon persons in relation to the inquiry related to Section 174. In case the cognizable offence is not proved under Section 170, the suspect person is not needed to present before the Magistrate.
Section 157 of the Code of Code of Criminal Procedure
This deals with the procedure with the investigation of a cognizable offence under which the concerning police has registered the FIR under Section 154. For such purpose, the police is empowered to make an investigation under Section 156 and furnish the report before the Magistrate.
Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure
This section deals with the registration of the First Information Report in case of cognizable offences. The section states that the police will register the FIR in written on the basis of oral directions of the complainant and provide him with a copy of the FIR.
Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946
Under the above section, the CBI can be entrusted with the case on the permission granted by the respective State Government where the case is registered or by the order of the Constitutional court.
Article 142 of the Constitution
Article 142 confers the power on the Supreme Court to pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, exercising in its jurisdiction and any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India. The Court in SSR case has invoked Article 142 of the Constitution to meet the ends of Justice and held the CBI to be an appropriate independent body for conducting the investigation in this case.
The SSR death in the suspicious situation had attracted a lot of media attention as the actor was a very talented one having a large count of followers. The followers were in rage due to the inquiry pattern of Maharashtra Police. The media trail at that time was so rampant that it was diverting the minds of people further putting the investigation of the police in question. The court was under an obligation to determine that under the collision of two politically motivated state police agencies there should be an impartial agency which can investigate the matter in an independent way.
Henceforth, for the purpose of determining justice, it invoked the power conferred under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. The apex court ordered the CBI to be an appropriate body to investigate amidst the indulgence of political interference between the two-state police agencies putting acronyms allegations against one another, as the fair and impartial investigation was under threat. Justice Hrishikesh Roy disposed of the transfer petition stating the below mentioned quote:-
“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.”
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