Transfer of investigation to the CBI cannot be a routine exercise and should be done only in exceptional circumstances, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.
A bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy said one factor which is considered relevant for induction of the central agency like the CBI in an investigation is to retain public confidence in the impartial working of the State agencies .
The court referred to its recent decision in a case related to journalist Arnab Goswami and said it not for the accused to choose the investigating agency.
The apex court made these observations while upholding the Bihar government’s recommendation to transfer the FIR lodged in Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case in Patna to the CBI.
Rajput, 34, was found hanging from the ceiling of his apartment in suburban Bandra in Mumbai on June 14 and since then Mumbai Police had been probing the case but was yet to file an FIR in the case.
The top court’s verdict came on a plea filed by actress Rhea Chakraborty who had sought transfer of an FIR, lodged against her and six others at Patna by Rajput’s father accusing them of abetting the actor’s suicide, to Mumbai.
The court noted that while Rajput’s father and the Bihar government have alleged that Mumbai Police is attempting to shield the real culprits under political pressure, the Maharashtra government has strongly refuted it saying Patna Police has no jurisdiction to investigate the crime as the incident has taken place in Mumbai.
It said political interference has been alleged against both the states and that has the potential of discrediting the investigation.
The legal process must therefore be focused upon revelation of the correct facts through credible and legally acceptable investigation.
It must be determined whether the unnatural death was the result of some criminal acts. In order to lend credibility to the investigation and its conclusion, it would be desirable in my view, to specify the authority, which should conduct the investigation in this matter, the court said.
It said that 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 Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act.
It said the FIR at Patna against Chakraborty was subsequently transferred to the CBI with consent of the Bihar government during pendency of her 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, the court said.
The apex court said that 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 top court said.
The court said it would therefore be appropriate to decide at this stage itself as to who should conduct the investigation on all the attending circumstances relating to the Rajput’s death.
This issue becomes relevant only if another FIR is registered on the same issue, at Mumbai. A decision by this Court on the point would confer legitimacy to the investigation, it said.