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Summary: Rhea Chakroborty vs. State of Bihar. Can court transfer the investigation?

In The Supreme Court Of India Criminal Original Jurisdiction - Transfer Petition (Crl.) No.225 of 2020
Rhea Chakraborty Petitioner Versus State of Bihar & Ors. Respondent(s)

Justice Hrishikesh Roy
Putting to rest some of the speculation surrounding the investigation into the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the Supreme Court today held that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the FIR lodged against actress Rhea Chakraborty was lawful. This case is important also because first time article 143 of Constitution of India was invoked by the single sitting bench of Supreme Court (i.e. Justice Hrishikesh Roy). And several answers of question were answered

Question answered and issue resolved was as:
  1. Whether this Court has power to transfer investigation (not case or appeal) under Section 406 of the CrPC;
  2. Whether the proceeding under Section 174 CrPC conducted by the Mumbai Police to inquire into the unnatural death, can be termed as an investigation;
  3. Whether it was within the jurisdiction of the Patna Police to register the FIR and commence investigation of the alleged incidents which took place in Mumbai? As a corollary, what is the status of the investigation by the CBI on the consent given by the Bihar government; and
  4. What is the scope of the power of a single judge exercising jurisdiction under section 406 of the CrPC and whether this Court can issue direction for doing complete justice, in exercise of plenary power.
Supreme Court of India exercise their power in the case came under original jurisdiction. The criminal transfer petition was filed under section 406 of Code of Criminal Procedure for transferring the ongoing investigation from Patna police to the Mumbai police. Because Rajeev Nagar police station filed case against the petitioner under Sections 341, 342, 380, 406, 420, 306, 506 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The matter related to the unnatural death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Learned counsel from the side of the appellant filed for the transfer the investigation.

So, now there is question before the Supreme Court Whether Court has power to transfer investigation (not case or appeal) under Section 406 of the CrPC because Section 406(1) CrPC states that:
Whenever it is made to appear to the Supreme Court that an order under this section is expedient for the ends of justice, it may direct that any particular case or appeal be transferred from one High Court to another High Court or from a Criminal Court subordinate to one High Court to another Criminal Court of equal or superior jurisdiction subordinate to another High Court.

Section 406 CrPC empowers the Supreme Court to transfer cases and appeals. 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. However, transfer of investigation on the other hand was negated by this Court in the case of Ram Chander Singh Sagar and Anr. vs. State of Tamil Nadu1, In this case Court has to stick with the law and adjudicate that investigation cannot be transferred under this section, so the petition of this case was dismissed.

Supreme Court Having considered the contour of the power under section 406 CrPC, it must be concluded that only cases and appeals (not investigation) can be transferred. The ratio descendi in Ram Chander Singh Sagar and Anr. (Supra), is clearly applicable in the present matter.

In contrary to this, learned council from the side of Maharashtra government putted his views that Mumbai police is doing investigation and honestly and if the jurisdiction has under Mumbai then how Bihar government can demands for CBI. Keeping these views in mind, Supreme Court answer the question. Whether the proceeding under Section 174 CrPC conducted by the Mumbai Police to inquire into the unnatural death, can be termed as an investigation because, Mumbai police filed an ADR (Accidental death report) under section 174 CrPC which grants only enquiry not investigation.

Section 174(1) of CrPC stats that:
When the officer in charge of a police station or some other police officer specially empowered by the State Government in that behalf receives information that a person has committed suicide, or has been killed by another or by an animal or by machinery or by an accident, or has died under circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other person has committed an offence, he shall immediately give intimation thereof to the nearest Executive Magistrate empowered to hold inquests, and, unless otherwise directed by any rule prescribed by the State Government, or by any general or special order of the District or Sub-divisional Magistrate, shall proceed to the place where the body of such deceased person is, and there, in the presence of two or more respectable inhabitants of the neighbor hood, shall make an investigation, and draw up a report of the apparent cause of death, describing such wounds, fractures, bruises, and other marks of injury as may be found on the body, and stating in what manner, or by what weapon or instrument (if any); such marks appear to have been inflicted.

Court stated 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. In the instant case, in Mumbai, no FIR has been registered as yet. The Mumbai Police has neither considered the matter under Section 175 (2) CrPC, suspecting commission of a cognizable offence nor proceeded for registration of FIR under Section 154 or referred the matter under Section 157 CrPC, to the nearest magistrate having jurisdiction.

Justice clearly described that Mumbai police tried to stretch the purview of Section 174 without drawing any FIR, no investigation pursuant to the commission of cognizable offence is being carried by the Mumbai police. Enquiry conducted under section 174 CrPC by the Mumbai police for a definite purpose but is not an investigation of a crime under section 157 of CrPC.

Now 3rd and most important question whether it was within the jurisdiction of the Patna Police to register the FIR and commence investigation of the alleged incidents which took place in Mumbai? As a corollary, what is the status of the investigation by the CBI on the consent given by the Bihar Government?

Registration of FIR is mandated when information on cognizable offence is received by the police. Precedents suggest that at the stage of investigation, it cannot be said that the concerned police station does not have territorial jurisdiction to investigate the case. On this aspect the ratio in Lalita Kumari Vs. Govt. of UP 2.

Insisting on this ruling, as it states two points that:
  1. 120. The registration of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code, if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation.
     
  2. 120. If the information received does not disclose a cognizable offence but indicates the necessity for an inquiry, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether cognizable offence is disclosed or not.

Rasiklala Dalpatram Thakkar Vs. State of Gujarat 3, while approving the earlier decisions in Satvinder Kaur(supra) in the judgment rendered by Justice Altamas Kabir as he was then, the Supreme Court made it very clear that a police officer cannot refrain from investigating a matter on territorial ground and the issue can be decided after conclusion of the investigation Section 156 CrPC to hold that it was not within the jurisdiction of the investigating agency to refrain itself from holding a proper and complete investigation merely upon arriving at a conclusion that the offences had been committed beyond its territorial jurisdiction.

Finally Court reached on the focus to the allegation and stated Having regard to the law enunciated by this Court as noted above, it must be 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

Now, when all the question and allegation by the appellant being answered by the Court, Mumbai police only left with the option of the demand of the unbiased CBI enquiry and court also did same because they found some fault in Mumbai police as the restraining Patna police officials, not providing mode of transport, no full excess to further investigation, Hence court ordered the CBI enquiry.

But the basic motive of the case is to define that no Court posses any power under section 406 CrPC to transfer the ongoing investigation from one jurisdiction to any other jurisdiction and as per the constitutional aspect police is subject matter of the state list so Supreme Court does not owe any power in this criteria. Burt what they owes they follow the same ordering the CBI enquiry.

Lastly court stated that:
In such backdrop, to ensure public confidence in the investigation and to do complete justice in the matter, this Court considers it appropriate to invoke the powers conferred by Article 142 of the Constitution. As a Court exercising lawful jurisdiction for the assigned roster, no impediment is seen for exercise of plenary power in the present matter. Therefore while according approval for the ongoing CBI investigation, 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.

Hence the petition of the transfer of the investigation was being disposed.

End-Notes:
  1. (1978) 2 SCC 35
  2. (2014) 2 SCC 1
  3. (2010) 1 SCC 1

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