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Rhea Chakraborty V/s State of Bihar & Ors. (Transfer Petition)

The entrustment of investigation to the CBI is permitted either with consent of the concerned state or on order of the constitutional court. However, investigation of a crime by multiple authorities transgressing into the others domain, is avoidable

Case name:Rhea Chakraborty V/s State of Bihar & Ors.
Case number:Transfer Petition (Crl.) No.225 of 2020
Court:The Supreme Court of India
Bench:Justice Hrishikesh Roy
Decided on:August 19, 2020
Relevant Act/Sections:Section 154, 157, 174, 175, 181{4}, 406 of CRPC, 1973, Sections 341, 342, 380, 406, 420, 306, 506 and 120B of the IPC, 1860, Section 6 of the DSPE, 1946, Article 142 of the Constitution of India, 1950, Money Laundering Act, 2002

BRIEF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

  • The factual circumstances in this case was that the petitioner is a friend of the deceased, and she too is in the acting field since last many years.
  • As regards the allegations against the petitioner in the FIR, the petitioner claims that she has been falsely implicated in the Patna FIR, filed by Krishan Kishor Singh (respondent no. 2) – the  father  of  the deceased actor.
  • The petitioner and the deceased were in a live in relationship but on 8.6.2020, a few days prior to the death of the actor, she had shifted to her own residence at Mumbai.  According to the petitioner, the Mumbai Police is competent to undertake the investigation, even for the FIR lodged at Patna.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

  • This Transfer Petition is filed under section 406 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 with Order XXXIX  of  the  Supreme  Court Rules, 2013  with  prayer  for  transfer  of the FIR No. 241 of 2020 (dated 25.7.2020) under Sections 341, 342, 380, 406, 420, 306, 506 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 registered at the Rajeev Nagar Police Station, Patna and all consequential proceedings, from the jurisdiction of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate III, Patna Sadar, to the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Bandra Mumbai.
  • The matter relates to the unnatural death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput on 14.6.2020, at his Bandra residence at Mumbai.  The deceased resided within Bandra Police Station jurisdiction and there itself, the unnatural death under section 174 of CrPC was reported.  

ISSUE BEFORE THE COURT:

  • Whether this Court has power to transfer investigation (not case or appeal) under Section 406 of the CrPC?
  • Whether the proceeding under Section 174 CrPC conducted by the Mumbai Police to inquire into the unnatural death, can be termed as an investigation?
  • 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?
  • 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?

RATIO OF THE COURT:

  • This court held after hearing the learned counsels that 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 Nadu, (1978) 2 SCC 35.
  • The court observed thatthe contour of the power under section 406 CrPC, it must be concluded that only cases and appeals (not investigation) can be transferred. The ratio in Ram Chander Singh Sagar and Anr. (Supra) according to this court was clearly applicable in the present matter.
  • The 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. 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.  
  • One factor which however is considered relevant for induction of the Central Agency is to retain “public confidence in the impartial working of the State agencies”, as was recently reiterated for the Bench by Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, in Arnab Ranjan Goswami vs. Union of India 2020 SCC Online SC 462. It is also the consistent view of the Court that it is not for the accused to choose the investigating agency. In the instant case, political interference against both states is alleged which 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.
  • The court observed that the Mumbai police still yet to register a FIR.  Nor they have made a suitable determination, in terms of Section 175(2) CrPC. Therefore, it is pre-emptive and premature to hold that a parallel investigation is being carried out by the Mumbai Police. In case of a future possibility of cognizance being taken by two courts in different jurisdictions, the issue could be resolved under section 186 CrPC and other applicable laws. No opinion is therefore expressed on a future contingency and the issue is left open to be decided, if needed, in accordance with law.
  • The court observed after analysing that 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. The court stated that 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. This aspect was dealt succinctly by Justice J S Khehar, as a member of the Division Bench in Lee Kun Hee, President, Samsung Corporation, South Korea and Others Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh and Ors.
  • The court observed that the patna police committed no illegality in registering the Complaint, 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.  At 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.
  • The court stated that the event of a case being registered also at Mumbai, the consent for the investigation by the CBI under Section 6 of the DSPE Act can be competently given by Maharashtra Government. 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. For this proposition, one can usefully refer to State of West Bengal Vs. Sampat Lal (1985) 1 SCC 317.
  • The ongoing investigation by the CBI is held to be lawful. In the event a new case is registered at Mumbai on the same issue, in the fitness of things, it would be appropriate if the latter case too gets investigated by the same agency, on the strength of this Court’s order. 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.
  • As noted earlier, as because both states are making acrimonious allegations of political interference against each other, 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. In such situation, there is reasonable apprehension of truth justice becoming a victim.
  • 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.

DECISION HELD BY COURT:

  • The court stated that conclusion and observations in this order is only for disposal of this petition and should have no bearing for any other purpose. The Transfer Petition is disposed of with the above order.      

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