Judicial Dictionary

Serious deficiencies (investigation)

Transfer of the investigation to the CBI

In a recent judgement of Supreme Court, Arnab Goswami v. Union of India [WP (Crl) 130 of 2020, decided on 19 May 2020 [JT 2020 (5) SC 1]] , one of us (Dr. Justice D Y Chandrachud) had interpreted the rationale underpinning the circumspection in the following terms:

“44- In assessing the contention for the transfer of the investigation to the CBI, we have factored into the decision-making calculus the averments on the record and submissions urged on behalf of the petitioner. We are unable to find any reason that warrants a transfer of the investigation to the CBI. In holding thus, we have applied the tests spelt out in the consistent line of precedent of Supreme Court. They have not been fulfilled. An individual under investigation has a legitimate expectation of a fair process which accords with law. The displeasure of an accused person about the manner in which the investigation proceeds or an unsubstantiated allegation (as in the present case) of a conflict of interest against the police conducting the investigation must not derail the legitimate course of law and warrant the invocation of the extraordinary power of this Court to transfer an investigation to the CBI. Courts assume the extraordinary jurisdiction to transfer an investigation in exceptional situations to ensure that the sanctity of the administration of criminal justice is preserved. While no inflexible guidelines are laid down, the notion that such a transfer is an “extraordinary power” to be used “sparingly” and “in exceptional circumstances” comports with the idea that routine transfers would belie not just public confidence in the normal course of law but also render meaningless the extraordinary situations that warrant the exercise of the power to transfer the investigation. Having balanced and considered the material on record as well as the averments of and submissions urged by the petitioner, we find that no case of the nature which falls within the ambit of the tests enunciated in the precedents of Supreme Court has been established for the transfer of the investigation.”

(emphasis supplied)

The submission of the charge-sheet does not oust the jurisdiction of a superior court, when as in the present case, the investigation is tainted and there is a real likelihood of justice being deflected. In Vinay Tyagi v. Irshad [JT 2013 (1) SC 97], a two-judge Bench of Supreme Court, speaking through Justice Swatanter Kumar, has held:

“43- At this stage, we may also state another well-settled canon of the criminal jurisprudence that the superior courts have the jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Code or even Article 226 of the Constitution of India to direct “further investigation”, “fresh” or “de novo” and even “reinvestigation”. “Fresh”, “de novo” and “reinvestigation” are synonymous expressions and their result in law would be the same. The superior courts are even vested with the power of transferring investigation from one agency to another, provided the ends of justice so demand such action. Of course, it is also a settled principle that this power has to be exercised by the superior courts very sparingly and with great circumspection.”

(emphasis supplied)

The court held that wherever a charge-sheet has been submitted to the court, even supreme Court would not ordinarily reopen the investigation especially by entrusting it to a specialized agency. However, in a proper case, when the Court feels that the investigation by the police has not been in the proper perspective and that in order to do complete justice, where the facts of the case demand that the investigation be handed over to a specialized agency, a superior court is not bereft of the authority to do so. (Disha v. State of Gujarat [JT 2011 (7) SC 548] and Rubabbuddin Sheikh v. State of Gujarat [JT 2010 (1) SC 99])

In Pooja Pal v. Union of India [JT 2016 (1) SC 430], a two-judge Bench of Supreme Court, speaking through Justice Amitava Roy, observed that there was no embargo on supreme Court to transfer an investigation to the CBI after submission of the charge-sheet in the following terms-

“79- The precedential ordainment against absolute prohibition for assignment of investigation to any impartial agency like CBI, submission of the charge-sheet by the normal investigating agency in law notwithstanding, albeit in an exceptional fact situation warranting such initiative, in order to secure a fair, honest and complete investigation and to consolidate the confidence of the victim(s) and the public in general in the justice administering mechanism, is thus unquestionably absolute and hallowed by time. Such a measure, however, can by no means be a matter of course or routine but has to be essentially adopted in order to live up to and effectuate the salutary objective of guaranteeing an independent and upright mechanism of justice dispensation without fear or favour, by treating all alike…..

81- The judicially propounded propositions on the aspects of essentiality and justifiability for assignment of further investigation or reinvestigation to an independent investigating agency like CBI, whether or not the probe into a criminal offence by the local/State Police is pending or completed, irrespective of as well, the pendency of the resultant trial have concretised over the years, applicability whereof, however, is contingent on the factual setting involved and the desideratum for vigilant, sensitised and even-handed justice to the parties.

83……. Though a court’s satisfaction of want of proper, fair, impartial and effective investigation eroding its credence and reliability is the precondition for a direction for further investigation or reinvestigation, submission of the charge-sheet ipso facto or the pendency of the trial can by no means be a prohibitive impediment. The contextual facts and the attendant circumstances have to be singularly evaluated and analysed to decide the needfulness of further investigation or reinvestigation to unravel the truth and mete out justice to the parties.”

Similarly, in Dharam Pal v. State of Haryana [JT 2016 (3) SC 131], a two judge Bench of Supreme Court, speaking through Justice Dipak Mishra (as the learned Chief Justice then was), upheld the power of the Supreme Court to transfer an investigation to the CBI, irrespective of the stage of the trial. It held:

“24- Be it noted here that the constitutional courts can direct for further investigation or investigation by some other investigating agency. The purpose is, there has to be a fair investigation and a fair trial. The fair trial may be quite difficult unless there is a fair investigation. We are absolutely conscious that direction for further investigation by another agency has to be very sparingly issued but the facts depicted in this case compel us to exercise the said power. We are disposed to think that purpose of justice commands that the cause of the victim, the husband of the deceased, deserves to be answered so that miscarriage of justice is avoided. Therefore, in this case the stage of the case cannot be the governing factor.

25….If a grave suspicion arises with regard to the investigation, should a constitutional court close its hands and accept the proposition that as the trial has commenced, the matter is beyond it? That is the “tour de force” of the prosecution and if we allow ourselves to say so it has become “idée fixe” but in our view the imperium of the constitutional courts cannot be stifled or smothered by bon mot or polemic….”

REF: Dr Naresh Kumar Mangla v. Smt. Anita Agarwal & Ors. Etc. [JT 2020 (12) SC]

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