Obstruction to Bihar Police team at Mumbai gave rise to suspicion on bona fide of inquiry, says SC

By: |
August 19, 2020 5:22 PM

The bench said that entrustment of investigation to the CBI is permitted either with consent of the concerned state or on orders of the constitutional court.

Mumbai Police has not yet lodged an FIR and they are conducting inquiry under section 174 of the CrPC which deals with finding out the apparent cause of the unnatural death.

Records of the case relating to “unnatural death” of actor Sushant Singh Rajput do not prime facie “suggest any wrong doing” by Mumbai Police, but its “obstruction” to the Bihar Police team could have been avoided as it gave rise to suspicion over the bona fide of the inquiry, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.

The apex court, “according approval” to the ongoing CBI probe into the FIR registered against actress Rhea Chakraborty and others in connection with Rajput’s death, said that Mumbai Police has not yet lodged an FIR and they are conducting inquiry under section 174 of the CrPC which deals with finding out the apparent cause of the unnatural death.

A bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy noted in the judgement that while Chakraborty’s lawyer has reposed confidence in Mumbai Police, the advocate representing Bihar has claimed that it was “trying to suppress the real facts and not conducting a fair and professional inquiry”.

It said Rajput’s father and the Bihar government have alleged that Mumbai Police is “attempting to shield the real culprits under political pressure”, while Maharashtra government has strongly refuted it and said that Patna Police has no jurisdiction to investigate the crime when the incident has taken place in Mumbai.

“The records of the case produced before this court, does not prima facie suggest any wrong doing by the Mumbai Police. However, their obstruction to the Bihar police team at Mumbai could have been avoided since it gave rise to suspicion on the bonafide of their inquiry,” the bench said.

The verdict came on a plea filed by Chakraborty who had sought transfer of the FIR lodged against her at Patna to Mumbai.

Rajput, 34, was found hanging from the ceiling of his apartment in suburban Bandra in Mumbai on June 14 and since then Mumbai Police has been probing the case keeping in mind various angles. In its verdict, the apex court said that, “The police at Mumbai were conducting only a limited inquiry into the cause of unnatural death, under Section 174 CrPC and therefore, it cannot be said with certainty at this stage that they will not undertake an investigation on the other aspects of the unnatural death, by registering a FIR.”

“In the present case, 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,” it said, adding, “Therefore, it is pre-emptive and premature to hold that a parallel investigation is being carried out by the Mumbai Police”.

The top court noted in its judgement that “uncertain about the future contingency at Mumbai”, Rajput’s father Krishna Kishore Singh had filed a complaint at Patna levelling serious allegations against Chakraborty, following which an FIR was registered.

“The case is now taken over by the CBI at the request of the Bihar government. The petitioner has no objection for investigation by the CBI, but is sceptical about the bona fide of the steps taken by the Bihar government and the Patna police,” the bench said.

It noted that during the pendency of Chakraborty’s plea before it, the FIR at Patna was subsequently transferred to the CBI with consent of Bihar government. “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,” it said.

“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. It is ordered accordingly,” the bench said.

It said under the “federal design” envisaged by the Constitution, police is a state subject under List II of Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.  “Therefore, investigation of a crime should normally be undertaken by the concerned state’s police, where the case is registered. There can be situations where a particular crime by virtue of its nature and ramification, is legally capable of being investigated by police from different states or even by other agencies,” it said.

The bench said that entrustment of investigation to the CBI is permitted either with consent of the concerned state or on orders of the constitutional court. “However, investigation of a crime by multiple authorities transgressing into the others domain, is avoidable,” it said.

The Maharashtra government had earlier told the apex court that Mumbai Police has registered an accidental death report (ADR) and commenced inquiry under section 174 of the CrPC to ascertain the cause of death and also to determine whether the death was a result of some criminal act committed by some other persons.

It had also said that statements of 56 persons have been recorded and if the inquiry discloses commission of a cognizable offence, the Mumbai Police would register an FIR.

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