Case Analysis: Rhea Chakraborty Vs State of Bihar

INTRODUCTION

Transfer Petition was filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court under section 406 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 read with Order XXXIX of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 with a prayer for transfer of the FIR 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.

ISSUES

  1. Whether this Court has the power to transfer investigation 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 the 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;

  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 directions for doing complete justice, in the exercise of plenary power?

RATIONALE OF THE SUPREME COURT

TRANSFER POWER UNDER SECTION 406 CRPC

As per section 406 of CrPC, the Supreme Court is empowered to transfer cases and appeals. This power was given to the supreme court to ensure that trial is not prejudiced and fair and impartial proceedings are carried on. However, the court is not empowered to transfer the investigation to another state, this principle was evolved from the celebrated case of Ram Chander Singh Sagar and Anr Vs. State of Tamil Nadu.

The Supreme Court held that on the contrary references cited by the petitioner where the supreme court had transferred the investigation from one state to another the question regarding the competence to transfer investigation under Section 406 was not discussed.

Therefore, on the issue, Whether this Court has the power to transfer investigation under Section 406 of the CrPC the Hon’ble Court applied the ratio of Ram Chander Singh Sagar and Anr. concluded that only cases and appeals can be transferred and not an investigation.

SCOPE OF SECTION 174 CRPC

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. The nature of power under section 174 of CrPC is different from that of Section 154 of CrPC. In the present case, the FIR has not been registered by the Mumbai police yet. Furthermore, neither the Mumbai police in suspecting the commission of a cognizable offence has considered the matter under the ambit of Section 175 (2) CrPC nor proceeded under section 154 of CrPC to register the FIR or referred the matter to the nearest magistrate having competent jurisdiction under Section 157 CrPC.

The Supreme Court cited the case of Manoj K Sharma vs. State of Chhatisgarh in which it was held that proceedings under Section 174 of CrPC has a very limited scope and therefore held that the investigation on an inquiry under Section 174 of the Code is distinct from the investigation as contemplated under Section 154 of CrPC relating to the commission of a cognizable offence

While applying the judgement in the present case, one can observe that there was an attempt to stretch the ambit of section 174 of CrPC by Mumbai police without registering the FIR and therefore it is clear that as of now Mumbai police has made no investigation pursuant to the commission of the cognizable offence.

Therefore, it would be futile to hold the contention of the petitioner that there exists a parallel investigation by the Mumbai police in this matter. However, if in the future there exists a possibility where cognizance has been taken by two different courts in different jurisdictions then that issue could be resolved under section 186 of CrPC. on this line of argument, no opinion of the court is was necessary on a future contingency,

On the reasons stated above the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the inquiry under section 174 of Crpc conducted by the Mumbai police was limited in nature and cannot be called as an investigation of crime as per 157 of CrPC.

JURISDICTION OF PATNA POLICE TO REGISTER COMPLAINT

The police are under an obligation to register an FIR whenever a cognizable offence is reported to them. As per the precedents, once an investigation has started, the question regarding the jurisdiction of police station not having a territorial jurisdiction cannot be raised.

The court while dealing with this case has cited the celebrated judgement of Lalita Kumari Vs. Govt. of UP. in this celebrated case the Constitutional bench held that:

“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.”

“.....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 the cognizable offence is disclosed or not.”

Furthermore, in the present case, the Hon'ble Supreme Court while interpreting section 177 and 178 of the CrPC and took into account the principles laid down in the case of Satvinder Kaur Vs. State, Y Abraham Ajith vs. Inspector of Police, Chennai & Anr, Asit Bhattacharjee Vs. Hanuman Prasad Ojha and Rasiklala Dalpatram Thakkar Vs. State of Gujarat held that,

The Patna police have not committed any illegality in registering the Complaint of the deceased's father. As per the complaint registered by the deceased’s father, the complaint had serious allegations regarding misappropriation and breach of trust, the exercise of jurisdiction by the Bihar Police appears to be in order.

Since the FIR was registered and the investigation was initiated the Patna Police was within the jurisdiction to not transfer the FIR to Mumbai police or to register a zero FIR and transfer it to the Mumbai police. On a similar rationale, the Bihar Government was competent in order to give consent to the CBI to initiate the investigation and therefore the ongoing investigation by the CBI is held to be lawful.

OPTIONS BEFORE MUMBAI POLICE

The Mumbai police have initiated the investigation under section 174 of CrPC after the unnatural death of the complainant's son and as of now from their end, no FIR has been registered to suggest a criminal aspect to the unnatural death. On the other hand, the Patna police have registered an FIR is competent to investigate in the territorial jurisdiction of Maharashtra as the allegations raised by the complainant which alleges that most of the alleged transactions or incidents have occurred within the jurisdiction of the st