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 state of Maharashtra.

The complaint registered by the Patna police does not suggest anything regarding the Mumbai police having the jurisdiction to investigate in the current matter. Therefore, if a case is registered in Mumbai regarding the unnatural death of the complainant's son, then the Maharashtra Government will be competent to give their consent for CBI investigation under section 6 of DSPE Act.

INVESTIGATION ENTRUSTMENT TO CBI

As per section 6 of the DSPE Act, the CBI is under a mandate to initiate the investigation only when the state government has given its consent for the same. However, this statutory mandate of section 6 of the DSPE Act does not restrict the power of Constitutional Courts.

The court while dealing with this issue gave emphasis on the case of State of West Bengal Vs. Sampat Lal where it was held that section 6 will not come into force when a Constitutional Court gives direction to the CBI to conduct an investigation and counsel for the parties rightly did not dispute it.

The FIR lodged by the complainant was transferred to the CBI with the consent of the Bihar government while this transfer petition was pending. A parallel investigation can be initiated if the Mumbai police after the inquiry under section 174 of CrPc suggests a criminal offence in connection with the unnatural death of the complainant's son and determines section 175(2) of CrPc.

However, since the CBI has already registered the case and started the investigation there is no confusion regarding the simultaneous investigation of CBI and Mumbai police even if the Mumbai police registers an FIR based on their inquiry.

This issue becomes relevant only if another FIR is registered in Mumbai. This decision by the Hon’ble Supreme Court will confer legitimacy to the investigation

DIRECTION ON INVESTIGATION

In this present case, there exists a conflict between the state of Maharashtra and the state of Bihar pertaining to the competency to investigate the case. While citing the judgement of K.V. Rajendran Vs. Superintendent of Police, CBCID, Chennai & Ors the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that transfer of investigation must be in rare and exceptional cases in order to do complete justice between the parties and to instil straight confidence in the public mind.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in this present case considered the apprehension of an unfair investigation voiced by the public and held that the truth must be undertaken by an independent agency which is neither in control of Maharashtra government nor Bihar government.

Furthermore, the supreme court held that if in future a case if registered in Mumbai on the same issue then that case will be dealt by the same agency i.e. CBI, this will empower to investigate the new case without the mandate of section 6 of DSPE Act.

NOTE BY THE JUDGE (Justice Hrishikesh Roy)

“ The actor Sushant Singh Rajput was a talented actor in the Mumbai film world and died well before his full potential could be realised. His family, friends and admirers are keenly waiting for the outcome of the investigation so that all the speculations floating around can be put to rest. Therefore a fair, competent and impartial investigation is the need of the hour. The expected outcome then would be, a measure of justice for the Complainant, who lost his only son. For the petitioner too, it will be the desired justice as she herself called for a CBI investigation. The dissemination of the real facts through unbiased investigation would certainly result in justice for the innocents, who might be the target of vilification campaigns. Equally importantly, when integrity and credibility of the investigation is discernible, the trust, faith and confidence of the common man in the judicial process will resonate. When truth meets sunshine, justice will not prevail on the living alone but after Life’s fitful fever, now the departed will also sleep well. Satyameva Jayate.”

JUDGEMENT

“The Supreme Court in order to ensure public confidence in the investigation and to do complete justice in the matter considered 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 the exercise of a 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. It is ordered accordingly.”

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