Subrata Chattoraj V. Union Of India & Ors.
Subrata Chattoraj V. Union Of India & Ors.  Insc 266 (9 May 2014)
Court Judgment Information
- Year: 2014
- Date: 9 May 2014
- Court: Supreme Court of India
- INSC:  INSC 266
Text of the Court Opinion
(Refortable) IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION WRIT PETITON (CIVIL) No.401 OF 2013 Subrata Chattoraj (Appelant) Versus Union of India & Ors. .Respondents WITH
WRIT PETITON (CIVIL) No.402 OF 2013 AND T.P. (C) No.445 OF 2014 AND WRIT PETITON (CIVIL) No.413 OF 2013 Alok Jena (Appelant) Versus Union of India & Ors. .Respondents WITH
WRIT PETITON (CIVIL) No.324 OF 2014
T.S. THAKUR, J.
1. Writ Petitions seeking transfer of investigation from the State Agencies to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, is by no means uncommon in the High Courts in this country. Some, if not most of such cases in due course travel to this Court also, where, issues touching the powers of the High Courts and at times the power of this Court to direct such transfers are raised by the parties. The jurisdictional aspect is, however, no longer res integra, the same having been answered authoritatively by a Constitution Bench of this Court in State of West Bengal & Ors. v. Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal & Ors. (2010) 3 SCC 571. This Court in that case was examining whether the federal structure and the principles of separation of powers, made it impermissible for the superior courts to direct transfer of investigation from the State Police to the CBI. Rejecting the contention, this Court held that power of judicial review itself being a basic feature of the Constitution, the writ courts could issue appropriate writ, directions and orders to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens. This Court observed:
â€œ51. The Constitution of India expressly confers the power of judicial review on this Court and the High Courts under Articles 32 and 226 respectively. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar described Article 32 as the very soul of the Constitutionâ€”the very heart of itâ€”the most important article. By now, it is well settled that the power of judicial review, vested in the Supreme Court and the High Courts under the said articles of the Constitution, is an integral part and essential feature of the Constitution, constituting part of its basic structure. Therefore, ordinarily, the power of the High Court and this Court to test the constitutional validity of legislations can never be ousted or even abridged. Moreover, Article 13 of the Constitution not only declares the pre-Constitution laws as void to the extent to which they are inconsistent with the fundamental rights, it also prohibits the State from making a law which either takes away totally or abrogates in part a fundamental right. Therefore, judicial review of laws is embedded in the Constitution by virtue of Article 13 read with Articles 32 and 226 of our Constitution.
52. It is manifest from the language of Article 245 of the Constitution that all legislative powers of Parliament or the State Legislatures are expressly made subject to other provisions of the Constitution, which obviously would include the rights conferred in Part III of the Constitution. Whether there is a contravention of any of the rights so conferred, is to be decided only by the constitutional courts, which are empowered not only to declare a law as unconstitutional but also to enforce fundamental rights by issuing directions or orders or writs of or â€œin the nature ofâ€ mandamus, certiorari, habeas corpus, prohibition and quo warranto for this purpose.
53. It is pertinent to note that Article 32 of the Constitution is also contained in Part III of the Constitution, which enumerates the fundamental rights and not alongside other articles of the Constitution which define the general jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Thus, being a fundamental right itself, it is the duty of this Court to ensure that no fundamental right is contravened or abridged by any statutory or constitutional provision. Moreover, it is also plain from the expression â€œin the nature ofâ€ employed in clause (2) of Article 32 that the power conferred by the said clause is in the widest terms and is not confined to issuing the high prerogative writs specified in the said clause but includes within its ambit the power to issue any directions or orders or writs which may be appropriate for enforcement of the fundamental rights.
Therefore, even when the conditions for issue of any of these writs are not fulfilled, this Court would not be constrained to fold its hands in despair and plead its inability to help the citizen who has come before it for judicial redress (per P.N.
Bhagwati, J. in Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India (1984) 3 SCC 161).â€ 2. This Court summed up the conclusions in the following words:
â€œ68. Thus, having examined the rival contentions in the context of the Constitutional Scheme, we conclude as follows:
(i) The fundamental rights, enshrined in Part III of the Constitution, are inherent and cannot be extinguished by any Constitutional or Statutory provision. Any law that abrogates or abridges such rights would be violative of the basic structure doctrine. The actual effect and impact of the law on the rights guaranteed under Part III has to be taken into account in determining whether or not it destroys the basic structure.
(ii) Article 21 of the Constitution in its broad perspective seeks to protect the persons of their lives and personal liberties except according to the procedure established by law.
The said Article in its broad application not only takes within its fold enforcement of the rights of an accused but also the rights of the victim. The State has a duty to enforce the human rights of a citizen providing for fair and impartial investigation against any person accused of commission of a cognizable offence, which may include its own officers. In certain situations even a witness to the crime may seek for and shall be granted protection by the State.
(iii) In view of the constitutional scheme and the jurisdiction conferred on this Court under Article 32 and on the High Courts under Article 226 of the Constitution the power of judicial review being an integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution, no Act of Parliament can exclude or curtail the powers of the Constitutional Courts with regard to the enforcement of fundamental rights. As a matter of fact, such a power is essential to give practicable content to the objectives of the Constitution embodied in Part III and other parts of the Constitution. Moreover, in a federal constitution, the distribution of legislative powers between the Parliament and the State Legislature involves limitation on legislative powers and, therefore, this requires an authority other than the Parliament to ascertain whether such limitations are transgressed. Judicial review acts as the final arbiter not only to give effect to the distribution of legislative powers between the Parliament and the State Legislatures, it is also necessary to show any transgression by each entity. Therefore, to borrow the words of Lord Steyn, judicial review is justified by combination of “the principles of separation of powers, rule of law, the principle of constitutionality and the reach of judicial review”.
(iv) If the federal structure is violated by any legislative action, the Constitution takes care to protect the federal structure by ensuring that Courts act as guardians and interpreters of the Constitution and provide remedy under Articles 32 and 226, whenever there is an attempted violation.
In the circumstances, any direction by the Supreme Court or the High Court in exercise of power under Article 32 or 226 to uphold the Constitution and maintain the rule of law cannot be termed as violating the federal structure.
(v) Restriction on the Parliament by the Constitution and restriction on the Executive by the Parliament under an enactment, do not amount to restriction on the power of the Judiciary under Article 32 and 226 of the Constitution.
(vi) If in terms of Entry 2 of List II of The Seventh Schedule on the one hand and Entry 2A and Entry 80 of List I on the other, an investigation by another agency is permissible subject to grant of consent by the State concerned, there is no reason as to why, in an exceptional situation, court would be precluded from exercising the same power which the Union could exercise in terms of the provisions of the Statute. In our opinion, exercise of such power by the constitutional courts would not violate the doctrine of separation of powers. In fact, if in such a situation the court fails to grant relief, it would be failing in its constitutional duty.
(vii) When the Special Police Act itself provides that subject to the consent by the State, the CBI can take up investigation in relation to the crime which was otherwise within the jurisdiction of the State Police, the court can also exercise its constitutional power of judicial review and direct the CBI to take up the investigation within the jurisdiction of the State. The power of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution cannot be taken away, curtailed or diluted by Section 6 of the Special Police Act. Irrespective of there being any statutory provision acting as a restriction on the powers of the Courts, the restriction imposed by Section 6 of the Special Police Act on the powers of the Union, cannot be read as restriction on the powers of the Constitutional Courts.
Therefore, exercise of power of judicial review by the High Court, in our opinion, would not amount to infringement of either the doctrine of separation of power or the federal structure.
69. In the final analysis, our answer to the question referred is that a direction by the High Court, in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, to the CBI to investigate a cognizable offence alleged to have been committed within the territory of a State without the consent of that State will neither impinge upon the federal structure of the Constitution nor violate the doctrine of separation of power and shall be valid in law. Being the protectors of civil liberties of the citizens, this Court and the High Courts have not only the power and jurisdiction but also an obligation to protect the fundamental rights, guaranteed by Part III in general and under Article 21 of the Constitution in particular, zealously and vigilantlyâ€ (emphasis supplied)
3. Having said that this Court sounded a note of caution against transfer of cases to CBI for mere asking and observed:
â€œ70. Before parting with the case, we deem it necessary to emphasise that despite wide powers conferred by Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution, while passing any order, the Courts must bear in mind certain self-imposed limitations on the exercise of these Constitutional powers. The very plenitude of the power under the said Articles requires great caution in its exercise. In so far as the question of issuing a direction to the CBI to conduct investigation in a case is concerned, although no inflexible guidelines can be laid down to decide whether or not such power should be exercised but time and again it has been reiterated that such an order is not to be passed as a matter of routine or merely because a party has levelled some allegations against the local police. This extra-ordinary power must be exercised sparingly, cautiously and in exceptional situations where it becomes necessary to provide credibility and instill confidence in investigations or where the incident may have national and international ramifications or where such an order may be necessary for doing complete justice and enforcing the fundamental rights. Otherwise the CBI would be flooded with a large number of cases and with limited resources, may find it difficult to properly investigate even serious cases and in the process lose its credibility and purpose with unsatisfactory investigations.â€ (emphasis supplied)
4. We may at this stage refer to a few cases in which this Court has either directed transfer of investigation to the CBI or upheld orders passed by the High Court directing such transfer.
5. In Inder Singh v. State of Punjab (1994) 6 SCC 275 this Court was dealing with a case in which seven persons aged between 14 to 85 were alleged to have been abducted by a senior police officer of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in complicity with other policemen. Since those abducted were not heard of for a considerable period, a complaint was made against their abduction and disappearance before the Director General of Police of the State. It was alleged that the complaint was not brought to the notice of the Director General of Police (Crime). Instead his P.A.
had marked the same to the I.G. (Crime) culminating in an independent inquiry through the Superintendent of Police, Special Staff, attached to his office. The report of the Superintendent of Police recommended registration of a case against the officials concerned under Section 364 of the IPC. Despite the said recommendation no case was registered on one pretext or the other against the concerned police officer till 23rd March, 1994. It was at this stage that a writ petition was filed before this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India for a fair, independent and effective investigation into the episode. Allowing the petition this Court directed an independent investigation to be conducted by the CBI into the circumstances of the abduction of seven persons; their present whereabouts or the circumstances of their liquidation. An inquiry was also directed into the delay on the part of the State Police in taking action between 25th January 1992 when the complaint was first lodged and 23rd March, 1994 when the case was finally registered.
6. In R.S. Sodhi Advocate v. State of U.P. and Ors. 1994 (Supp) (1) SCC 143 this Court was dealing with a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India seeking an independent investigation by the CBI into a police encounter resulting in the killing of ten persons. The investigation into the incident was being conducted at the relevant point of time by an officer of the rank of Inspector General level. The State Government also appointed a one-member Commission headed by a sitting Judge of the Allahabad High Court to inquire into the matter. This Court found that since the local police was involved in the alleged encounter an independent investigation by the CBI into what was according to the petitioner a fake encounter, was perfectly justified. This Court held that, however, faithfully the police may carry out the investigation, the same will lack â€˜credibilityâ€™ since the allegations against them are serious.
Such a transfer was considered necessary so that all those concerned including the relatives of the deceased feel assured that an independent agency was looking into the matter thereby lending credibility to the outcome of the investigation. This Court observed:
â€œWe have perused the events that have taken place since the incidents but we are refraining from entering upon the details thereof lest it may prejudice any party but we think that since the accusations are directed against the local police personnel it would be desirable to entrust the investigation to an independent agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation so that all concerned including the relatives of the deceased may feel assured that an independent agency is looking into the matter and that would lend the final outcome of the investigation credibility. However faithfully the local police may carry out the investigation, the same will lack credibility since the allegations are against them. It is only with that in mind that we having thought it both advisable and desirable as well as in the interest of justice to entrust the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation forthwith and we do hope that it would complete the investigation at an early date so that those involved in the occurrences, one way or the other, may be brought to book. We direct accordingly. In so ordering we mean no reflection on the credibility of either the local police or the State Government but we have been guided by the larger requirements of justice. The writ petition and the review petition stand disposed of by this order.â€ (emphasis supplied)
7. A reference may also be made to State of Punjab v. CBI (2011) 9 SCC 182 where the High Court of Punjab and Haryana transferred an investigation from the State Police to the CBI in relation to what was known as â€œMoga Sex Scandalâ€ case. The High Court had while ordering transfer of the investigation found that several police officials, political leaders, advocates, municipal counsellors, besides a number of persons belonging to the general public had been named in connection with the case. The High Court had while commending the investigation conducted by DIG and his team of officials all the same directed transfer of case to CBI having regard to the nature of the case and those allegedly involved in the same. The directions issued by the High Court were affirmed by this Court and the matter allowed to be investigated by the CBI.
8. More recently, this Court in Advocates Association, Bangalore, v. Union of India and Ors. (2013) 10 SCC 611 had an occasion to deal with the question of transfer of an investigation from the State Police to the CBI in the context of an ugly incident involving advocates, police and media persons within the Bangalore City Civil Court Complex. On a complaint filed by the Advocatesâ€™ Association, Bangalore, before the Chief Minister for suitable action against the alleged police atrocities committed on the advocates, the Government of Karnataka appointed the Director General of Police, CID, Special Unit and Economic Offences as an Inquiry Officer to conduct an in-house inquiry into the matter. The Advocatesâ€™ Association at the same time filed a complaint with jurisdictional police station, naming the policemen involved in the incident. In addition, the Registrar, City Civil Court also lodged a complaint with the police for causing damage to the property of City Civil Court, Bangalore by those indulged in violence.
Several writ petitions were then filed before the High Court, inter alia, asking for investigation by the CBI. The High Court constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Dr. R.K. Raghvan, a retired Director CBI, as its Chairman and others. The Advocatesâ€™ Association was, however, dissatisfied with that order which was assailed before this Court primarily on the ground that a fair investigation could be conducted only by an independent agency like the CBI. Relying upon the decision of this Court in State of West Bengal v. Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (2010) 2 SCC 571 this Court directed transfer of investigation to the CBI holding that the nature of the incident and the delay in setting up of the SIT was sufficient to warrant such a transfer.
9. It is unnecessary to multiply decisions on the subject, for this Court has exercised the power to transfer investigation from the State Police to the CBI in cases where such transfer is considered necessary to discover the truth and to meet the ends of justice or because of the complexity of the issues arising for examination or where the case involves national or international ramifications or where people holding high positions of power and influence or political clout are involved. What is important is that while the power to transfer is exercised sparingly and with utmost care and circumspection this Court has more often than not directed transfer of cases where the fact situations so demand.
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