Rhea Chakraborty v. State of Bihar

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This Transfer Petition is filed under section 406  CrPC for transfer of FIR No. 241 of 2020 (dated 25.7.2020) under Sections 341, 342, 380, 406, 420, 306, 506 and 120B IPC) registered at Patna from Patna Sadar to Bandra Mumbai. The matter relates to the unnatural death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput on 14.6.2020, at his Bandra residence at Mumbai. The deceased resided within Bandra Police Station jurisdiction and there itself, the unnatural death under section 174 of CrPC was reported.

The petitioner is a friend of the deceased, and she too is in the acting field since last many years. The petitioner and the deceased were in a live-in relationship but on 8.6.2020, a few days prior to the death of the actor, she had shifted to her own residence at Mumbai.

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.

Uncertain about the future contingency at Mumbai, the father of the deceased has filed the Complaint at Patna, levelling serious allegations against the petitioner following which, the FIR is registered and the Bihar Police has started their investigation. 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 bonafide of the steps taken by the Bihar government and the Patna police.

Transfer of investigation to the CBI cannot be a routine occurrence but should be in exceptional circumstances. One factor which however is considered relevant for induction of the Central Agency is to retain “public confidence in the impartial working of the State agencies”. It is also the consistent view of the Court that it is not for the accused to choose the investigating agency.

In the instant case, political interference against both states is alleged which has the potential of discrediting the investigation. In order to lend credibility to the investigation and its conclusion, it would be desirable in my view, to specify the authority, which should conduct the investigation in this matter.

TRANSFER POWER UNDER SECTION 406 CRPC

Section 406 CrPC empowers the Supreme Court to transfer cases and appeals. The scope of exercise of this power is for securing the ends of justice. The precedents suggest that transfer plea under Section 406 CrPC were granted in cases where the Court believed that the trial may be prejudiced and fair and impartial proceedings cannot be carried on, if the trial continues. However, transfer of investigation on the other hand was negated by this Court in the case of Ram Chander Singh Sagar and Anr. v. State of Tamil Nadu, (1978).

 “The Code of Criminal Procedure clothes this Court with power under Section 406 to transfer a case or appeal from one High Court or a Court subordinate to one High Court to another High Court or to a Court subordinate thereto. But, it does not clothe this Court with the power to transfer investigations from one police station to another in the country.

“If the petitioners are being directed to appear in a far-off court during investigatory stage it is for them to move that court for appropriate orders so that they may not be tormented by long travel or otherwise teased by judicial process.”

Having considered the contour of the power under section 406 CrPC, it must be concluded that only cases and appeals (not investigation) can be transferred.

SCOPE OF SECTION 174 CRPC PROCEEDING

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. These are not in the nature of investigation, undertaken after filing of FIR under Section 154 CrPC. In the instant case, in Mumbai, no FIR has been registered as yet. The Mumbai Police has neither considered the matter under Section 175 (2) CrPC, suspecting commission of a cognizable offence nor proceeded for registration of FIR under Section 154 or referred the matter under Section 157 CrPC, to the nearest magistrate having jurisdiction.

Sections 174 and 175 of the Code afford a complete Code in itself for the purpose of “inquiries” in cases of accidental or suspicious deaths and are entirely distinct from the “investigation” under Section 157 of the Code.

JURISDICTION OF PATNA POLICE TO REGISTER COMPLAINT

The Respondent no 2 in his Complaint alleged commission of a cognizable offence and therefore, it was incumbent for the police to register the FIR and commence the investigation.

Registration of FIR is mandated when information on cognizable offence is received by the police. Precedents suggest that at the stage of investigation, it cannot be said that the concerned police station does not have territorial jurisdiction to investigate the case.

The allegation relating to criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of money which were to be eventually accounted for in Patna (where the Complainant resides), could prima facie indicate the lawful jurisdiction of the Patna police.

Lee Kun Hee, President, Samsung Corporation, Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh 2012:

“in offences of the nature as are subject-matter of consideration, the court within whose local jurisdiction the whole or a part of the consideration “… were required to be returned or accounted for.…” would have jurisdiction in the matter.”

Having regard to the law enunciated by this Court as noted above, it must be held that the Patna police committed no illegality in registering the Complaint. Looking at the nature of the allegations in the Complaint which also relate to misappropriation and breach of trust, the exercise of jurisdiction by the Bihar Police appears to be in order. At the stage of investigation, they were not required to transfer the FIR to Mumbai police. For the same reason, the Bihar government was competent to give consent for entrustment of investigation to the CBI and as such the ongoing investigation by the CBI is held to be lawful.

INVESTIGATION ENTRUSTMENT TO CBI

While the CBI cannot conduct any investigation without the consent of the concerned state as mandated under section 6, the powers of the Constitutional Courts are not fettered by the statutory restriction of the DSPE Act.

DIRECTION ON INVESTIGATION

The ongoing investigation by the CBI is held to be lawful. In the event a new case is registered at Mumbai on the same issue, in the fitness of things, it would be appropriate if the latter case too gets investigated by the same agency, on the strength of this Court’s order.

Monica Kumar v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2008):- “This Court’s power under Article 142(1) to do “complete justice” is entirely of different level and of a different quality. Any prohibition or restriction contained in ordinary laws cannot act as a limitation on the constitutional power of this Court.”

As because both states are making acrimonious allegations of political interference against each other, the legitimacy of the investigation has come under a cloud. In such situation, there is reasonable apprehension of truth being a casualty and justice becoming a victim.

The actor Sushant Singh Rajput was a talented actor in the Mumbai film world and died well before his full potential could be realised. a fair, competent and impartial investigation is the need of the hour. For the petitioner too, it will be the desired justice as she herself called for a CBI investigation.

In such backdrop, to ensure public confidence in the investigation and to do complete justice in the matter, this Court considers 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 exercise of 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.

AUGUST 19, 2020

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