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[Actor Sushant Singh Death] Transfer of investigation cannot be ordered under Sec 406 Cr.P.C, Jurisdiction of Bihar police to register FIR & transfer of case to CBI appears to be in order: Supreme Court

The SC on August 19, 2020 {Rhea Chakraborty vs State of Bihar & Ors.} held that transfer of investigation to the CBI cannot be a routine occurrence but should be in exceptional circumstances. It was held that 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 was held by the Single Judge of SC, Justice Hrishikesh Roy, that  the consistent view of the Court is that it is not for the accused to choose the investigating agency. In the instant case, it was held that political interference against both states is alleged which has the potential of discrediting the investigation. It was held that the legal process must therefore be focused upon revelation of the correct facts through credible and legally acceptable investigation. It was held that it must be determined whether the unnatural death was the result of some criminal acts. It was held that in order to lend credibility to the investigation and its conclusion, it would be desirable to specify the authority, which should conduct the investigation in this matter. 

In the present case, the Transfer Petition was filed under section 406 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short “CrPC”) read with Order XXXIX of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 with prayer for transfer of the FIR No. 241 of 2020 (dated 25.7.2020) under Sections 341, 342, 380, 406, 420, 306, 506 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (for short “IPC”) 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. The matter was related to the unnatural death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput on 14.6.2020, at his Bandra residence at Mumbai.

The SC held that under the federal design envisaged by the Constitution, Police is a state subject under List II of Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Therefore, it was held that investigation of a crime should normally be undertaken by the concerned state’s police, where the case is  registered.

It was held that the earlier 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.

The SC held that 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.

It was further held that 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. It was held that these are not in the nature of investigation, undertaken after filing of FIR under Section 154 CrPC. In the instant case, it was held that in Mumbai, no FIR has been registered as yet. It was held that 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.

It was held that 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.

Having regard to the law enunciated earlier by the Court, it was held by the SC that it must be held that the Patna police committed no illegality in registering the Complaint. It was held that 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.

It was further held that the ongoing investigation by the CBI is held to be lawful. It was directed by the SC that 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 the Court’s order. It was held that such enabling order will make it possible for the CBI to investigate the new case, avoiding the rigors of Section 6 of the DSPE Act, requiring consent from the State of Maharashtra.

In such backdrop, it was held by the SC that to ensure public confidence in the investigation and to do complete justice in the matter, the Court considers it appropriate to invoke the powers conferred by Article 142 of the Constitution. It was held that as a Court exercising lawful jurisdiction for the assigned roster, no impediment is seen for exercise of plenary power in the present matter.

Therefore it was concluded by the SC that 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. The petition was accordingly disposed of by the SC.

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