Boutique Litigation Law Firm - Retain Lawyers - Research based Law Firm - Complete legal services

Criminal Lawyer: A magistrate has suo moto power to order further investigation after chargesheet has been filed; SC. (Earlier inconsistent SC judgments overruled)

Supreme Court of India

Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice Surya Kant and Justice V. Ramasubramanian

The SC today holds {Vinubhai Haribhai Malaviya and Ors. v. The State of Gujarat and Anr.} that to say that a fair and just investigation would lead to the conclusion that the police retain the power, subject, of course, to the Magistrate’s nod under Section 173(8) to further investigate an offence till charges are framed, but that the supervisory jurisdiction of the Magistrate suddenly ceases midway through the pre-trial proceedings, would amount to a travesty of justice, as certain cases may cry out for further investigation so that an innocent person is not wrongly arraigned as an accused or that a prima facie guilty person is not so left out. It was held that there is no warrant for such a narrow and restrictive view of the powers of the Magistrate, particularly when such powers are traceable to Section 156(3) read with Section 156(1), Section 2(h), and Section 173(8) of the CrPC, and would be available at all stages of the progress of a criminal case before the trial actually commences. It was held that it would also be in the interest of justice that this power be exercised suo motu by the Magistrate himself, depending on the facts of each case. Whether further investigation should or should not be ordered is within the discretion of the learned Magistrate who will exercise such discretion on the facts of each case and in accordance with law. If, for example, fresh facts come to light which would lead to inculpating or exculpating certain persons, arriving at the truth and doing substantial justice in a criminal case are more important than avoiding further delay being caused in concluding the criminal proceeding.

The earlier judgments of SC in Amrutbhai Shambubhai Patel, Athul Rao, Bikash Ranjan Rout and Randhir Singh Rana have held to the contrary, they stand overruled by the SC. It was held that there is no good reason given by the SC in these decisions as to why a Magistrate’s powers to order further investigation would suddenly cease upon process being issued, and an accused appearing before the Magistrate, while concomitantly, the power of the police to further investigate the offence continues right till the stage the trial commences. It was held that such a view would not accord with the earlier judgments of the SC as criminal trial does not begin after cognizance is taken, but only after charges are framed. It was held that what is not given any importance at all in the recent judgments of SC is Article 21 of the Constitution and the fact that the Article demands no less than a fair and just investigation. Accordingly, all the said judgments were overruled. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published