Pulling up a special CBI court for “unnecessary interference in the investigation” into the allegations against bureaucrat Rajendra Kumar, Delhi High Court Wednesday set aside the trial court’s order directing the CBI to release documents seized from the Delhi secretariat.
The CBI had raided the office of Kumar, Principal Secretary to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in December last year. The raid triggered a face-off between the AAP government and the CBI, which is investigating allegations of corruption and abuse of office against Kumar.
The AAP government had decried the raid as a “deliberate attack on the office of the CM” and an “attempt to stall the work of the Delhi government”, claiming that the CBI had seized files required for the day-to-day functioning of the Chief Minister’s office and important work of the government.
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The government had approached the special CBI court to get the original documents released from the probe agency’s custody, which was granted by the trial court in an order issued on January 20. The CBI had then approached the Delhi High Court against the trial court order.
The bench of Justice P S Teji has now set aside the trial court order, allowing the CBI to retain all original documents during pendency of the investigation. The court also noted that two copies of the seized documents had already been given to the Delhi government.
The bench in its order issued serious remarks against the trial court for its decision, observing that “the impugned order is full of either exceeding of jurisdiction or failure to exercise the jurisdiction”. The bench also held that the trial court judgment made “unnecessary observations” and gave “contradictory views”.
Criticising the trial court for ordering the release of all documents and raising questions about the the “relevance” of all documentation seized from the secretariat offices, Justice Teji noted that the directions issued to disclose the relevancy of all documents “is neither justifiable nor desirable nor sustainable in the eyes of law at this stage”.
The bench observed that “such inquiry in the open court or in the reply would hamper the entire investigation and would amount to unnecessary interference in the investigation. It is against the principle of privacy, as the investigation which is the sole domain of the Investigating Officer and his mindset need not to be disclosed during the pendency of the investigation and required to be disclosed only at the time of filing the charge sheet before the Court”.
The bench also observed that the Delhi government’s argument regarding the alleged time period of the alleged corruption was “not sustainable”.
Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, appearing for the Delhi government had argued that the CBI could not have seized anything except the documents mentioned in the search warrant, which was “confined” to alleged offences committed between 2007- August 2014.
The high court, however, said, “Mere mentioning of the period of offence does not curtail the power of the Investigating Officer to seize the documents subsequent to the same as it was in the continuation of the material required for the investigation during subsequent period also.”
The bench also held that the observations made by the trial court regarding the alleged violation of procedure by the CBI “exceeded the jurisdiction” of the trial court.
“Observation has been made that the CBI registered the FIR in question without conducting preliminary inquiry, which tantamounts to exceeding of jurisdiction, particularly when the application did not show any concern about the registration of FIR but it was only for the return of the documents seized at the time of conducting the raid in pursuance of the search warrant…” held the bench.
The CBI in its plea before the high court had argued that it had registered an FIR on December 14, 2015, with the raid being conducted the next day. The CBI counsel had also stated the investigation was in its initial stage.