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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Sushant Singh Rajput probe: Can two police forces investigate the same case?

Sushant Singh Rajput’s body was found at his residence in Mumbai on June 14. But the Bihar Police, too, is probing his death. Can two different police forces investigate the same case? What is a Zero FIR? And, what happens next?

Written by Mohamed Thaver , Srinath Rao , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai | Updated: August 5, 2020 9:39:00 am
sushant singh rajput, sushant singh rajput probe, sushant singh rajput CBI probe, sushant singh rajput death, sushant singh rajput news, rhea chakraborty, indian express Sushant Singh Rajput died by suicide on June 14, 2020.

The death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput has seen a lot of controversy with his family now alleging foul play and even filing an abetment to suicide case in Patna. But can two different police forces investigate the same case? What is a Zero FIR? And, what happens next? We explain:

What is the case registered in the Sushant Singh Rajput case by the Mumbai police?

After actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s body was found at his Bandra residence on June 14, the local police registered an Accidental Death Report (ADR) in the matter. As per Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, an ADR is taken when an accidental death, suicidal death or unnatural death comes to light. As per Section 174, “the officer in charge of a police station receives information that a person has committed suicide…he/she shall proceed to the place where the body of such deceased person is, and there, draw up a report of the apparent cause of death, describing such wounds, fractures, bruises, and other marks of injury as may be found on the body, and stating in what manner, or by what weapon or instrument (if any); such marks appear to have been inflicted. The officer then records statements of the family members and those who can shed light behind the cause of death. If no one makes any allegations, suicide note does not blame anyone and the post mortem report does not indicate murder, an ACP rank officer then ends the report at ADR stage.”

What happens if the family makes an allegation or some foul play comes to light?

Generally, the post mortem report points out if a person died of suicide or was killed based on the ligature marks around the neck, viscera report that shows if any poison was administered, injury marks on the body, time of death etc. There have been cases where an ADR was later turned into a murder case – under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code – after the post mortem report or forensic report indicated a person was murdered. Apart from this, if the family members allege someone drove the person to die by suicide, or if a suicide note is found, the police can register an abetment to suicide case under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code.

sushant singh rajput, sushant singh rajput probe, sushant singh rajput CBI probe, sushant singh rajput death, sushant singh rajput news, rhea chakraborty, indian express Policemen outside Sushant Singh Rajput’s residence. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

What cases have the Mumbai Police and Bihar Police registered?

Since the family members of Rajput did not make any allegations and the post mortem reports did not indicate any foul play, the matter is still as an ADR at the Bandra police station. The Bihar Police, however, registered an FIR under sections of the Indian Penal Code including abetment to suicide based on the allegations made by Rajput’s father against Rhea Chakraborthy and her family. It is as part of this FIR that a police team from Bihar came to the Mumbai, resulting in a tussle between the two forces. Now, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has asked for the matter to be probed by the CBI on Tuesday.

Can two police forces investigate the same case?

No. A case can be formally transferred to another agency like the CBI, but two agencies cannot probe the same FIR simultaneously. In cases where a money laundering aspect emerges, the Enforcement Directorate registers an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) and restricts its probe to the money laundering aspect of it. Even in the Sushant Singh Rajput case, after his father alleged to Bihar Police that money had been transferred to unidentified accounts from Rajput’s bank account, the ED registered an ECIR under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). However, under regular crimes, if an offence has taken place in Mumbai and the family is in Bihar, as per law, they can go to the nearest police station in Bihar and register an FIR. The police station is duty bound to register a “zero FIR” and transfer the case to the police station under whose jurisdiction the crime has taken place.

What is zero FIR?

In order to ensure that a citizen does not have to run from one police station to another to register an FIR, the law has allowed any police station across the country to register an FIR as soon a cognisable offence is disclosed to them. The Ministry of Home Affairs had first issued an advisory to this effect on May 10, 2013 following the National Commission of Minorities Annual report 2011 -12 that recommended among other things prompt registration of FIR. Advisories to this effect were later sent by MHA on February 5, 2014 and October 12, 2015. The latest advisory said, “…as per Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a police officer is duty bound to register the case on the basis of such information disclosing a cognisable offence and FIR to be registered irrespective of territorial jurisdiction.”

Also read | Before suicide, Sushant Singh Rajput’s Google search: his name, manager, illness

So, what is the controversy in the Sushant Singh Rajput case?

In the current case, after registering the FIR, the Bihar Police themselves came to Mumbai to investigate the case instead of transferring the case to the local police. There are political undertones to this as it is being alleged that the Mumbai Police is not taking action against those responsible for Rajput’s death. Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh has, however, clarified that they have registered 56 statements so far and no one has made any allegations as yet.

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sushant singh rajput, sushant singh rajput probe, sushant singh rajput CBI probe, sushant singh rajput death, sushant singh rajput news, rhea chakraborty, indian express Sushant Singh Rajput with Rhea Chakraborty. (File Photo)

What investigation has the Bihar Police conducted so far?

A four-member team of the Bihar Police has recorded statements of ten witnesses since it arrived in Mumbai on July 27. However, it has been denied access to the post-mortem report, earlier witness statements and crucial documents by the Mumbai Police. Bihar Director General of Police Gupteshwar Pandey has claimed that his force is duty-bound to probe the death as parts of the offence registered in the FIR took place in his jurisdiction. Pandey, however, has claimed that his investigation has been scuttled by the “selective quarantine” on Sunday night of Vinay Tiwari, Superintendent of Police, Patna City (Central) by the BMC. Tiwari was sent to Mumbai on Sunday to lead the investigations.

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What happens to the case next?

Rhea Chakraborthy has moved the Supreme Court seeking that the FIR be transferred to the Mumbai Police from the Bihar Police. There is also a demand from several quarters like former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis that the case be transferred to the CBI. The Supreme Court will take a final call on who will investigate the matter.

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