October 9, 2021 4:01:00 am
The Supreme Court on Friday held that it is not mandatory for CBI to conduct preliminary enquiry in cases of corruption, and that the agency can instead register a regular case if the investigating officer is satisfied that the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence.
A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud ruled that “since…a Preliminary Enquiry in cases of corruption is not made mandatory before registration of an FIR under CrPC, PC [Prevention of Corruption] Act or even the CBI Manual, for this court to issue a direction to that affect will be tantamount to stepping into the legislative domain”.
Therefore, the court said, “We hold that in case the information received by CBI, through a complaint or a ‘source information’ under Chapter 8, discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, it can directly register a Regular Case instead of conducting a Preliminary Enquiry, where the officer is satisfied that the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence”.
The bench, also comprising Justices Vikram Nath and B V Nagarathna, said this while setting aside a February 2020 order of Telangana High Court, which quashed the FIR registered by CBI’s Chennai unit under Prevention of Corruption Act against a woman Income Tax Commissioner and her spouse, for alleged possession of disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 1,10,81,692 between April 1, 2010 and February 29, 2016.
The court, however, said that this “does not take away from the value of conducting a Preliminary Enquiry in an appropriate case”, as “registration of a Regular Case can have disastrous consequences for the career of an officer, if the allegations ultimately turn out to be false”.
It said, “If CBI chooses not to hold a Preliminary Enquiry, the accused cannot demand it as a matter of right”.
The HC had set aside the FIR, saying the agency should have conducted a Preliminary Enquiry under the CBI (Crime) Manual, 2005. Appealing against this, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for CBI, said the CBI manual does not make it mandatory to conduct a PE before registration of FIR, and its provisions are directory.
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