REJECTING THE Maharashtra government’s objections, the Supreme Court on Wednesday accorded approval to the ongoing probe by the CBI into the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, saying that a “fair, competent and impartial investigation is the need of the hour”.
Earlier this month, the Bihar government had recommended a CBI probe into the case lodged by Rajput’s father, K K Singh, against actor Rhea Chakraborty and her family members.
A single-judge Bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy said that “if any other case is registered on the death of the actor… and the surrounding circumstances of his unnatural death”, the CBI will investigate that too.
The court was hearing a plea filed by Chakraborty, seeking transfer of investigation in the case from Patna to Mumbai.
The court invoked its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to approve the CBI probe “to ensure public confidence in the investigation and to do complete justice in the matter”.
“The actor Sushant Singh Rajput was a talented actor in the Mumbai film world and died well before his full potential could be realised. His family, friends and admirers are keenly awaiting the outcome of the investigation so that all the speculation floating around can be put to rest. Therefore a fair, competent and impartial investigation is the need of the hour,” the court said.
“The expected outcome then would be a measure of justice for the complainant, who lost his only son. For the petitioner too, it will be the desired justice as she herself called for a CBI investigation. The dissemination of the real facts through unbiased investigation would certainly result in justice for the innocents, who might be the target of a vilification campaign. Equally importantly, when integrity and credibility of the investigation is discernible, the trust, faith and confidence of the common man in the judicial process will resonate. When truth meets sunshine, justice will not prevail on the living alone but after life’s fitful fever, now the departed will also sleep well. Satyameva Jayate,” Justice Roy said in his order.
The court said “the peculiar circumstances in this case require that complete justice is done in this matter”. It noted that “because both states are making acrimonious allegations of political interference against each other, the legitimacy of the investigation has come under a cloud”.
“Accusing fingers are being pointed and people have taken the liberty to put out their own conjectures and theories. Such comments, responsible or otherwise, have led to speculative public discourse which has hogged media limelight. These developments unfortunately have the propensity to delay and misdirect the investigation. In such a situation, there is reasonable apprehension of truth being a casualty and justice becoming a victim,” the court said.
“While the steps taken by the Mumbai Police in the limited inquiry….may not be faulted on the material available before this court, considering the apprehension voiced by the stakeholders of unfair investigation, this court must strive to ensure that search for the truth is undertaken by an independent agency, not controlled by either of the two state governments. Most importantly, the credibility of the investigation and the investigating authority must be protected,” it said.
The court said while police is a state subject in the federal system and a crime would normally be probed by the police of the state where a case is registered, there “can be situations where a particular crime, by virtue of its nature and ramification, is legally capable of being investigated by police from different states or even by other agencies”.
In such a circumstance, the probe can be handed to the CBI, “either with consent of the concerned state or on orders of the constitutional court”, it said, adding that “investigation…by multiple authorities transgressing into the other’s domain is avoidable”.
The court, however, pointed out that transfer of investigation to the CBI “cannot be a routine occurrence but should be in exceptional circumstances”, one of which could be “to retain public confidence in the impartial working of the state agencies”.
“In the instant case, political interference against both states is alleged, which has the potential of discrediting the investigation. The legal process must therefore be focused upon revelation of the correct facts through credible and legally acceptable investigation. It must be determined whether the unnatural death was the result of some criminal acts,” it said.
Maharashtra had objected to the Patna police registering an FIR and handing over the case to the CBI, saying it was already probing the matter as the actor was found dead in his apartment in Mumbai on June 14.
The court said the Mumbai Police were only carrying out an inquiry under Section 174 CrPC, which “is limited for a definite purpose… to find out the apparent cause of unnatural death… but is not an investigation of a crime under Section 157 of the CrPC.”
“Therefore, it is pre-emptive and premature to hold that a parallel investigation is being carried out by the Mumbai Police,” it said.
Upholding the FIR filed by the police in Patna, the court said “registration of FIR is mandated when information on cognizable offence is received by the police”. At this stage of the investigation, “it cannot be said that the concerned police station does not have territorial jurisdiction to investigate the case,” it said.
“The allegation (in the complaint) relating to criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of money which were to be eventually accounted for in Patna (where Rajput’s father resides), could prima facie indicate the lawful jurisdiction of the Patna police,” said the court.
The court said “records of the case produced before this court, do not prima facie suggest any wrongdoing by the Mumbai Police”. It, however, added that “their (Mumbai Police) obstruction to the Bihar police team at Mumbai could have been avoided since it gave rise to suspicion on the bona fide of their inquiry”.
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