August 6, 2020 12:49:35 am
THE Supreme Court Wednesday sought a report from Maharashtra on the status of the probe into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, saying “whether there is any criminality in the situation is the matter to be investigated”.
The probe has now been handed over to the CBI, the Centre informed the Court, saying it had accepted the Bihar government’s recommendation for the same. On Wednesday evening, the government issued orders announcing the takeover of the Bihar Police FIR by the CBI. Sources said the agency was likely to register an FIR in the matter soon.
The Court was hearing a petition filed by Rajput’s friend Rhea Chakraborty seeking transfer of an FIR filed against her by the Bihar Police to Mumbai.
The Court also expressed its displeasure over a Bihar Police officer who had come to Mumbai, as part of the investigation into the FIR, being put in quarantine. The single-judge Bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy said, “… a very unfortunate thing has taken place. A very gifted and talented artist has passed away under circumstances that are unusual. Whether there is any criminality in the situation is the matter to be investigated… When something happens to a high-profile name in cinema, everyone has an opinion. But as a court we have to work according to what the law says.”
Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, “One fact I must bring to the Court’s notice, that the state of Bihar has recommended a CBI inquiry. The Centre has accepted the decision.”
As Maharashtra counsel R Basant argued that the Bihar Police had no jurisdiction in the matter, Justice Roy said the Court will deal with the question after hearing from all the parties, and directed them to file their replies in three days. “The fundamental issue here is of jurisdiction. Which is the investigator who should investigate and which is the court that should supervise,” the Court said.
The Court will hear the matter again next week.
On the Bihar Police officer being put in quarantine, Justice Roy told the Maharashtra counsel, “It doesn’t give right message. He was there to do his job. You must do everything in a professional manner and protect evidence.”
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Chakraborty, urged the Court to hear him in the light of the Centre’s decision to order a CBI probe. “Our request is to transfer the investigation of the FIR registered in Patna from the state of Bihar.”
Adding that Chakraborty was apprehensive about the Bihar Police sending a team to Mumbai, Divan said Rajput had died by suicide, and that more than 50 statements have been recorded by police and about 56 witnesses examined in this regard.
As Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Bihar, welcomed the Centre’s decision to transfer the case to the CBI, Maharashtra said the issue was fraught with “mischief”. “There is no cause of action for investigation in Patna… The Mumbai Police has jurisdiction and is investigating. The victim’s father has not lodged any FIR in Mumbai. He has said the Mumbai Police is not investigating properly… allegations… about (the) investigation are politically motivated,” the state argued.
Advocate Basant added that as per law, the Bihar Police could have filed a ‘Zero FIR’, but that it did not have jurisdiction to register an FIR or request the CBI to take over.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Rajput’s family, contended that evidence is being tampered with by the Mumbai Police, and said quarantining of an officer who was investigating a case was “unheard of” and was meant to thwart the Bihar probe.
He also noted that the Mumbai Police, which continues to investigate the case as an accidental death, has not registered any “cognizable” case. “There is only inquest (under Section 174 of the CrPC),” Singh said, adding inquest proceedings are supposed to be concluded within 24 hours. Rajput was found dead on June 14. He urged the Court to direct the Mumbai Police to cooperate with their Bihar counterparts.
The Bench noted that the Bihar Police itself had sought to bring in the CBI. “We expect everybody to have a little hands off… I have read the FIR… I am not saying anything right now. Let there be no precipitation of the matter now,” Justice Roy said.
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