State of West Bengal & others v/s. Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal & Others.

The Supreme Court in the instant judgment held that the High Court can direct the CBI to investigate a cognizable offense which is alleged to have taken place in the state, which is outside its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court also deals with the issue of Federal structure doctrine, the concept of judicial review and much more.

State of West Bengal & others v. Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal & Others.

Civil Appeals No.- 6249-50 of 2001

Before the Supreme Court of India

Bench: K.G. Balakrishna, C.J., R.V. Raveendran, D.K. Jain, P. Sathasivam and J.M. Panchal, JJ.

Author of the Judgement: Justice D.K. Jain

Relevant Acts:

  • Constitution of India- Article 226, Article 142
  • Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946- Section 5 and Section 6
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860- Sections 148/149/448/436/364/302/201
  • Arms Act, 1959- Sections 25/27
  • Explosives Act, 1884- Section 9(B)

Decided on: February 17, 2010

Issue: Whether the high court, in exercise of its jurisdiction under article 226 of the Indian Constitution, can direct the CBI, established under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, to investigate a cognizable offence which is alleged to have taken place within the territorial jurisdiction of the state, without the consent of the state government?

Facts:

  • On 04.01.2001, Abdul Rahaman Mondal, the complainant, and few others were at the complainant’s house after they returned from the party camp
  • Miscreants of about 50-60 in number attacked them with firearms and explosives which resulted in number of casualties
  • The complainant escaped and witnessed the carnage secretary
  • He lodged a complaint on 04.01.2001 but FIR under section 148, 149, 448, 436, 364, 302, 201 of Indian Penal Code, 1960, read with section 25/27 of Arms Act, 1959, and section 9-B of Explosives Act, 1884, was registered only on 5-01-2001
  • On 08.01.2001, CID was directed to take over the case by DGP. After two years, a writ petition under article 226 of Constitution was filed in High Court in public interest by Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal on the Grounds that:
    • Except for two persons, no other person named in FIR was arrested
    • No serious attempt made to get the victims identified
    • Police did not come to the conclusion that the missing people were dead or alive.
  • They requested that since the police administration is influenced by the ruling party, the investigation be handed over to CBI- which is an independent agency

Procedural history:

The high court did not find it useful that the investigation continue to be conducted by the state agency on the ground-

  • Political fallout
  • Even if sincerity was observed, it would still be viewed with suspicion

Counsel for State:

  • Argued referring to Entry 80 of List I of the7th Schedule as also Section 5&6 of the Special Police Act that it is evident that there is a complete restriction on the parliament’s legislative power in enacting any law permitting the police of one state to investigate an offense committed in another state, without the consent of that state
  • Submitting the principles of separation of powers, the counsel argued that the superior courts cannot adjure a jurisdiction which is prohibited by the constitution
  • Referring to article 142 and the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India (SCC p. 432, para 47), the counsel submitted that the High Court cannot issue any direction ignoring the statutory and constitutional provision
  • Even extreme situations like influence of party on a state police does not justify the high court to upset the federal or quasi-federal system created by the constitution
  • With regards to article 226 of the Indian constitution
    • There is a difference between article 142 of Supreme Court and article 226 of the High Court because of the territorial limits under article 226(1)
    • Under article 226, the High Court is disentitled from issuing any directions to the authorities outside the territories over which it has jurisdiction
    • CBI being a rank outside had no authority to take up the case for investigation

Counsel for India:

  • The argument regarding schedule 7 of the Indian Constitution is fallacious because restrictions on the central government and parliament cannot be extended to the powers conferred under article 226 & 32 of constitution because it is obligation of superior courts to protect the citizens and enforce their fundamental rights
  • Relying upon three judgments-
    • State of Rajasthan v. union of India (1997) 3 SCC 592
    • R. Bommai v. union of India (1994) 3 SCC 1
    • Kuldip Nayar v. Union of India (2006) 7 SCC 1
      The counsel did not accept the federal structure argument because it overlooked the fact that in federal   structure  it is the duty of the courts to uphold the constitutional values and to enforce the constitutional     limitations as ultimate interpretation of the constitution
  • Judicial review is the basic feature of the constitution. And under article 226, 32 the courts are merely discharging their duty of judicial review and are neither upsetting any jurisdiction, nor overriding the doctrine of separation of power.
  • Article 226 is wide and plenary in nature as similar to article 32

Held:

The court can exercise its power of judicial review and can direct the CBI to take up the investigation within the jurisdiction of the state.

Ratio: 

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