Investigation into crimes ‘prerogative’ of police, courts should not interfere: SC
Supreme Court ruled that a court’s interference at each stage of criminal investigation would affect the normal course of the investigation.
The Supreme Court ruled on September 5, 2019 that investigation into crimes is a "prerogative" of the police and the courts should not interfere in its every stage. The top court said that a court’s interference at each stage would affect the normal course of the investigation.
The ruling was delivered by an SC bench comprising Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna while denying anticipatory bail to former Union Minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case. The top court said that the investigation agency should be the one deciding the course of the probe and the judiciary should be kept out of it, except in rare cases.
The Supreme Court bench stated that it is not among the court's duties to monitor investigation process as long as it does not violate any law and the investigation agencies should get to decide on how to proceed in the interrogation of the accused and the nature of questions put to him.
SC Judgement: Key Points
The investigation of a cognizable offence and the following stages including the interrogation of the accused is exclusively reserved for the investigating agency whose powers are unregulated as long as the investigating officer exercises his investigating powers within the provisions of the law and the legal bounds.
Courts can interfere and issue directions only when it is convinced that the power of investigating officer is "exercised mala fide" or there is an abuse of power and non-compliance of the provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure.
An investigation into crimes is the prerogative of the police, excepting in rare cases, and the judiciary should keep out all the areas of investigation.
There is a well-defined and demarcated function in the field of investigation and its subsequent adjudication.
If the court interferes in every stage of the investigation, it would affect the normal course of the investigation. The investigating agency should get to decide on how to proceed with the interrogation of the accused and the nature of questions put to him and the manner of interrogation.
It is open for the courts to quash the proceedings where there is a clear case of abuse of power by the investigating officer.
In the initial stages of the investigation where the court is considering granting regular bail or anticipatory bail, it is not for the court to enter into the demarcated function of the investigation and collection of evidence or materials for establishing the offence and interrogation of the accused and the witnesses.
The interrogation of the accused, questions put to him and the answers given by him are part of the investigation, which is purely the domain of the investigation officer. The court cannot interfere in the matter unless it is convinced that the police officer has improperly and illegally exercised his investigating powers in breach of any statutory provision.
The privilege of anticipatory bail should be granted only in "exceptional cases" as the grant of this relief, to some extent, interferes in the probe of an offence. Hence, the court must be circumspect while exercising such power for grant of anticipatory bail.
Anticipatory bail is not to be granted generally but only when the court is convinced that exceptional circumstances exist that resort it to take the extraordinary remedy.
The court is aware that Section 438 CrPC, the power of granting bail to person apprehending arrest is to safeguard the individual's liberty and to protect him from the possibility of being humiliated and from being subjected to unnecessary police custody.
A balance is required to be established between the two rights, safeguarding the personal liberty of an individual and the societal interest.
The Supreme Court gave the judgement after it dismissed P Chidambaram's petition against Delhi High Court’s order denying him anticipatory bail in the INX Media case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate. The court said that there were no grounds for interfering with the order. The Court had previously also dismissed P Chidambaram's petition for an anticipatory bail in the CBI case, calling it ‘invalid’.
The CBI had on May 15, 2017 lodged an FIR alleging irregularities in FIPB clearance granted to INX Media group for receiving overseas funds worth Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram's tenure as the Union finance minister. Following this, the ED also launched a money laundering case against the senior Congress leader in 2017.