Fair Investigations: Powers of Investigation

Amar Nath Chaubey v. Union of India & Ors. [SLP Crl. 6951/2018, judgment dated 14.12.2020] (Supreme Court of India, 3-judge bench)

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The Petitioner had approached the Supreme Court, aggrieved by an Allahabad High Court order disposing of his writ petition while accepting the contention of the police that it would expeditiously conclude its investigation into the murder of the Petitioner’s father in 2015.

The Supreme Court noted that the closure reports submitted by the police merely state that there was no concrete evidence of conspiracy against some of the accused, and the informant had not placed any materials before the police with regard to the conspiracy. The Supreme Court held that it was preposterous to say that further investigation was not possible as the informant had not supplied adequate materials to investigate. It held that if the police does not perform its statutory duty to investigate, the court cannot abdicate its constitutional obligation to ensure a proper investigation on the precocious plea that investigation is the exclusive prerogative of the police. (para 7-8)

Asha Mukherjee v. Union of India [2020 SCC OnLine Cal 1717] (Calcutta High Court, Single Judge)

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The petitioner challenged certain notices issued to her under Section 91 Cr.P.C. The petitioner was the complainant in an FIR against Respondent No. 5, alleging that he had trespassed into university premises, illegally taken photographs and harassed women staff members etc. Respondent No. 5 was the complainant in an FIR, alleging he had been harassed and assaulted by university officials. The petitioner had received Section 91 Cr.P.C. notices that mentioned both cases, but these were issued by the investigating officer assigned to the case initiated by Respondent No. 5, which did not name or involve the petitioner.

The High Court held that though the allegations in both complaints overlapped in time, the offences they dealt with were different and contradictory. Hence, the Court held that the investigating officer in Respondent No. 5’s complaint was acting patently beyond his powers issuing the impugned Section 91 notices to the petitioner, who was prima facie not concerned with the incidents alleged in Respondent No. 5’s complaint. The petitioner was neither named as an accused nor a witness. (para 31). The High Court held that:

40. As such, although the police have wide powers to collect information in connection with an investigation, such questions and the persons to whom those are addressed have to have a visible connection, either evident from the complaint or the FIR or from subsequent developments or materials, with the subject-matter of the information. Plenary and blanket powers cannot be said to have been conferred on the Police to abuse the proposition as laid down in the judgments cited by the State, inasmuch as the collection of evidence and the ensuing examination of various persons, followed by reduction into writing, has to relate or be relevant to the commission of the offence-in-question

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