Centre Can Direct NIA To Investigate Scheduled Offence Which Is Yet To Be Reported : Kerala High Court
The Kerala High Court has held that under Section 6 (5) of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, the central government has the power to direct the National Investigation Agency to investigate not just pending cases, but also offences where no case was registered. In dismissing the pleas of the accused, a division bench of Justice P.B.Suresh Kumar and Justice Johnson John also...
The Kerala High Court has held that under Section 6 (5) of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, the central government has the power to direct the National Investigation Agency to investigate not just pending cases, but also offences where no case was registered.
In dismissing the pleas of the accused, a division bench of Justice P.B.Suresh Kumar and Justice Johnson John also observed that a High Court had the administrative power to transfer cases from one Court to another, akin to how the matter had travelled from the Additional Sessions Court, Palakkad to the Special Court Ernakulam, in this case.
Facts of the Case
The case relates to the murder of RSS leader Srinivasan in April 2022. Initially, the State police conducted investigation and filed final report against certain accused.It was alleged that in retaliation for the political murder of Subair who was an activist of the Popular Front of India (PFI), the accused who were also activists of PFI conspired and committed the murder of Srinivasan who belonged to RSS.
The Central Government, on 16.09.2022, issued a letter asking the NIA to take up investigation of offences committed by members and leaders of Popular Front of India (PFI). Based on this letter, the NIA registered an FIR against PFA leaders, invoking, inter alia, offences under the UAPA. Later, on 19.12.2022, the Centre issued another later, invoking subsection (5) of Section 6 and Section 8 of the NIA Act, asking the Agency to investigate the murder of Srinivasan as well on the ground that it was linked with the earlier FIR of the NIA against PFI due to the common element of larger conspiracy.
Accordingly, the central government issued two orders directing the NIA to take up the investigation of offences committed by members of the PFI, upon noting the gravity of offences and their effect on national security. Thus, the NIA registered an FIR based on the names of persons given by the central government and it also took up the murder investigation of Srinivasan which was allegedly committed by the members of PFI.
Later, the High Court permitted the cases pending before the Additional Sessions Court-I, Palakkad to be transferred to the Special Court, NIA in Ernakulam.
Accordingly, the accused approached the High Court challenging the FIR, the final report filed by the NIA before the Special Court, orders of the central government concerning the investigation of NIA cases and the order of the High Court transferring the case to the Special Court.
The primary contention of the petitioners was that under subsection (5) of Section 6 of the NIA Act, the Central Government is empowered to direct the NIA to investigate only a pending case
On analysing Sections 6 (5), 6 (8) and the long title of the NIA Act, the Division Bench held that NIA was empowered to register such an FIR and investigate a scheduled offence on the direction of the central government. It also observed that an officer of the NIA had all the powers of an officer-in-charge of a police station and could register the FIR and investigate offences scheduled in the NIA Act.
It further observed that under the Act, the NIA could also investigate cases which were yet to be registered and not just pending cases. It opined:
“No doubt, sub-section (5) is also intended to confer on the Central Government the power to direct investigation of a pending case by the NIA, notwithstanding the procedure prescribed for the same in terms of sub-sections (1) to (3) of Section 6, but that does not lead to the inference that the Central Government cannot direct investigation of a Scheduled Offence which is yet to be reported, after registering a case for the said purpose.”
In analyzing Sections 8 and 14 of the NIA Act which pertained to the investigation and trial of connected offences, the Court noted that while the agency was investigating any scheduled offence, it may also investigate any other offence which the accused were alleged to have committed if the offence was connected with the Scheduled Offence.
The Court thus observed that the NIA could investigate the murder of Srinivasan under the orders issued by the central government.
“A conjoint reading of Sections 8 and 14, in the light of the object of the NIA Act as contained in its long title and the remaining provisions contained in the NIA Act, indicate to us that the expression “connected with the scheduled offence” as contained in Section 8 ought to be understood in a wider perspective as an offence alleged to have been committed by an accused involved in a Scheduled Offence which is being investigated by the NIA and which has a bearing on the Scheduled Offence committed by the accused,” it held.
Finally, relying upon, Ranbir Yadav v. State of Bihar (1995) and Kamlesh Kumar v. State of Jharkhand (2013), the Court held that the petitioners herein could not challenge the administrative power of the High Court to transfer cases, and thus dismissed their pleas.
Counsel for the appellants: Senior Advocate S Sreekumar, Advocates E.A.Haris P.P.Harris, Renjith B Marar
Counsel for the respondents: Manu S. Deputy Solicitor General Of India, Senior Government Pleaders Alex M.Thombra, P.Narayanan , Sajju S, Special Government Pleader S.U.Nazar, , Advocates Sasthamangalam S. Ajithkumar, Harindranath B G, Amith Krishnan H, Lejo Joseph George
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 701
Case title: Ali K @ Ragam Ali v Union of India and connected case
Case number: Crl.M.C.No.8198 of 2023 and W.P.(Crl.) No.1044 of 2023