CBI ASP Haridath’s Suicide: SC affirms Kerala HC Judgment quashing criminal proceedings against CBI Inspectors [Read the Judgment]

CBI ASP Haridath’s Suicide: SC affirms Kerala HC Judgment quashing criminal proceedings against CBI Inspectors [Read the Judgment]

The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal challenging the judgment of the Kerala High Court quashing the F.I.R filed by the Crime Branch arraigning CBI Inspectors S. Unnikrishnan Nair and K.K Rajan as accused in the case relating to the suicide of Haridath, CBI Assistant Superintendent of Police and an investigation officer in the Sampath custodial death case.

The facts of the case are as follows: One Sampath was alleged to have been beaten to death by the investigating agency, that is, the State police, while he was in custody. His brother, Murukeshan, preferred W.P.(C) No.13426 of 2010 before the High Court of Kerala and during the pendency of the writ petition, he filed I.A. No.16944 of 2010 with a prayer for issuance of a direction to the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (C.B.I.) to submit a detailed report regarding the investigation so far conducted and production of the entire case diary. As is manifest, he was not satisfied with the investigation conducted by the State police and his prayer 2 was for better and more rigorous investigation.

The High Court by an earlier order had directed the C.B.I. to investigate as there were certain allegations against the State police.

Haridath was made the Chief Investigating Officer. After the investigating team was constituted by the higher officer, the High Court had reposed faith in Haridath and also granted him freedom to investigate and liberty to address the court through the Registrar General in a sealed cover. The said order was passed on 22nd December, 2010.

The said Haridath was assisted by a team of officers which included the respondents 1 and 2, namely,  S. Unnikrishnan Nair and K.K Rajan.

While the investigation was in progress, Haridath committed suicide on 15th March, 2012, leaving behind a suicide note. The said note reads as follows: “Rajan and Unnikrishnan (CBI TVPM) are responsible for my this situation. Nobody else has any role in this. They who compelled me to do everything and cheated me and put me in deep trouble. Advocate Seekumar also has some role. CJM Sri Vijayan also put pressure on me. Nobody else has any role in this.”

On the basis of the aforesaid suicide note, the criminal law was set in motion and the respondents were arrayed as accused, and a F.I.R. was lodged against the for the offences punishable under Sections 182, 194, 195, 195A and 306 of the Indian Penal Code

The said situation compelled them to invoke the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and eventually the High Court quashed the same.

The Kerala High Court speaking through Justice S.S. Satheesachandran, while quashing the criminal proceedings initiated against the said CBI officers had found that the report filed before the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Fort Kochi, implicating the petitioners in the Haridath suicide case was an abuse of the process of court.

The Kerala High Court while quashing charges under Section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code observed that the contents of the suicide note written by Haridath in which the name of petitioners along with the names of a lawyer and a Chief Judicial Magistrate figured would not amount to an offence under Section 306. The statement given by Haridath’s wife regarding the pressure endured by Haridath during the preceding month before committing suicide could not be given any merit for imputing abetment against the petitioners as it did not indicate any abetment by persons named in the note.

Assailing the judgment of the Kerala High Court in appeal before the Supreme Court, Senior Advocate L. Nageswar Rao appearing for the State submitted that there was no grievance as far as the quashment of the offences punishable under Sections 182, 194, 195, 195A I.P.C. is concerned.

Therefore, the central challenge pertained to quashing of the offence punishable under Section 306 I.P.C.

Mr. Rao, submitted that the High Court had fallen into gross error by quashing the criminal proceeding inasmuch as it was a fit case where there should have been a trial. He took the court through the statement of the wife of the deceased and the other witnesses.

Mr. Rao relied on the decision reported in Praveen Pradhan vs. State of Uttaranchal and Another, to show that the instant case is one where ingredients of Section 107 of I.P.C. have been met with.  Mr. P.K. Dey, who appeared for the C.B.I., also supported the submissions of Mr. Rao.

Per contra, Mr. Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the respondent Nos.1 and 2 (accused) contended that the High Court had justifiably quashed the investigation, for Haridath, the deceased, was holding a superior rank and there is nothing to suggest that the respondents had instigated him or done any activity that had left the deceased with no option but to commit suicide.

A bench of the Supreme Court comprised of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C. Pant, after appreciating the rival contentions observed, after referring to the suicide note that “on a plain reading of the same, it is difficult to hold that there has been any abetment by the respondents. The note, except saying that the respondents compelled him to do everything and cheated him and put him in deep trouble, contains nothing else. The respondents were inferior in rank and it is surprising that such a thing could happen. That apart, the allegation is really vague. It also baffles reason, for the department had made him the head of the investigating team and the High Court had reposed complete faith in him and granted him the liberty to move the court, in such a situation, there was no warrant to feel cheated and to be put in trouble by the officers belonging to the lower rank.”

The Court observed that the suicide note really does not state about any continuous conduct of harassment and held that the High Court was justified in quashing the proceeding, “for it is an accepted position in law that where no prima facie case is made out against the accused, then the High Court is obliged in law to exercise the jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Code and quash the proceedings.”

The appeal filed by the State was accordingly dismissed by the Apex Court.

Read the Judgment here.