4 Feb 2021 4:43 AM GMT
In an interesting Judgment, the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday (03rd February) ruled that the authority of the CBI to investigate into the allegations in a particular case within Railway areas remains unfettered by the withdrawal of consent by the State Government. The Single Bench of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya further observed that the extension of powers of the CBI in respect...
In an interesting Judgment, the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday (03rd February) ruled that the authority of the CBI to investigate into the allegations in a particular case within Railway areas remains unfettered by the withdrawal of consent by the State Government.
The Single Bench of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya further observed that the extension of powers of the CBI in respect of Railway areas falls outside the purview of the State's authority to grant or withdraw consent.
However, the Court added that the CBI's authority to investigate beyond the 'railway areas' was subject to the specific consent by the State Govt.
The matter before the Court
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) started investigation in an FIR, wherein the Petitioner was named as an accused.
The FIR was registered in connection with suspected offences of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by public servants and criminal misconduct by public servants by dishonestly or fraudulently misappropriating the property entrusted to them or any property under their control as public servants or allowing other persons to do so.
Importantly, the FIR specified the place of occurrence of the offence as leasehold area of ECL under Kunustoria, Kajora area, District West Burdwan, corresponding Railway Sidings and other places (in the State of West Bengal).
[NOTE: It is important to note that Section 5 (1) of DSPEA states - The Central Government "may by order extend to any area (including Railway areas), in a State, not being a Union Territory the powers and jurisdiction of members of the Delhi Special Police Establishment for the investigation of any offences or classes of offences specified in a Notification under Section 3.
Also, the extension of powers and jurisdiction of the CBI in a State, granted by the Central Government under Section 5 of DSPEA, is subject to consent of the concerned State Government under Section 6 of the 1946 Act.]
Arguments put forth
The Counsel for the Petitioner submitted that the consent given by the State of West Bengal under Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 on August 2, 1989, was withdrawn vide a subsequent Notification dated November 16, 2018.
Thus, it was contended that in view of the withdrawal of such consent by the State of West Bengal, the CBI had no authority to register FIR and conduct investigation pursuant to the same within the State of West Bengal.
Question before the Court?
The Court was concerned with the question as to whether the withdrawal of consent by the State of West Bengal denuded the CBI of any authority to conduct investigation within the territory of West Bengal, including Railway areas?
At the outset, for the purpose of defining Railway area as contemplated in the 1946 Act (DSPEA), the Court borrowed the definition of "Railway" given in Section 2 (31) of The Railways Act, 1989 (as 1946 Act doesn't define "Railway area") and held,
"All conceivable areas covered by the Railways, including rails, sidings, yards or branches used for the purposes of or in connection with Railway, fall within the periphery of Railway area."
Next, the Court held that the extension of powers and jurisdiction of members of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to a State would automatically include Railway areas falling therein, in the absence of any specific exclusion of such areas in the order conferring such powers.
Further, the Court remarked,
"Since, under Section 6, the consent of the State Government operates only in respect of a State and not Railway areas, which are specifically excluded in the section, the grant or withdrawal of consent by the State Government is irrelevant in respect of Railway areas."
With regard to Section 6 of the DSPEA, the Court said,
"…For obvious reasons, Railway areas were excluded, since such areas spread over the whole of the country and are interconnected. Therefore, it would be absurd if each and every State asserts rights over the Railway areas to impose their own fiat regarding such areas, which would adversely affect the continuity of services and operation of the Railways."
Further, the Court observed that a composite reading of Sections 5 and 6 of the 1946 Act makes it evident that the grant or withdrawal of consent by the State Government, though valid for other territories in the State, does not have any repercussion on Railway areas.
Importantly, the Court did note that it might lead to certain practical difficulties for CBI to investigate in the Railway areas falling within the State of West Bengal while not being able to conduct such investigation in the other areas of the State.
However, the Court also clarified that the CBI shall have the authority to summon any witness or suspect for the purpose of interrogation, even if they reside outside the Railway areas in West Bengal, to the limited extent as such interrogation is necessary for investigation within the Railway areas.
Accordingly, the Plea was disposed of in the following manner:
Case title - Anup Majee Vs. Union of India and others [WPA No. 10457 of 2020]
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