The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently set aside the order passed by the trial court, directing the Superintendent of Police to take action against the Investigating Officer for an allegedly botched up investigation, observing that he was not given an opportunity by the lower court to explain his position.
Quashing the impugned order, Justice Atul Sreedharan observed-
Under the circumstances, the impugned order itself is violative of principles of natural justice as no opportunity was given to the petitioner to explain his position either before the learned trial court when he was being examined as a witness to the prosecution, where this court could have put questions and elicited answers to suggestions of a deliberately botched up investigation. Therefore, the petition succeeds and the impugned order/letter dated 27.4.2011 (Annexure A/3) addressed by the learned trial court to the Superintendent of Police, Panna, is quashed.
The facts of the case were that the Applicant/IO was investigating a case registered for offences punishable under Section 399, 402 IPC and under Section 25, 27 of Arms Act. After completion of investigation, the charge sheet was filed against the accused and the charges were framed. Pursuant to the trial, the accused persons were acquitted. While acquitting the accused, the trial court passed the impugned order, directed the Superintendent of Police, District Panna to take action against the Applicant for the way he carried out the investigation. Aggrieved by the said order, the Applicant moved the High Court to challenge it.
The Applicant submitted before the Court that merely because the case had ended in an acquittal, it cannot be a ground for initiating action against him. He further submitted that even if the court feels that certain stricture must be passed against an Investigating Officer, he has to be given an opportunity and be heard with regard to those lapses which the court feels happened in the case because of the Investigating Officer.
In the present case, the Applicant argued, no such procedure was adopted by the trial court and that it had straightaway directed the Superintendent of Police to take action against him, without giving him an opportunity to explain his position with regard to the case.
Perusing the trial court record of the case, the Court observed that the lower court had not put forth any questions to the witnesses regarding the role of the Applicant while carrying out the investigation-
This court has gone through the testimony of the petitioner given before the learned trial court. From the said statement, it appears that the trial court has not put any questions to the witness or even suggested to the witness that it has deliberately botched up the investigation in order to protect the accused persons. Under the circumstances, in view of the judgment passed by the Supreme Court in State of W. B. and others vs. Babu Chakraborthy (2004) 12 SCC 201 where the trial court had convicted the accused persons and the High Court had acquitted them, the High Court had passed certain observations and strictures against the officers of the police indicting them. In paragraph no.31 of the judgment, the Supreme Court agreed with the submissions of the learned counsel for the appellants and held that observations made by the High Court in the impugned judgment passing strictures against the appellants have been made while against the record of the case and penalise the two police officers who were discharging their official duties as per the law. The court also held that the action taken by the appellants has been in the discharge of their official duties wherein they may have violated certain provisions of the law which in the opinion of the Supreme Court would not justify the High Court passing strictures against them where there was absence of malafide. In paragraph no.33, it once again held that the officers who were discharging their statutory duties cannot be blamed and that the action taken by the State Government and the officials concerned was for implementing the objects behind the act.
In the present case, the Court noted, the impugned order reflected that no opportunity of hearing was ever given to the Applicant to state his position with regard to the investigation. Accordingly, the Court opined that the impugned order was liable to be set aside.
With the aforesaid observations, the Court quashed the impugned order passed by the trial court and accordingly the Application was allowed.
Case Title: HIMANSHUDHAR DWIVEDI v. THE STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (MP) 150