The Chhattisgarh High Court on Wednesday made certain crucial observations with regards the stature of powers enjoyed by the Central and the State government under the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008.
While deciding an appeal that whether or not the investigation pertaining to scheduled offences committed by some unidentified Naxalites/Maoists, which lead to the demise of a sitting MLA and four other armed guards, should be handed over to the National Agency, the bench of Chief Justice PR Ramachandra Menon and Justice Parth Prateem Sahu held that,
"the power of the State Government to investigate the Scheduled Offence, as provided under Section 10 of the NIA Act, is always subject to the power exercised by the Central Government to cause it to be investigated by the National Agency as dealt with under Section 6 of the NIA Act."
In relation to the above mentioned killings, an FIR was registered under the relevant provisions of IPC, Arms Act, Explosive Substance Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Since the offences committed under the UAPA Act are Scheduled Offences under the NIA Act, the information relating to the offence was forwarded by the State Police to the State Government, based on which a report was sent to the Central Government under Section 6(2) of the NIA Act. On receipt of the said report, the Central Government found it as a fit case to be investigated by the NIA, and directed the National Agency to take over the investigation.
However, the State Police refused to hand over the case material to the Centre and accordingly, an application was filed before the Special Court, which was pleased to dismiss the Centre's plea. Subsequently, a writ petition was preferred before the Single Judge of high court, which came to be allowed with directions to the State to hand over the material.
Hence, the present appeal was preferred by the State.
Refuting these arguments, the Court explained that Section 6(6) of the NIA Act clearly prohibits the State Government from investigating the Scheduled Offence, once an order is passed by the Central Government entrusting the investigation with the NIA.
In this light it was held that power of the State Government to investigate the Scheduled Offence, as provided under Section 10 of the NIA Act, is always subject to the power exercised by the Central Government to cause it to be investigated by the National Agency as dealt with under Section 6 of the NIA Act. In fact, the State was duty bound to extend all assistance and co-operation to the Agency for investigation of the Scheduled Offences. Hence, power of the State under Section 10 of the NIA Act was subordinate to those of the Centre under Section 6.
Reliance was placed on Pradeep Ram v. State of Jharkhand & Anr., 2019 SCC OnLine SC 825
It was further explained that Section 6(5) contained a 'non-obstante clause' holding that 'Notwithstanding anything contained in this Section', if the Central Government was of the opinion that a Scheduled Offence had been committed and was required to be investigated under the NIA Act, it may, suo motu, direct the Agency to conduct such investigation.
The court also addressed each of the State's arguments in the following words:
With these observations, the court dismissed the State's appeal.
The State was represented by Advocate General Satish Chandra Verma with Dy. Advocate General Sudeep Agrawal and Government Advocate Ghanshyam Patel. The Centre was represented by Advocates Kishore Bhaduri, B. Gopa Kumar, Pankaj Singh and Sabhyasachi Bhaduri.
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