16 Nov 2022 5:02 AM GMT
Allowing the state government-constituted Special Investigation Team to continue its probe into the MLA poaching case, the Telangana High Court has said that a single bench of the court will monitor the progress of the investigation and the SIT will not report to any other authority, be it political or executive.The division bench of Chief Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice C.V. Bhaskar Reddy...
Allowing the state government-constituted Special Investigation Team to continue its probe into the MLA poaching case, the Telangana High Court has said that a single bench of the court will monitor the progress of the investigation and the SIT will not report to any other authority, be it political or executive.
The division bench of Chief Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice C.V. Bhaskar Reddy said the SIT will submit its first report in sealed cover before the single bench on November 29, and not disclose anything related to the progress of the investigation before any other authority as well as the media.
"There shall be no selective leakage of investigation or materials gathered during investigation; it is the responsibility of the Chairman of the SIT- Sri C.V.Anand, IPS, to ensure that the same is scrupulously followed," said the court, adding there shall not be any interference in the SIT probe by any authority.
It further said that if any permissions are required to proceed further with the investigation, the SIT would be at liberty to make suitable application before the Single Judge.
"Learned Single Judge shall monitor the investigation and on the basis of materials including progress of investigation to be submitted before him in sealed cover by the SIT from time to time, as may be directed, may pass such order as may be deemed fit and proper," said the court.
On October 26, Pilot Rohith Reddy, MLA, Tandur Assembly, lodged first information report alleging that three accused persons met him and asked him to not contest as a candidate of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party. Instead, he was allegedly asked to resign from the regional party and join the BJP and offered an "amount of Rs 100 crores besides contract works of the Central government".
Further, as per Reddy, the accused persons threatened to foist criminal cases on him in case he did agree to their proposal. Moinabad Police Station registered an FIR under Sections 120B, 171B, 171E and 506 of the IPC r/w Section 34 of the IPC and under Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 on his complaint.
Subsequently, the BJP filed a writ petition before the single bench of the Telangana High Court praying for the entrusting of investigation of the matter to a SIT to ensure a free and fair probe.
Proceedings Before Single Bench
In response to the writ petition, the single bench of the High Court passed the impugned order stating that it was too early for the Court to reach any prima facie opinion that action of the State Police was tainted with mala fides and that it was aimed only to target BJP.
Although the single bench of the High Court had earlier deferred the investigation through its order on October 29, the embargo was lifted on November 8, when the single Bench observed that larger issues of public importance were involved in the writ petition for which a detailed hearing was required.
Accordingly, Moinabad Police were allowed to go ahead with the investigation.
Case Before Division Bench
In this backdrop, the appellant-party, through Senior Counsel Vaidyanathan Chitambaram, argued before the division bench that the sole objective behind the "staged episode" was to defame BJP. It was further argued the accused persons were not even members of BJP and that the party was in no way connected with them.
Further, relying on State of West Bengal v. Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal, (2010) 3 SCC 571, the appellants submitted that under Article 226 of the Constitution, the High Court had the power to transfer investigation to an independent agency in case impartiality of the State Police did not inspire confidence in the appellant.
Accordingly, the petitioners prayed for the order of October 29 deferring the investigation of the Police to continue, during the pendency of the case before the single bench.
The State, through Mr. Dushyant Dave, submitted that there was no such interim prayer for staying the investigation and that the only demand of the appellants was to constitute an SIT to investigate the matter – not to stall the investigation by the police.
The State also relied on the Supreme Court decision in Neeharika Infrastructure Private Limited v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC Online SC 315, wherein the Supreme Court had concluded that police had the statutory right and the duty under the relevant provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, to investigate into a cognizable offence and that criminal proceedings could not be scuttled at the initial stage.
Reliance was also placed on the decision in Sanjai Tiwari v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2020 SCC Online SC 1027, to argue that a third party like the BJP in the instant case had no locus to approach the Court either for quashing of a criminal complaint or seeking transfer of investigation.
Further, the State argued that as per the Supreme Court decision in Wander Ltd. v. Antox India P. Limited, 1990, a writ appeal could not ordinarily be entertained against an interlocutory order when the single bench had exercised his discretion in a judicious manner.
Finally, the State submitted a copy of the Government Order dated 09.11.2022, which was issued by the Principal Secretary to the Government of Telangana, Home (Legal) Department, constituting a Special Investigation Team headed by C.V. Anand, IPS, Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad City to investigate the matter.
The division bench noted that since the case has serious political ramifications, it would be in the interest of all concerned if the investigation is done in a fair and professional manner; insulated from political allegations and counter allegations, to which end an SIT has already been constituted.
"While in a proceeding under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, that too at the appellate stage assailing an interlocutory order, it may not be proper for the writ appellate court to stall the investigation in a crime of this nature, more particularly when appellant itself insists on a fair investigation by a SIT, we are of the view that the following directions would sub-serve the cause of justice," the court said.
The division bench has now listed the writ petitions before the learned Single Judge for hearing on November 29.
Case Title: Bharatiya Janata Party v. State of Telangana
Citation: W.A. No. 749 of 2022
Coram: Chief Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice C.V. Bhaskar Reddy
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment