Police can seek Custody of Accused who are arrested even after filing of Charge Sheet: Supreme Court [Read the Judgment]

Police can seek Custody of Accused who are arrested even after filing of Charge Sheet: Supreme Court [Read the Judgment]

Can remand in police  custody  be  given  to  the  investigating agency in respect of the absconding  accused  who  is arrested  only  after filing of the charge sheet?

This was the legal question that arose for consideration of the Apex Court recently in a case which related  to  killing of nine persons and injuries to large number of villagers of Village  Netai  of District Paschim  Medinipore  in  West  Bengal.

The Court was hearing an appeal by special leave filed by the CBI Central Bureau of Iinvestigation vs. Rathin Dandapath & Ors.] against the orders passed by the Calcutta High Court upholding the orders passed by the Magistrate refusing CBI’s request for police remand of certain absconding accused who had been arrested after the filing of charge sheet in the case.

The allegation of the appellant CBI was  that  the respondents in the appeals before the Court and other accused, on  07.01.2011,  after forming an unlawful assembly in the rooftop  of  respondent  No.  1,  Rathin Dandapat, committed the crime.

First Information Report was lodged  on  the same day at Police Station Lalgarh in respect of offences  punishable  under Sections 148, 149, 326, 307, 302 of Indian Penal Code  (IPC),  and  also  in respect of offences  punishable  under  Section  25/27  of  Arms  Act.   The investigation of the case was initially done by regular  police,  but  later transferred to Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the  State.

Vide order dated 18.2.2011, passed by the High Court of  Judicature  at  Calcutta in Writ Petition Nos. 1170(W) of 2011, 1172(W) of 2011 and 1181(W) of  2011, the investigation was transferred to Central Bureau  of  Investigation  (for short “the CBI”).

During investigation, several accused, namely Abhani Bhusan Singha, Subhendu  Mondal, Aswani Chalak, Nabagopal Sanki,  Pintu  Roy,  Gandib  Ban  Roy,  Lob  Duley, Banamali Duley, Niranjan Kotal, Rupchand Ahir, Raju Roy and Swapan Roy  were arrested.  On completion of investigation, the CBI  submitted  charge  sheet dated 4.4.2011 against 21 accused,  including  the  arrested  ones  and  the absconders.

It was  mentioned  in the  charge sheet that   further investigation of the case was kept open for the purposes of collection of further evidence and the arrest of the absconders.  It was also  mentioned that further collected evidence during investigation would be  forwarded  by filing supplementary charge sheet.

The respondents, namely, Rathin Dandapat,  Md.  Khaliluddin,  Dalim  Pandey, Joydeb Giri, Tapan De, Chandi  Karan,  Anuj  Pandey and one Kanai Dey, were declared  proclaimed  offenders.

Meanwhile, the trial proceeded and, after providing necessary copies  to  the  accused,

as required under Section 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,  1973  (for short “CrPC”),  the  Additional  Chief  Judicial  Magistrate,  Jhargram,  on 9.8.2011, committed the case to the Court of Sessions,  Paschim  Medinipore.

The Court of Sessions on 10.12.2011 framed  charge  against  accused  Abhani Bhusan Singha, Subhendu Mondal, Aswani Chalak, Nabagopal Sanki,  Pintu  Roy, Gandib Ban Roy, Lob Duley, Banamali Duley, Niranjan  Kotal,  Rupchand  Ahir, Raju Roy and Swapan Roy.

The last two accused, namely, Raju Roy and  Swapan Roy were later declared juveniles and their  cases  were  sent  to  Juvenile Justice Board, Paschim Medinipore.

In respect of other accused  against whom  charge  was  framed,  trial  further  proceeded  and  ten  Prosecution Witnesses were examined.  However, their cross-examination was  deferred  at the instance of arrested accused persons, other than the juveniles.

Out of eight  proclaimed  offenders,  five,  namely,  Rathin  Dandapat,  Md. Khaliluddin, Dalim Pandey, Joydeb Giri  and  Tapan  Dey,  were  arrested  on 29.4.2014, whereafter on 30.4.2014 the CBI sought  their  remand  in  police custody.

The Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate,  Jhargram  rejected  the prayer of the CBI, aggrieved by which said  investigating  agency  preferred a revision before  the  Calcutta  High Court.

Absconder-accused Chandi Karan was arrested on 9.5.2014  by  CID  of the State, which informed the CBI about his arrest  and  meanwhile  vacation Magistrate remanded the said accused to judicial custody till  12.5.2014.

The CBI on 12.5.2014 sought remand  in  police  custody  in  respect  of  Chandi Karan, but the same was also  rejected  by  the  Additional  Chief  Judicial Magistrate, Jhargram, against which a revision was filed by the CBI before the High Court.

As regards the other absconder-accused  Anuj Pandey too, CID, West Bengal, on 7.5.2014 informed the CBI about his  arrest from Chandrapura in Jharkhand, and he was produced on  8.5.2014  before  the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Jhargram where CBI  sought  remand  in police custody but the same was  also  refused.

Aggrieved  by  said  order dated  8.5.2014,  passed  by  the  Additional  Chief  Judicial   Magistrate,  revision was filed by the CBI before  the  High Court.

All the three Criminal Revisions were disposed of by the High  Court by separate orders of the same date, i.e., 15.10.2014, against  which  criminal appeals were filed through special leave before the Supreme Court.

The Apex Court after surveying the statutory provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure, referred to its earlier judgment in State through CBI v. Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar and others wherein a  three  judge bench laid down the law on the issue relating to grant  of police custody of  a  person  arrested  during  further  investigation.   In

paragraph 11 of said case, the Supreme Court had held that since, even after cognizance is taken of an offence  the  police  has  a  power  to investigate into it further, which can be exercised only in accordance  with Chapter XII, “we see no reason whatsoever why the provisions of  Section  167 thereof would not apply to a person who comes to be later  arrested  by  the police in  course  of  such  investigation.  If  Section  309(2)  is  to  be interpreted — as has been interpreted by the  Bombay  High  Court  in  Mohd. Ahmed Yasin Mansuri v. State of Maharashtra [1994 Cri LJ 1854 (Bom)],  —  to mean that after the Court takes cognizance of an offence it cannot  exercise its power of detention in police custody under Section 167 of the Code,  the Investigating Agency would be deprived of an opportunity  to  interrogate  a person arrested during further investigation, even if it can  on  production

of sufficient materials, convince  the  Court  that  his  detention  in  its (police) custody was essential for that purpose. We are, therefore, of  the opinion that the words “accused if in custody” appearing in  Section  309(2) refer and relate to an accused who was before the Court when cognizance  was taken or when enquiry or trial was being held in respect of him and  not  to an accused who is subsequently arrested in course of further  investigation. So far as the accused in the first category is concerned he can be  remanded to judicial custody only in view of Section 309(2), but he who  comes  under the second category will be governed by  Section  167  so  long  as  further investigation continues. That necessarily  means  that  in  respect  of  the latter the Court which had taken cognizance of the offence may exercise  its power to detain him in police custody, subject  to  the  fulfilment  of  the requirements and the limitation of Section 167.”

The SC held that the High Court erred in placing reliance on the case of Dinesh Dalmia v. CBI. It said “In view of the above facts, in the present case, in our  opinion,  the  High Court is not justified on the basis of Dinesh Dalmia  (supra)  in  upholding

refusal of remand in police custody by the Magistrate, on  the  ground  that accused stood in custody after his arrest under Section 309 CrPC.   We  have already noted above the principle of law laid down by the three judge  bench of this Court in State v. Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar (supra) that  police  remand can be sought under Section 167(2) CrPC in respect of  an  accused  arrested at the stage of further investigation, if the  interrogation  is  needed  by the investigating agency.  This Court has further  clarified  in  said  case that expression ‘accused if in custody’ in  Section  309(2)  CrPC  does  not include  the  accused  who  is  arrested  on  further  investigation  before supplementary charge sheet is filed.”

The Supreme Court accordingly held that the refusal of police remand in the present case is against the  settled  principle  of  law  laid down by it in earlier cases.  Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeals and set aside the  impugned  orders  passed  by  the  High Court, affirming the orders of the  Additional  Chief  Judicial  Magistrate, Jhargram, and directed the Magistrate to pass  fresh orders on the applications made by  the  appellant  before  it  relating  to granting of police remand of the respondents in accordance with law.

Read the Judgment here.