SC Upholds Madras HC’s Order For CBI Probe Into Underground Gutkha Business In TN [Read Judgment]
‘For instilling confidence in the minds of the victims as well as public at large, the High Court predicated that it was but necessary to entrust the investigation of such a crime to CBI. Viewed thus, there is no infirmity in the conclusion reached by the High Court in the impugned judgment, for having entrusted the investigation to CBI.’
The Supreme Court has upheld the Madras High Court judgment that ordered CBI investigation into all aspects of the offence of illegal manufacture, import, supply, distribution and sale of gutkha and other forms of chewable tobacco which are banned in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra dismissed the challenge against the high court order. A person allegedly involved in the crime under investigation had filed the special leave petition.
The bench, perusing the judgment, observed that the high court has cogitated over all the issues exhaustively and being fully satisfied about the necessity to ensure fair investigation of the crime in question, justly issued a writ of mandamus to transfer the investigation to CBI.
“For instilling confidence in the minds of the victims as well as public at large, the High Court predicated that it was but necessary to entrust the investigation of such a crime to CBI. Viewed thus, there is no infirmity in the conclusion reached by the High Court in the impugned judgment, for having entrusted the investigation to CBI,” Justice Khanwilkar said in his judgment.
The bench also rejected the argument that, though named as an accused in the FIR, the petitioner was not given an opportunity of hearing nor was made a party in the public interest litigation in which the impugned judgment has been passed. The bench said: “But a person who is named as an accused in the FIR, who otherwise has no right to be heard at the stage of investigation or to have an opportunity of hearing as a matter of course, cannot be heard to say that the direction issued to transfer the investigation to CBI is a nullity. This ground, in our opinion, is an argument of desperation and deserves to be rejected.”
Madras High Court Judgment
The bench headed by the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court Indira Banerjee had made the following observations while ordering CBI investigation:
- The underground Gutkha business is a crime against society which needs to be curbed
- This order is, in our view, not only imperative to stop the menace of the surreptitious sale of Gutkha and chewable forms of tobacco which pose a health hazard to people in general and in particular the youth and to punish the guilty, but also to instil faith of the people in the fairness and impartiality of the investigation.
- e power of the Vigilance Commission to investigate would not extend to an enquiry into the modus operandi of the Gutkha mafia, the mode and manner of import from other States, distribution and sale of Gutkha and other chewable forms of tobacco, and detection of the sources of supply. Enquiry by the Vigilance Department would not unearth secret storage and manufacturing units. Nor would such investigation be able to detect incidents of illegal import, supply and sale or nab those actually manufacturing, supplying, importing, selling or otherwise dealing with prohibited food items containing tobacco and nicotine such as Gutkha.
- Investigation by a centralized agency like the CBI would be more comprehensive and cover all aspects of the illegal manufacture, import, supply, distribution and sale of banned chewable tobacco items, including the detection of all those involved in such illegal import, manufacture, supply, distribution and sale, as also the detection of corruption and complicity of public servants and/or government servants in this regard.
Read the Judgment Here