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BREAKING: Public Servant Can't Be Distinguished Based On Their Location, State's Consent Not Required For CBI To Investigate Central Govt Officials: Calcutta HC

Aaratrika Bhaumik
28 July 2021 2:58 PM GMT
BREAKING: Public Servant Cant Be Distinguished Based On Their Location, States Consent Not Required For CBI To Investigate Central Govt Officials: Calcutta HC
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The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday refused to interfere in the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the cattle and coal smuggling cases against former TMC leader Vinay Mishra. The accused had been charged with offences under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PC Act, 1988) proceedings of which are currently...

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The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday refused to interfere in the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the cattle and coal smuggling cases against former TMC leader Vinay Mishra. The accused had been charged with offences under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PC Act, 1988) proceedings of which are currently pending before the Special Judge, C.B.I., Paschim Bardhaman at Asansol.

Justice Tirthankar Ghosh observed,

"The nature of allegations complained in the present case, the officers/accused who are involved and the loss which has been sustained do not involve any interference with the powers vested in the State by the Constitution."

Relying on It's earlier Judgment Ramesh Chandra Singh and Another Vs. Central Bureau of Investigation the High Court held that Central Government/CBI's power to investigate and prosecute its own officials cannot be impeded or interfered by the State.

The counsel for the petitioner questioned the jurisdiction of the CBI to investigate in the matter in light of the withdrawal of general consent by the State of West Bengal vide notification dated November 16, 2018. It was also argued by the petitioner that the fundamental principles of federalism do not allow the CBI to investigate the instant case within the State of West Bengal pursuant to the provisions of Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (DSPE Act). Only the Supreme Court and the High Court can issue directions upon the CBI to investigate into a matter without the applicability of Section 6 of the DSPE Act. 

Observations:

The Court noted that in the instant case, the FIR and charge sheet reflect that the concerned government officials along with certain beneficiaries had entered into a conspiracy in order to manipulate the auction procedure in respect of the seized cattle thereby depriving the central government of its legitimate dues.

Reliance was placed on the Supreme Court judgement in Subramanian Swamy v. Director, CBI wherein the Apex Court while dealing with Section 6A of the DSPE Act had observed that there exists no rational basis to extend protection to bureaucrats of Joint Secretary level and above, who are working with the Central Government under Section 6A of the DSPE Act. This is because the same level of officers who are working with the State government are not entitled to such a protection despite both classes of these officers being accused of an offence under the PC Act, 1988. Every public servant against whom there is a reasonable suspicion of commission of a crime or there are allegations of an offence under the PC Act, 1988 has to be treated equally and similarly under law, the Apex Court had further observed.

Justice Gosh further referred to the Calcutta High Court judgment in Ramesh Chandra Singh and Another v. Central Bureau of Investigation wherein it was observed that the Central Government or CBI's power to investigate and prosecute its own officials cannot be in any way impeded or interfered by the State government even if the concerned offences were committed within the territory of the State. It was also held in the concerned case that the action of the Central government in investigating into the offences committed by its officer who functioned under a Central government statute must be kept outside the scope of Section 6 of the DSPE Act.

Accordingly, the Court observed that all public servants charged with offences under the PC Act 1988 must be dealt with equally regardless of where their offices are situated.

"Public servants whose office location may be in different States, but are associated with the Central Government, corporations established by or under any Central Act, Government companies, societies and local authorities owned or controlled by the Central Government cannot be distinguished and/or discriminated because of the location of their offices being at different States and are to be hauled up for corruption in like and similar manner uniformly throughout the country", the Court opined.

Furthermore, opining on the objective behind enacting the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 (CVC Act, 2003) the Court observed that the legislation aims to investigate into offences alleged to have been committed under P.C. Act by certain categories of public servants of the Central Government. Section 26 of the CVC Act, 2003 incorporates amendments to the DSPE Act, 1946. Consequently Section 4 of the DSPE Act had been amended to this effect.

"Sub-section (1) of Section 4 of the DSPE Act vests the Commission with the powers to superintend investigations conducted by the officers of DSPE in respect of offences committed under the P.C. Act, 1988. The earlier sub-section (1) of Section 4 vested superintendence to the Central Government. Thus, the term 'superintendence' referred in the said provision is not merely administrative or logistic support but is a functional superintendence", the Court observed.

As a result, the Court held that the withdrawal notification by the State government dated November 16, 2018 is 'abrupt, devoid of any reasons' and has the effect of shielding corrupt Central Government Officials, thereby, deterring the CBI officers to investigate offences in respect of officers falling within the category of Section 8(2) of the CVC Act, 2003.

However, the Court cautioned that there might be cases where exclusively the officers belonging to the State Government are involved and thus consent of the State government under Section 6 of the DSPE Act might be required unlike the instant case.

Accordingly, the Court disposed of the petition by observing that no illegality has been committed in the ongoing investigation by the CBI and that there exists no scope for interference in the continuation of such an investigation.

Case Title: Vinay Mishra v. CBI

Click Here To Read/Download Order


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