A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has held that it cannot be held as a general proposition that an accused under NDPS Act is entitled to an acquittal merely because the complainant is the investigating officer.
"Merely because the informant and the investigating officer is the same, it cannot be said that the investigation is biased and the trial is vitiated", the bench observed while specifically overruling Mohan Lal v. State of Punjab (2018) 17 SCC 627.
The Constitution Bench clarified that it depends on the facts and circumstances of each case if the investigation has become tainted because the informant and the investigation officer was the same. It cannot be held as a blanket rule. The bench comprising bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M R Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat concluded as follows:
I. That the observations of this Court in the cases of Bhagwan Singh v. State of Rajasthan (1976) 1 SCC 15; Megha Singh v. State of Haryana (1996) 11 SCC 709; and State by Inspector of Police, NIB, Tamil Nadu v. Rajangam (2010) 15 SCC 369 and the acquittal of the accused by this Court on the ground that as the informant and the investigator was the same, it has vitiated the trial and the accused is entitled to acquittal are to be treated to be confined to their own facts. It cannot be said that in the aforesaid decisions, this Court laid down any general proposition of law that in each and every case where the informant is the investigator there is a bias caused to the accused and the entire prosecution case is to be disbelieved and the accused is entitled to acquittal;II. In a case where the informant himself is the investigator, by that itself cannot be said that the investigation is vitiated on the ground of bias or the like factor. The question of bias or prejudice would depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case. Therefore, merely because the informant is the investigator, by that itself the investigation would not suffer the vice of unfairness or bias and therefore on the sole ground that informant is the investigator, the accused is not entitled to acquittal. The matter has to be decided on a case to case basis. A contrary decision of this Court in the case of Mohan Lal v. State of Punjab (2018) 17 SCC 627 and any other decision taking a contrary view that the informant cannot be the investigator and in such a case the accused is entitled to acquittal are not good law and they are specifically overruled.
The Constitution Bench says that the acquittal already given by the SC on the ground that investigating officer and the complainant was the same will apply to the facts of those cases only and cannot apply as a general rule.— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) August 31, 2020
The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court was delivering its judgment in a reference on the issue whether the trial of cases under Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act will be vitiated if the informant and the investigating officer is the same person.
In Mohanlal v State of Punjab , it was held by a three judge bench that the trial of cases under NDPS Act will be vitiated if the informant and the investigating officer is the same person. "It is therefore held that a fair investigation, which is but the very foundation of fair trial, necessarily postulates that the informant and the investigator must not be the same person. Justice must not only be done, but must appear to be done also. Any possibility of bias or a predetermined conclusion has to be excluded. This requirement is all the more imperative in laws carrying a reverse burden of proof.", it was held in the said judgment.
The correctness of this view was doubted in Mukesh Singh v State by a two judges bench comprising of Justices U U Lalit and M R Shah saying that the issue has to be decided on case to case basis and that there cannot be blanket rule that trial will be vitiated in all such cases where informant and the investigating officer are the same. "In a given case, where the complainant himself had conducted investigation, such aspect of the matter can certainly be given due weightage while assessing the evidence on record but it would be completely a different thing to say that the trial itself would be vitiated for such infraction", observed the bench headed by Justice Lalit while referring it to larger bench.
Later a three judge bench comprising CJI Gogoi, Justices Navin Sinha and K M Joseph clarified in Varinder Kumar v State of Himachal Pradesh that the benefit of Mohanlal decision will not be available to trials and appeals pending as on the date of that decision.
Case name: Mukesh Singh vs. State (Narcotic Branch of Delhi)Case no.: SLP(Crl) Diary No. 39528/2018