12 Sep 2023 5:26 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday (September 11) issued notice on a petition raising a significant question regarding the authority of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to file a chargesheet under section 173(2) Code of Criminal Procedure. The petitioner raised a question of law whether an SIT can be considered a police station with the power to initiate legal proceedings. This was in reference to...
The Supreme Court on Monday (September 11) issued notice on a petition raising a significant question regarding the authority of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to file a chargesheet under section 173(2) Code of Criminal Procedure. The petitioner raised a question of law whether an SIT can be considered a police station with the power to initiate legal proceedings. This was in reference to an SIT formed by the State of Karnataka(petitioner) in 2015 to probe into allegations of corruption against officials of Lokayukta.
The bench comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Aravind Kumar was hearing a Special Leave Petition against a judgment of Karnataka High Court dated May 26, 2023, which had set aside cognizance of offense taken by the trial court and filing of chargesheet by SIT on the ground that SIT is not a police station.
Sr Advocate Devdatt Kamat along with AOR V.N. Raghupathy had appeared for the state(petitioner).
Sr Advocate Devdatt Kamat at the outset apprised the bench of the issue at hand, following which the bench issued notice returnable within 4 weeks. He also sought for a stay but the bench said “It’ll also come up.”
The plea emphasized that the High Court should have recognized the Investigating Officer's authority and the legality of the charge sheet submitted.
The plea stated “The Hon'ble High Court ought to have noticed that by virtue of Sections 32, 33, and 36 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the state government had empowered certain police officers by name and in their official capacity by appointing them to the SIT, which was headed by an IPS officer of the rank of Additional Director General of Police (ADGP). Hence, the officers in SIT were authorized to exercise the same powers as of local police officers by virtue of a Government Order dated 07/07/2015. In the view of the matter, the Hon'ble High Court was not justified in holding that senior police officers of the SIT, were not authorized to investigate and file charge sheet.”
The petition also referenced Section 173(2) of the CrPC, which deals with the submission of charge sheets. It was submitted that the definition of the Officer in charge of a police station under Section 2(o) of the CrPC included any police officer directed by the government to perform as an in-charge police officer.
The petition also drew the Court's attention to similar cases where the Court had granted stays against orders passed by the High Court of Karnataka concerning the competency of police officers in the Central Crime Branch (CCB) and Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the State of Karnataka v. M.G. Gopal [Special Leave to Appeal (Crl.) Nos.2157- 2158/2021] and the State of Karnataka v. Manjunath Hebbar [Special Leave to Appeal (Crl.) Nos. 2321/2022].
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
The case relates to a matter dating back to 2015 when the Karnataka state government had constituted an SIT headed by Mr Kamal Pant(IPS) to investigate allegations of corruption against officials of the Lokayukta. He had sought powers under section 4 of the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, and under Sections 32, and 33 of CrPC to conduct investigations and submit reports to the court. The government granted these powers on July 9, 2015. Subsequently, the SIT filed a chargesheet under sections 8, and 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and sections 384, 419, 201, and 506 read with 120-B IPC against the respondent.
The trial court took cognizance of the case and rejected an application for discharge. However, the respondent moved the High Court arguing that the SIT did not qualify as a police station under Section 2(s) of the CrPC.
The HC bench of Justice R Nataraj had held that “Power of filing a report by an officer in charge of a police station cannot be delegated but a superior officer of that police station and no other can exercise this power in view of section 36 of CrPC citing the case of State of Bihar v Lalu Singh(2014).
It also referred to Tofan Singh v. State of TN(2021) and went on to hold that “Police report must be filed by a police station and such police station must be declared by state govt by general or special orders. In the present case, SIT was not declared a police station. Therefore, cognizance of the offense taken by the trial court is set aside.”
However, the court suggested that the defect was curable, indicating that the chargesheet could be filed by the Superintendent of Police, Police wing of Lokayukta, and not the SIT.
Aggrieved by this order, the State of Karnataka moved to the Supreme Court.
Case title: State of Karnataka vs. N. Narasimha Murthy
Citation: SLP(Crl) No. 011090 - 011091 / 2023
For petitioner: Sr Advocate Devdatt Kamat along with AOR V.N. Raghupathy