CBI Has Pan-India Jurisdiction To Investigate A Case Handed Over To It By Supreme Court: SC

While dismissing the special leave petition assailing Punjaband Haryana High Court’s order of upholding CBI Branch, Jammu and Kashmir’s jurisdiction of investigating cases of “Mass cremation of unidentified dead bodies by the Punjab Police,” the Supreme Court on Friday orally observed that when CBI is appointed & nominated by the Supreme Court’s order, then jurisdiction is vested in them across India to investigate that case.

The matter was listed before the bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar.

“Once this court appoints CBI to investigate a crime, the jurisdiction vests in pursuance of the court’s order and not the Act as such. When CBI is appointed & nominated by the court’s order, then jurisdiction is vested in them across India to investigate that case,” Justice Khanwilkar orally remarked.

Contending that even CBI was bound by the territorial jurisdiction, Senior Advocate Siddharth Dave appearing for the petitioner said,

“On territorial jurisdiction, certainly it is like if Bihar has a case, Bihar police transfers it to UP and UP police then investigates and files something in Patna, offcourse there is no jurisdiction as far as UP police is concerned. CBI is also bound by territorial jurisdiction.”

“The chargesheet if it is filed by someone other than CBI officer we can understand that greviance. It is the CBI officer who presents it, then his seating in whichever office is not relevant. There are cases and cases. Investigation is done by one officer. He is transferred to some other place. He comes and presents that chargesheet here doesn’t mean that he has no authority. He has to be given authority by that department. If he has that authority, he can present that chargesheet. Now the question whether that chargesheet is presented by a competent officer is a matter which can be discussed before the trial court and by not challenging the authority of CBI as a whole,”Justice Khanwilkar further remarked.

Adding that the chargesheets were only filed by the CBI in respect of the cases as directed by the Top Court’s order the bench dismissed the petition.

Case Before Punjab and Haryana High Court

CBI on February 28, 1997 registered RC u/s 364/34 of IPC at Jammu and Kashmir regarding the abduction and killing of one Sukhwinder Singh in Amritsar, Punjab. Similarly, other connected cases, were also registered regarding abduction and killing of innocent persons.

It prepared a chargesheet and filed the same before the Special Judge, CBI Patiala.

The petitioners challenged the initiation of proceedings by CBI, Jammu and Kashmir on the ground that FIR should have been registered in accordance with the provisions contained in section 154 Cr.P.C. as the offence had been committed within the territorial jurisdiction of P.S.Beas, District Amritsar, within the State of Punjab and it was strange that the RC was registered by the CBI at Jammu in the State of J &K and the same is illegal, without jurisdiction and void ab- initio.

It was also argued that no part of the alleged offence was committed within the State of J&K, no RC could have been registered at Jammu and charge-sheet could not have been filed before this Court after investigation of the offence and all the steps taken in this case were against the scheme of the provisions of Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code was not permissible in the State of J&K.

The Public Prosecutor for CBI contended that a preliminary inquiry was registered by the CBI on December 20, 1995 in compliance of Top Court’s order dated November 15, 1995 in Criminal Writ Petition No. 497/1995 titled as Smt. Paramjit Kaur Vs. State of Punjab and others pertaining to “Mass cremation of unidentified dead bodies by the Punjab Police”.

He also contended that the RC was registered on February 28, 1997 under sections 364/34 IPC. Public Prosecutor for CBI also argued that to cope up with the load of investigation of these cases, the instant case was registered at CBI, SIU.XVI/JMU under the relevant provisions of IPC and not under the provisions of Ranbir Penal Code(as it applied to J&K then).

He further contended that there was no illegality on the part of CBI since the Special Judge CBI had jurisdiction to try all the cases pertaining to the State of Punjab as the incident took place in the State of Punjab and challan had been rightly presented in this court which has territorial jurisdiction to try the present case.

The Special Judge, CBI, Patiala dismissed the petitioner’s application seeking dropping of charges on CBI not having territorial jurisdiction to register the case and conduct the trial.

Aggrieved, the petitioners approached the High Court.

The High Court Single Bench of Justice Arvind Singh Sanghwan on September 2, 2021 while upholding the Trial Court’s judgement observed that ,

“Trial Court has rightly decided the that the issue of jurisdiction which vest with SIU-XVI Branch, Jammu, to conduct the investigation and it cannot be said to be without jurisdiction as it was directed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that the Director, CBI will first appoint high power team to investigate the facts and then, in terms of the further direction to take up investigation, registered the cases where necessary, hold investigation and proceed in accordance with law on the basis of the material collected during investigation.”

Noting that the Top Court had vested the power with the CBI Director, the High Court while dismissing the petition said that the subsequent letter issued by the Director on February 9, 1997 conferring jurisdiction of SIU-XVI branch could not be illegal in any manner.

Case Title: Dharam Singh and Ors v CBI| SLP (Crl) 7228/2021

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